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.
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
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.