No one wants to be persecuted. One doesn’t not seek it. It would be madness to do so. But that is not the central message here. The central message is the idea that, as Christians, we are to live lives of righteousness. That is our focus, our reason for being in the world.
What, then, is a life of righteousness? It is a life shaped by a knowing relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a willing desire to live as Jesus has commanded us to live, in the manner that he lived while he walked among us on earth. As Jesus submitted himself to the will of the Father in all of his commandments, so are we to do. We are to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, with all our souls, and our neighbors as ourselves. We are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. (Mt. 25:34-45). We are to be like the good Samaritan who recognized that the wounded one is his neighbor and that he had a duty toward him.
The reality is that the world is, more often than not, oriented to the self, that it is often driven by fear. When it is challenged by righteousness it is shamed, for righteousness holds up a mirror to the world and it sees itself for what it really is. It burns the consciences of those who have lost sight of God, or who have turned away from God’s wisdom Those who have chosen to give all of their hearts, minds, and wills to obtaining and keeping the fallible and impermanent things of the world, perceive the righteous as an insult to them and their worldly ways. And worse yet, the hypocrites, who talk the talk, but do not walk the walk, are exposed by righteousness. In both cases, in order to defend their own sinfulness, the worldly will persecute the righteous as those who are wrong. To be righteous in the name of God, is to be dangerous to the will of the world.
But, we know that God is love and that if we abide in his love, he will abide in us. All who abide in love willingly and humbly choose to do the will of love. This love drives out all fear. In choosing to live as Jesus lived, we enter into the same dangers that he did. It was Jesus’ suffering out of his love for us that saved the world. In answering the call to live the life of Christ, we are being called to participate in that life in all of its aspects. This means that we are called, now, in this moment, to bring his love into this world that is so tortured with sin and all of its consequences. If we suffer persecution as a result, Jesus promises us that the kingdom of God will be ours. There is no greater desire for a Christian than to enter the kingdom of God. To suffer for love’s sake, is a reason for joy, not fear.
Lord, it is our deepest desire to love ourselves and others as you loved us. We believe, and we ask that you increase our faith, so that we can love others as you have commanded us to love them, without fear, or hesitation. Our hope is in you alone. Give us the graces we need to live righteous lives in you name, so that we may be with you forever in your kingdom. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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