The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Homily: Wednesday, 34th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: Dn 5:1-28; Dn 3; Luke 21.12-19

If the gospel message is good news, then why do so many oppose it with hostility and even violence? Jesus warns us that we’ll be confronted with persecution, evil, false teaching, and temptation. And how does He tell us to respond to all this? With love, with truth, with forgiveness.

Only God’s love can defeat bigotry, hatred, envy, and all that would divide and tear us apart. Only God’s truth can overcome the lies and confusion in the world. And that’s what the Gospel is, God's Word of truth and salvation.

And so Jesus tells his disciples to proclaim the gospel throughout the whole world, even in the midst of opposition and persecution. If they persevere to the end they will gain their lives – they will see God's salvation. Such endurance doesn't come from human effort. It’s a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift strengthened by the hope that we’ll see God face to face and inherit His promises.

In this, as in all things, Jesus is our model: Jesus who endured the cross for our sake and salvation; Jesus who calls us to love, to die to ourselves.

Did you know the Greek root of the word martyr means witness? And true martyrs live and die as witnesses to the Gospel. The Book of Revelation calls Jesus “the faithful witness...who freed us from our sins by his blood."

And Tertullian, a second century lawyer and Early Church Father, converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die at the hands of their persecutors. He compared the blood of the martyrs to seed, the seed of new Christians, the seed of the church.

St. Augustine spoke of this too: "The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered – and they multiplied!" Christians multiplied because the martyrs witnessed to the truth, to the joy and freedom of the Gospel; and they did so through the testimony of their lives.

And down through the centuries Christian martyrs have continued to give their lives for their faith, and for the love and truth of Jesus Christ. Indeed, today we honor a modern martyr, Blessed Miguel Pro, who was executed in Mexico on November 23, 1927 in the midst of the fierce anti-Catholic persecutions perpetrated under President Plutarco Elias Calles. Blessed Miguel, a Jesuit priest, spread his arms wide in imitation of Christ on the Cross as he stood before the firing squad. His last words just before the shots rang out were "Viva Christo Rey!" (Long live Christ the King).

Blessed Miguel Pro standing before the firing squad on Nov. 23, 1927

The martyrs witness to the truth, the great truth about our loving God: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”

“God so loved the world…” He doesn’t love just part of it. No, He loves it all. He loves each of us. It can’t be otherwise because He created each human being in an individual act of love.

We must remember that Jesus died on the cross for Jews and Gentiles, Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, agnostics and atheists. By our witness as Christians others will recognize Christ’s victory on the cross, his power to overcome sin, fear and hatred, even death itself. When the world looks at us it has the right to find in us a reflection of the glory of the Trinity. The world has a right to discover in our faith, hope, and love a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The problems that have arisen in Christ’s Church over the centuries, and exist even now, are not caused by the Holy Spirit; they’re caused by the mediocrity of Christians. As G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

What brings others to Jesus Christ and His Church is seeing Christians loving their enemies; seeing us joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, forgiving of injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless.

This, brothers and sisters, is our calling.

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