Jesus said to the crowd: “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. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:12-19)
Today’s Gospel passage may seem bleak, or dark, or perhaps threatening. But the words of Jesus Christ are never that. In fact, in one sentence, he offers us everlasting hope.
The history of Christianity, is replete with the courage, faith and serenity of the early martyrs who, in the face of tortures and executions, were the proximate cause of the conversion of hundreds of thousands. So many conversions would ensue from their deaths that the early Christians coined a saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of [new] Christians.”
None of us here may have to suffer for Christ to the point of shedding our blood, but all of us have indeed been suffering to the shedding of tears. We may not have suffered in courtrooms or jails, but we have suffered at kitchen tables reading newspapers, in living rooms in front of television sets, in our work places, in our schools, in gyms, on the streets, even outside of some of our churches. We may not have sensed ourselves “hated by all” on account of our fidelity to Jesus and the Church He founded, but many us now know what being derided and despised because of our beliefs feels like.
The greatest temptation that faces any of us whenever we’re suffering, whenever we’re doing anything hard and challenging, is to give up. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel the same message that Winston Churchill gave his countrymen during the height of World War II, when so many Brits were wondering if the fight against Nazi tyranny was worth it. He got up to the microphone and gave what many scholars say was the greatest speech of this famous orator’s whole life, eighteen words in all: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” That’s the message Jesus gives us at the end of the Gospel: “by your perseverance, you will save your lives.”
Sometimes the greatest gift we can be given is that which is most difficult, because it fosters this virtue of perseverance. By remaining strong through the trials of life and by retaining hope, mercy and confidence in God, we will become victorious. This is such an important message. And it’s a message that is certainly easier said than done. But when difficult opportunities present themselves to us, we are able to live this
But we know from His words that He will be there with us no matter what, giving us “words and wisdom,” courage and grace to remain as faithful to Him to the end, as He has been and will be faithful to us to the end. When we base our lives on fidelity to Him who is faithful, we can weather any storm with confidence. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “No trial has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1Cor 10:13).
By his perseverance, he opened the gates of heaven. By our perseverance, we will enter those gates. Not a hair on our head will perish, because we will gain every strand back, gloriously, at the final resurrection. That is His promise!
Prayer of The Day
Lord Jesus, your grace and mercy abounds even in the midst of trials and difficulties. Help me to seek your kingdom first and to reject whatever would hinder me from pursuing your way of peace, righteousness, and holiness. Fill me with the joy and hope of your everlasting kingdom.
The Lord Jesus tells us that there will be trials, suffering, and persecution in this present age until he comes again at the end of the world. God intends our anticipation of his final judgment to be a powerful deterrent to unfaithfulness and wrongdoing. God extends grace and mercy to all who will heed his call and his warning