“Persecution; What an ‘Optimistic’ Marketing Plan For Salvation History!!” – Luke 21:5-19†


 

I started this reflection with no real expectations.  I read the Gospel reading and initially thought of it as a purely “historical” document, without much relevance to today’s living in faith.  Boy was I WRONG!! 

I began reflecting and praying, and the Holy Spirit “broke the dam totally open!”  I could not keep up with my thoughts, and had to write notions and thoughts on a napkin as I was typing, in order to keep up with my thoughts and inadequate typing skills.  My reflections went down so many paths, that I literally needed to “map” out this reflection today.

The Holy Spirit wrote this blog – – NOT ME!!  I only allowed the use of my body.  This is, I believe, the longest of any of my reflection: about 2500 words in the reflection alone (twice as long as normal for me).  Make sure you grab a big cup of coffee and get relaxed.  You may also want to grab your Catholic Bible (Do you have one?) for I will be referencing it extensively today.

I hope you enjoy this reflection as much as I enjoyed reflecting on, and writing about this particular Gospel reading.

            

  

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   1359 – Death of Gregorius Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, Byzantine mystic/archbishop/saint (b. 1296)
†   1391 – Death of Nikola Tavelić, First Croatian saint (b. 1340)

†   1601 – Birth of Saint Jean Eudes, French missionary  and founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, and author of the Propers for Mass and Divine Office of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (d. 1680)
†   1550 – Pope Julius III proclaims new seat on Council of Trente
†   1675 – Pope Clemens X declares Gorcumse martyrs divine

†   1746 – Birth of Giulio Gabrielli the Younger, Italian Cardinal
†   1971 – His Holiness Shenouda III is consecrated (Enthroned)as the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria and the See of St. Mark, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. (Pope Shenouda III as Pope of Alexandria)
†   Feast Days: St. Josaphat Kuncevyc on the General Roman Calendar as in 1954; Barlaam of Kiev; Saint Philip, celebrated in Eastern Orthodox Church

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ insights and knowledge regarding the future of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and His warning to His followers that persecution will come before the end time (the Parousia).

 

5 While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, 6 “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”  8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!  9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.  12 “Before all this happens, however, 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.  13 It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.  (NAB Luke 21:5-19)

 

Jesus foretold many signs of God’s action and judgment in the coming future.  The Jewish people took great pride in the Temple in Jerusalem and in the site where that Temple rested.  It was a true wonder of architectural achievement for the world as a whole.  Jesus cautioned His followers to not seek “signs” but rather to seek God’s kingdom in their everyday lives and prayers.  There will be plenty of signs – such as wars, famines, diseases, tidal waves, and earthquakes (and maybe even some spouses) – pointing to God’s ultimate judgment at the “Parousia”: the fullness of God’s personal presence at the coming of the Messiah.

While the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple had been prophesized and fulfilled (it was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D., one to two decades prior to this Gospel).  So it was past history for Luke’s community.  There still remained for Jesus’ followers a narrow open door of opportunity showing the way to salvation.   Remember, from the Mass readings some weeks ago that Jesus said: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9).   The statement of Jesus is being experienced by the Lucan community!  Are you?!

In His life, Jesus frequently travelled to Jerusalem, home of the Jewish center of faith – – the Temple.  Jesus knew that he would meet betrayal, rejection, humiliation, pain, and death on the Holy Cross on a hill just outside the gates of the holy city.  However, Jesus’ death on the Holy “Tree” brought about victory over the power of evil and won salvation for all of us, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, – but for both Jews and Gentiles – who would followed Jesus’ path in faith.

Jesus’ prophecy of the Temple destruction is a two-sided coin.  One side shows God’s judgment; the other side of that same coin shows His love, mercy, and protection.  In realizing that there are these two sides, those who first heard Luke’s Gospel may have actually taken these words as encouraging instead of disparaging.  

Luke’s community was most certainly composed of some of the first “non-Jewish” or “Gentile” Catholics.  He tries to make clear the destruction of Jerusalem by locating it in God’s salvation plans for mankind.   However, at the same time, Luke is suggesting to his community that there will probably be a substantial passing of time before Jesus’ final coming, the “Parousia.”  Luke’s community of believers experienced a lot of turmoil and mayhem with both the Roman government’s religious persecution of them, as well as some serious pressure from their Jewish leaders.  These earliest followers of Jesus were in desperate need of encouragement at this time in history.  They were anxious to know whether these past events were truly signs of Jesus’ coming, as well as what was in store for them in the near future.   Luke, in his writings, urged for a greater patience in their waiting for the coming of the end of the age.  (He was encouraging them to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord.)

