The Gospel reading for daily Mass on Wednesday, November 25:
Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Luke 21:12-19
When I was growing up–no, even when I was grown–even as recently as a decade ago, I never thought the words of this Gospel reading would pertain to me. They were for another time, another place, for other peoples long ago. But now I know that these warnings will come to be, and in fact, are here already for the Christians in the Middle East. I have read that there have been more martyrs in this century than there have been during all of the time of the Roman persecutions.
Here in the U.S., the persecutions begin: not as direct as killing in an attempt to wipe Christians out, but in marginalizing and ridicule. There is a cost to standing up for the Word of God: Doctors who refuse to do abortions. College students who defend the sanctity of life. Pharmacists who don’t want to distribute the “morning after” pill. County clerks who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Bakers who don’t want to participate in a same-sex ceremony. I myself, a lowly clerk for a city government, can be reprimanded– or even fired–just for speaking of my faith while at work.
I have to admit, such things give me pause. As a mother, I pray every day for my children, who have left the church, that they might return to faith, to Jesus. My heart and soul wants this, of course, but my instincts as a mother rebel against the thought that they, too, will pay such a price if my prayers are granted. Short-sighted as it might be, the weak, human part of me wants them to survive, to thrive. I pray for strength for my own resolve even as I lift them up in prayer. I know what is right and just, but the consequences are frightening. Especially for a loved one to endure. What I don’t fear so much for myself, I dread for my children. Yet . . .
As we enter into the Advent season, St. John the Baptist exhorts us to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. It becomes necessary to make a choice, to take a stand. I remember a recent homily in which our pastor said that if it should one day become illegal to be a Christian, and they came after you–would there be enough evidence to convict?
Holy Spirit, guide me and give me courage and wisdom.
Jesus, I trust in You.