|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter V: ”The Wonderful Effects of God’s Love” (first entry)
We begin this chapter that expounds on the virtue of love by turning to the last sentence. As beautiful and essential as love is, it also entails bearing hardship heroically for God’s sake and for our sake. Adversities (“accidental oppositions”) will come, but they must not serve as impetus to distance ourselves from the Lord.
|Today’s Gospel, John 15:26-6:4a
Jesus again speaks to the apostles of the Holy Spirit as the Last Supper discourse continues. The Spirit will impart truth to them and allow them to testify to the truth to others. But proclaiming the fullness of the Good News will entail persecution and, for all but one of the apostles, red martyrdom. These men must be prepared for this eventuality and the Spirit will help them to endure these trials.
Kempis’s words remind me of these verses from Scripture:
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Rom 8:35-39
Paul lived the challenges of being a zealous proclaimer of Christ. He was very familiar with the persecutions that come with the territory. He would eventually pay with his life. For love of God and neighbor, we, also, are asked to be forthright in living an authentically Christian life in thought, word, and deed. Always in love, but never compromising the truth. It will be difficult. There will be persecution. We will likely suffer loss. But what we ultimately gain, through loving perseverance, is immeasurable.
Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. (Jas 1:12)
The Beheading of St. Paul (1648) by Simon de Vos