At this period in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is nearing the completion of His teaching time in Jerusalem, which takes place immediately before the events which will ultimately lead to His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and crucifixion.  Luke seems to be warning Jesus’ followers, and is also predicting ominous events in the future; but can Luke’s writings be interpreted other ways?

Luke’s reporting of Jesus’ insights and knowledge concerning the human soul in relationship to death, judgment, heaven and hell are probably inspired by Mark 13 which was written prior to Luke’s Gospel.  However, Luke made some noteworthy changes to Jesus’ actual words reported in Mark’s Gospel.   Luke maintains the early Christians’ belief in the imminent anticipation of Jesus’ return to earth which would end the current “age” and usher in the final age of the Messiah’s rein on earth.  (“Secula Seculorum”: Age of Ages).  By focusing attention throughout his writings on the importance of the day-to-day following of Jesus (a daily conversion experience), and by reinterpreting the meaning of some of the signs from the end of Mark 13, Luke had come to terms with this delay in the Parousia (the second coming of Christ).  In verse 8, Jesus warns of false teachings and false theologies.  Luke understood the destruction of the Temple some ten to twenty years prior, that the “coming” is without knowledge of the “time,” and to live each day in the present in faith and joyful expectation without worry of “signs”.

For Luke to say “Before all this happens . . . “(verse 12), he is saying that some of the signs of the Parousia described in today’s reading still remains for the future.  In dealing with the persecution of the disciples and the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke is simply pointing to signs that have already been fulfilled.  There are still others that must be fulfilled prior to the Parousia event.  We all need to realize that the Parousia will not be a one day event; it will last for eternity.  We are on God’s time, not “earthly” time.

Jesus warns that His followers, His disciples, will most certainly face persecution for their beliefs.  The battle between good and evil, light and dark, has been going on since the beginning of time. (Even longer than the conflicts in the middle-east, or between the Democrats and Republicans.)  Luke optimistically portrays “persecution” as an opportunity for Jesus’ followers  to truly be known as believers – – as Sons of God – – because  (as in verse 13) “It will lead to your giving testimony” – – to the truth.  In suffering persecution, or any pain and inconvenience for that matter, – – especially suffering because of our  faith – – there is a vast potential to manifest God’s wisdom, power, and graces as an example of the love, adoration, and trust a follower has in the Holy Trinity – –  and the trust God has in us!  Perseverance in the face of harassment, maltreatment, and persecution is an opportunity to lead one’s soul, body, and humanity to salvation in God’s unending paradise: eternal life.

Luke is imparting to all of us Jesus’ followers an assurance that God is truly with all believers, even, and especially in times of trial and distress.  Jesus ultimately witnessed to this with His own horrific torture and death.  As disciples of Jesus, we need to follow in His footsteps, on His path, and by His example.  It is much too easy to love and follow in His path when it is favorable; but what about in the rough times?!  We must trust in God’s love, mercy, and protection, even when we are facing trials and tribulations. 

Why are so many opposed to the “good news”, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  The real enemy of the Gospel is a fallen angel, and he is not alone.  Jesus identifies him as Satan or “Adversary” – – who uses trickery, fear, and hatred to incite and inflame hostile attitudes and behaviors in others towards Jesus, the Gospel, and Jesus’ followers.  What is Jesus’ answer to any hostility and opposition?  Love, compassion, and truth!  Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.  God’s love purifies our hearts, souls, and minds from all evil that Satan uses to drive a wedge between people to tear them apart.  

Truth through God’s loving providence is also essential for overcoming Satan’s evil and misery in the world.  Satan deceives and lies!  Sin blinds the heart, soul, and mind.  Only God’s truth can liberate us from sin and spiritual exile.  Today’s Gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation.  I believe this is why Jesus instructs His disciples to proclaim the “living Word”, the Gospel, throughout the whole world, and to do so even if it entails sacrifice, opposition, and persecution.  (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Jesus tells His followers that, if they endure, they will obtain eternal paradise and happiness with God.  “Endurance” is so much more than just human effort and perseverance.  Endurance, in this case, is a grace from the Holy Spirit which enables us to endure the trials, temptations, and persecutions in a spirit and attitude of trust, hope, and love. 

