Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Can you read the writing on the wall?

When the Roman author Pliny the Younger wrote to the Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D., he sought advice about an upstart religious movement that was spreading through the cities and rural villages of the empire. Christians were coming before Pliny’s tribunal to be judged, not for any crime they committed—Christians, in fact, made vows not to commit crimes—but rather for refusing to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. In this they were making a stand with political implications. Christians abided by all the laws and habits of character which made for good citizenship. But in refusing to acknowledge the gods, they were undermining the foundation of Roman society.

Trajan instructed Pliny not to seek out these Christians for prosecution, but if one were to be brought before him, to demand that he offer sacrifice to the gods under penalty of death. Could Trajan have guessed that one day, these same Christians would one day become the dominant cultural force in the empire, vanquishing the Roman gods? Could he read the writing on the wall?

Since the ascent of Christianity, there have been countless predictions of Christianity’s demise. But then there appears the Jesuits and Capuchins; there appears a John Paul II; there appears a Pope Francis. And once more the world witnesses the tremendous creative power of Christ the King. Yes, the place of Christians within society looks more like the time of the early Roman empire than it did a few decades ago. But for the one who prays, the one who keeps faith, the one who acts with courage and creativity, the writing on the wall is perfectly legible.

November 27th, 2013