Good morning, happy Saturday, and many blessings.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew
) we learn that faith in Christ is costly. Jesus promised we would meet opposition, and we do, in different forms. Let us ask for the gift of endurance.
It is a shock to read this Gospel immediately after Christmas. But this is the world into which Jesus comes. He does not retreat from it in fear or disgust. He will wrap it in his love, and that will be enough to save humankind. I ask for Jesus’ courage and love.
“Endurance” is a word which recurs throughout the First and Second Testaments. St Paul tells the Romans that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us”.
Jesus knows well what the world is like. He alerts his disciples with somber images about what may be ahead: they may be handed over, flogged, betrayed, hated, and killed. But he gives another set of images to offset the first. They are not to worry; the Spirit of God will speak through them; those who endure will be saved. The prospects for the followers of Jesus are bleak. He calls for loyalty. He asks for trust – trust that the Father will inspire at the time of need. Families will be divided. Only endurance will be rewarded.
The following advice, attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila, can serve as an illustration for perseverance. She tells us: Nothing disturbs you, nothing frightens you, everything passes, God does not change. The patience reach everything; whoever has God lacks nothing.
In many countries
commemorates the life of St. Stephen, a Christian deacon in Jerusalem who was known for his service to the poor and his status as the first Christian martyr (he was stoned to death in AD 36). In the context of today’s Gospel, I think there are five lessons we can learn from the life of Stephen. The core of Christian commitment is service; Nothing is more important than the Word of God; God does his greatest work through “ordinary” people; Christians are a perplexing contradiction to the world; Sometimes God’s will for us is martyrdom. Stephen did everything right and he ended up dead. What happened? Why didn’t God rescue him? Honestly, we don’t know always why God allows his people to suffer. But we do know that the sermons we preach in our pain are louder than the ones we preach in our prosperity. Stephen’s most effective contribution to the kingdom of God came through his martyrdom.
St Stephen, in the midst of his sufferings, placed his trust in God. Jesus' words may well have echoed in his ears: "When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say." Wisdom, it is said, is making peace with the unchangeable. Do I make peace with any suffering that comes my way?