Spiritual endurance develops and strengthens the souls “muscle” to trust, relax, and be courageous and patient when we need them most.  And with this trust, hope, and prayer we experience God’s kingdom and become heir to all the promises He has made.  (2 Peter 1:3-5)

The word “martyr” in Greek means “a witness” (as in a trial).  True martyrs (witnesses) live, and also die, as bearing testimony (verse 13) to the Holy Gospel of Jesus – – the WORD of God (verse 13).  These witnesses overcome their enemies through persevering trust, hope, courage, love, patience, self-control, kindness, and compassion.  Christian martyrs witness to the truth, joy, and freedom of God in and by their life, testimony, and shedding of their own blood.  

Misguided, Ill-advised, and confused “zealots” who will sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love, forgiveness, truth, and righteousness.  True martyrs pray for their persecutors.  They truly love their enemies because of Jesus’ courage.  In their acceptance of suffering and death they witness to the hope and truth of God’s WORD that “He (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus of Nazareth) might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16).   

I believe that I am, as most caring people are, receptive and responsive to the worries and pain experienced by others.  We understand their worries and apprehensions as we share information in an appropriate and thoughtful way. We can also illuminate these worries, concerns, and apprehensions in the light of God’s grace, kingdom, hope, and plan for salvation; we share the assurance of God’s caring, love and wisdom for us.  Jesus Christ, the “Messiah”, calls us to believe with all seriousness His providential care for all of us.  In verse 18, it says, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”  Remember, Jesus said that even when his disciples are persecuted, God would be with them.  He will never abandon the world, or His creations, to Satan.  Remember also, He knows His specific plan for each of us, and He is faithful to be with us always.

God will never allow us to completely destroy each other.  He does not wish anyone harm, and He does not want anyone to perish or suffer eternally.  “The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay’; but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews, Greeks, Christians, Muslims, AND EVEN for agnostics and atheists.  In fact, He died for ANY human being who ever has been, and for those still to come.

In what ways has God brought good out of the difficult events you have experienced?  What actions can you take to endure more gracefully the difficult and challenging situations you may be experiencing now?  Place your difficult situations and times into God’s hands (Psalm 37:5).  As a truly loving Father, He is even closer to you at these times; and He is active on your behalf.

For most of us, our “calling” is to be “non-martyrs” who bear testimony to the joy and power of Jesus’ salvation while performing our daily chores and challenges, and by reacting as a Catholic should to the trials, temptations, and hardships we experience and endure.  

When others observe Catholics “loving” their enemies, being “joyful” in suffering, “patient” in difficulties, “pardoning” those who injure us, and “comforting” the hopeless and helpless, they are naturally drawn to God’s magnificent love and mercy as well.  Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our enemies for God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any persecution and to answer any challenge to our faith that is asked of us.  The ability to speak with the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, and that we do not have to prepare prior to speaking these words of wisdom, is a gift from Jesus Himself.  It will leave our adversaries powerless to refute or resist (verses 14-15).  Are you eager to bear witness to God’s love, joy, and mercy?

 

“Prayer In Time of Danger”

 

 

“O God, Who know us to be set in the midst of such great perils, that, by reason of the weakness of our nature, we cannot stand upright, grant us such health of mind and body, that those evils which we suffer for our sins we may overcome through Your assistance.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Gertrude (1256?-1302)

 

Gertrude, a Benedictine nun in Helfta (Saxony), was one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Together with her friend and teacher St. Mechtild, she practiced a spirituality called “nuptial mysticism,” that is, she came to see herself as the bride of Christ. Her spiritual life was a deeply personal union with Jesus and his Sacred Heart, leading her into the very life of the Trinity.

But this was no individualistic piety. Gertrude lived the rhythm of the liturgy, where she found Christ. In the liturgy and Scripture, she found the themes and images to enrich and express her piety. There was no clash between her personal prayer life and the liturgy.

Comment:

Gertrude’s life is another reminder that the heart of the Christian life is prayer: private and liturgical, ordinary or mystical, always personal.

Quote:

“Lord, you have granted me your secret friendship by opening the sacred ark of your divinity, your deified heart, to me in so many ways as to be the source of all my happiness; sometimes imparting it freely, sometimes as a special mark of our mutual friendship. You have so often melted my soul with your loving caresses that, if I did not know the abyss of your overflowing condescensions, I should be amazed were I told that even your Blessed Mother had been chosen to receive such extraordinary marks of tenderness and affection” (Adapted from The Life and Revelations of Saint Gertrude).

Patron Saint of the West Indies

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 14 & 15 of 26:

 14.     Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

 

 

 

 

15.     Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

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