Today’s headline comes from the last sentence of today’s gospel reading (Lk 21:12-19). Here, Jesus is addressing a crowd, telling them that seizure and persecution will lead the faithful to give their Christian testimony aided by the Holy Spirit. What follows from this will be hatred and, for some, even death for those who confess Jesus as Lord. Yet, amazingly, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed” (v. 18).
Several things come to mind while reflecting on this passage:
- “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” wrote Tertullian at the beginning of the third century. Jesus foretold this slaughter in today’s excerpt from Luke. Not only did those who died for their faith secure their lives, they also brought to Life (“Jesus said…’I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” — Jn 14:6) many others as the Church grew exponentially in those early years of persecution.
- Ever since, the persecution of Christians has spiked and waned but has never ceased. The twentieth century was a bloodbath for Christians the world over and seems to be on the increase in the new millennium. This page is eye opening and this book has received excellent reviews. Let us pray daily for the perseverance of these brothers and sisters in Christ and for the conversion of their tormentors.
- Are we in the West ready to experience this oppression as well? To a certain extent, already, those who hold fast to basic tenets of the faith, like opposition to contraception, abortion, homosexual “marriage,” pornography, and religious intolerance, already find challenges in certain arenas. As government and society grow more and more hostile to religion in general, Christianity in particular, and Catholicism most of all, will we keep the Faith when the going gets rough causing us to sell out Jesus? Judas did just this for thirty pieces of silver. What will be our price? Political correctness? Going along to get along? Mollifying family? Keeping “friends”? Obeying an unjust “law” in order to avoid trouble? Keeping a job which forces us to violate our consciences?
Martyrdom (white or red, i.e., suffering or death) still leads to the growth of the Church, which should be the desire of every Christian. We are comforted if we do not forget the last two lines of this passage. No harm ultimately will be done to us if we persevere. We will save our souls if we remain faithful. And whatever happens to this mortal body will be erased at the end of time with a beautiful, glorified, immortal body. Keep the Faith!