Perseverance in Persecution

Luke 21: 12-19
Dn 5:1-6,13-17,23-28 / Dn 3

This will be a time for you to bear witnesses to them.
(Luke 21:13)

Reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion,
It will fortify our faithfulness;
And prepare us for persecution
When called to be His witnesses.

(Jesus continued), “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will be a time for you to bear witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” (Luke 21: 12-19)

Reflection

We may consider ourselves fortunate that in this modern age we are no longer persecuted for our faith as the early Christians had to suffer during the height of the Roman empire. However, religious conflicts are still happening in many countries, where churches are burned and priests, nuns and pastors are mercilessly murdered. In fact it had been noted that there were more Christians martyred in the 20th century than in all the years combined since Christianity was founded. If we reflect on some Muslim fundamentalists’ belief that killing infidels (those who do not adhere to the Islamic faith, meaning us) will ensure their passage to heaven (whatever that heaven is), then Christians really have cause to worry. On the other hand, isn’t this what our Lord Jesus is really telling us: that when we are persecuted and killed for our faith, this will ensure our passage to His eternal kingdom?

It is in times of extreme distress that the best in us comes to the fore to stand up for our ideals, or to give witness to the values we believe in. Millions of soldiers have perished in wars to fight for religious freedom, for democracy or for their country. Our Lord Himself did not hold back in His mission, nor did He soften His words when He told the disciples what they would expect when they carried out His mandate. “…they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will be a time for you to bear witnesses to them.” (Lk.21:12-13) There was no other way. The sword of faith must be tempered in the fire of persecution.

Times of tribulations are opportunities to glorify our Lord by persevering even more in the work of evangelization. They cannot be times to bear witness if we allow ourselves to be overcome by fear, fatigue, or disillusionment. St. James wrote: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

We may not be experiencing physical persecution in defense of our faith, but moral and religious persecution are very real in our fight against abortion, same-sex marriage, and the state’s move to arrogate the right for our children’s sexual education. As fundamental as our freedom of worship, these are values and ideals that we believe in and must fight for.

Lord, in times when we are put to the test on account of Your Name, grant us the grace to be bold in our ministry. Renew our spirit that we might bring glory and honor to You. We pray for all those Christians who are suffering persecution and death for the sake of the Gospel. Empower them with Your Holy Spirit to persevere in their faith, we pray. Amen.

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