Christian Persecution

Homily, 5-15-23; Monday of the 6th Week of Easter:

We just heard in our gospel passage: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify.”

We are called to go out in the world and testify to our faith, to our belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer. But Jesus tells us that we might be persecuted when we do. The disciples suffered great persecution from their fellow Jews who failed to recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus says: “They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.” And we think about Saul who later persecuted the early Christians before his conversion out of religious zeal. We can think about incidents in our world today, when radical Muslims attack those they see as infidels for testifying to their faith.

Sometimes there is resistance to our testimony, but more often we are faced with complacency. In our first reading, we heard about the disciples’ interaction with Lydia. She was what was considered a “god fearer”, one who, at the time, believed in the Jewish concept that there was one God and who worshiped in the synagogue, but did not practice the Jewish regulations. She was searching for the truth.

When we testify to our faith we will encounter people that want to persecute us for our testimony, and people who are receptive because they are searching for the truth, and people across a spectrum in between these two. We are called to witness and to pray.

On Good Friday, in the Solemn Intercessions, we offer special prayers for different groups of people who we hope will join us in our Catholic faith. We pray for our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ, but who are not yet gathered into the one Church. We pray for the Jewish people to whom the Lord our God spoke first. We pray for all who do not believe in Christ that they be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. And we pray for those who do not believe in God at all, that following what is right in sincerity of heart, they may find the way to God Himself.

In the world around us, this last group seems to be growing more and more predominant—those that act as if they no longer have any belief or fear of God. They may say they believe in God, but they believe in many false gods such as power and money, as well that blind them from the truth. They persecute us because our testimony conflicts their lifestyle choices. They see our witness, our desire to instill God-centered laws into our culture, as an attack on their freedom to do anything they want. Unlike the early Christians who were attacked by Saul and other out of religious zeal, today we are being attacked by those who don’t, in reality, practice any religion at all, even those in public office that hide behind the title of Catholic.

And so we must pray for them. We must pray for ourselves that we have the strength to fight the good fight as we stand up and witness to the truth in a world that doesn’t want to hear it.

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