Grace to you!
The persecutions we face in life are an opportunity to bear witness to the love of God. Trials are like an ingredient to spiritual maturity and blessing. Our Lord assures of the blessings of those persecuted for what is right (Mt 5:10). Or as Saint Peter says, one is blessed who is enduring trails for the sake of Christ (1 Pet 4:14). Meaning, for doing good not evil.
Be certain of this: Many of those who persecute you would hardly be deterred because you pay them in the same coin. One of the strongest weapons against evil is innocence, righteousness, the very opposite of evil. At the alone-moments, it is the force of your innocence and gentility that speaks volumes; sometimes daring the meanness of the mean. Evil isn’t overcome by evil but by the good.
Innocence has its force of witnessing. The innocence of the believer comes with the audacity of genuine witnessing. This may sound like an out-of-dated message. Yet, it is powerful and still relevant today.
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 sense of the impact of their holy 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.
In workplaces, in the community, ironically in churches and homes, many face trials because of their faith. Simply being good and faithful believers irk some people. It is the reality of the world we are in, and nobody can change that. We simply have to live with this reality and make the best out of it; relying on the grace of God. So, 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 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 lives.
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.
[Wednesday Week 34 Ordinary Time: Rev 14:14-19; Lk 21:5-11]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible 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.