Immersed in Christ Reflections Sat May 20
SATURDAY, Easter week five
Though both readings speak of opposition to the Gospel and persecution, the Responsorial verse tells
us: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy” (Psalm 100). The truth is that rejection of the Church can be a sign that we are truly united with Jesus, the “stone that the builders rejected,” who “has become the cornerstone” (1Peter 2:7). Anything that indicates we have “died with Christ” to the attitudes and values of this world is an assurance that we have also “risen to new life in him” (Entrance Antiphon). This is a cause to rejoice.
In Acts 16: 1-10 we see Paul subjecting Timothy to the unnecessary pain of circumcision in order to make his ministry acceptable to Jews who were still locked into the law. But although we know that the apostles were ready to endure persecution for preaching the Gospel (see Acts 4; 18-33; 14: 8, 19-21), still the “Holy Spirit prevented them” from preaching in some places — presumably because God knew they would not be accepted there. Christians do not seek persecution or let it deter them; they simply follow the Holy Spirit without regard for consequences. This is the guiding principle behind prophetic witness. Whether we are accepted or rejected, praised or persecuted, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy” (cf. Philippians 1: 12-22; 2Timothy 4: 1-9).
In John 15: 18-21 Jesus tells us that being rejected by people can be a sign that we are united to Christ: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you.”
There could be other reasons for rejection, of course. Christians — and more commonly clerics, because of their public status and high visibility — might be hated because of their arrogance, injustice or hypocrisy. Peter warns the early Christians: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name” (1Peter 4:14-16). As prophets, we are not trying to draw attention to ourselves by getting ourselves stoned (civil disobedience is a separate issue); we are just trying to live out the message of Jesus authentically. And no matter how people respond to it, we will persevere in peacefulness and in love. As long as we are united to Christ, whether in his suffering or his glory, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.”
Take Initiative: Be a prophet. Bear witness to the Resurrection by living the Gospel fearlessly, regardless of consequences.