Grace to you!
Recently, a friend shared a story about a girl who, by all means was her parents’ nightmare, a true humbling child; and how she received the grace of conversion. The more the pain she caused her parents, the greater they showed her love. Her conversion was, in part, due to a constant awareness of her parents’ exceptional love towards her, even though she didn’t deserve it. Their witness of unfailing love was like grace following her wherever she went.
Have you felt that someone was so good or so innocent that he or she didn’t deserve the attacks leveled against him or her? Or are you feeling you don’t deserve the persecution against you within your home, at the workplace, or even in the public forum? How about seeing this as an opportunity for bearing witness, if not explicitly at least implicitly, to your faith as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?
We will be certain of this: those who may be persecuting us won’t be deterred because we fight with them. Many of them will want us to fight so they may have a psychological justification (false sense of justification) for their attacks. At their alone-moments, it’s the force of our innocence and gentility that speaks volumes; sometimes daring their meanness.
Innocence has its force of witnessing. The innocence of the believer comes with the audacity of genuine witnessing.
When the African theologian of the second century, Tertullian, said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” it could equally be understood in the sociological sense of the impact of their witness through martyrdom to eyewitnesses and generations after them. When people read the martyrs’ stories, they are gripped by their innocence, genuineness, gentleness and yet audacious testimony of their life about the faith.
The historian Tacitus, who was a boy in Rome during the time of the Nero persecution, wrote in his Annals (XV, 44) how the innocence of the believers, accused falsely by Nero, won the compassion of some Romans. The joy, gentleness and courage of the believers in the face of their heartless persecutors, spoke volumes as to the audacity of their faith in the Risen Lord. The answer to meanness is a gentle, courageous response of love.
Recall that one of the meanings of martyrdom in the New Testament is bearing witness (see Acts 22:15, 20). So the Lord Jesus said, “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony” (Luke 21:12-13).
Come to think of it, times of persecution are great times of witnessing. It’s not simply for the end time, which we know not exactly when it will be, but even for now as we face the ups and downs of Christian discipleship.
Bearing witness to the Risen Lord entails a lot, including swimming against the current. Swimming against the current is, unwittingly, inviting attacks and persecutions, name-calling and smearing.
The nature of the Christian life doesn’t seem to play to the gallery. Yet, it inspires many who want to see the light.
May God give us the grace to hold on to the faith even when it costs us what is precious to us, including our lives. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu.
Grace to you!
A lady was tormented by the fear of end times because she watched some videos about the end time prophecies. They stuck. The images wouldn’t go away. Fear. Anxiety. Nightmares. Twenty years later, she looks back and laughs at her fears. She has grown from fear to trust and confidence in the Lord in handling the future. Such a trust is crucial in our spiritual life.
End time prophecies can be scary for many, can’t they? The confusion surrounding the interpretation of the messages of end times heightens the tension. Previously, I proposed a disposition of trust in God about handling an uncertain future as a way to overcome the anxiety of the unknown. I wish to add to that reflection by suggesting anchoring in the Christ as another spiritual path to deal with end time predictions.
When I was a kid, I used to play soccer. I wasn’t a great player, but I enjoyed it anyway. At a time, when I was in elementary school, I used to be a goalie (goalkeeper). I learned from my coach that regarding penalty shootout or corner kicks, the goalie must keep an eye on the ball, not on the player.
The most effective goalies keep an eye on the ball. They may know about the players and their different styles of play. Nonetheless, when it comes to actual goalkeeping, they must follow the ball. There is wisdom in that coaching tactic.
Keeping an eye on the ball assures the goalie isn’t distracted by the crafty displays of the player to confuse the goalkeeper. Sneaky players would show deceptive body movements so as to trick the goalkeeper and shoot the ball in another direction.
The above analogy may be appropriate to the teachings of the Lord in Luke 21:5-11. The teaching concerns predictions about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the end times. Though I had reflected on some perspectives about the text in the past, I would want to add the need for a secure anchor - or rather to keep an eye on the ball.
The Lord Jesus Christ gives us signs that may precede the end. The text of our consideration today Luke 21:9-10) has three of those: the reality of false prophets and the antichrist; heightened war and violence; and natural disasters of a shattering nature —“great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (vs.10).
Nevertheless, he warned against deceivers. I take that warning seriously.
If we were to apply the analogy I used above, I would be a tactful goalkeeper by keeping an eye on the ball. I should have an anchor I hold onto in such a way that nothing would take my gaze off the ball, or make me confused about the goal.
The Letter to the Hebrews writing about the object of our faith speaks about this anchorage: Keep an eye on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith (see 12:2).
And the Lord Jesus encouraged the disciples, as he warns us not to be deceived: “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.” (Luke 21:8)
If Jesus Christ is with us, the storms and the signs (though terrible and unpredictable) would not affect our peace. Peace is assured. Christ is our peace.
I pray we keep holding onto Jesus Christ, the author and the finisher of our faith. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Today is the memorial of Saint Cecilia.
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.