Do you like to hear or read about bad news? Most probably not. There is a sense of paralysis and overbearing burden in our minds and hearts when we see such news on TV or we read about wars and bombings and deaths. Most of the time the bad news is about man's inhumanity to man, and there are so many of them around us, and in the entire world, that there is a sensory overload and the fact that we are unable to do much in face of those disasters that somehow find their way into our homes in our technological era. Everything good and bad is at our fingertips, as the clock strikes or a digit is pressed on our Smartphones or Internet connections.
We have a sample of these kinds of calamities, but with a different twist, in this Gospel of St. Luke (21: 5-19) for this Sunday, which is the end of the Liturgical Year C. And since we are at the end of this cycle, the Church gives us Readings that relate to those end of times, and end of days, that the early Christians were so concerned about. In fact, due to those words from Jesus the early Christians thought that the end of the world was near. The Book of Revelation from the Apostle St. John depicts a harrowing time when God the just judge will come at the end of time to recapitulate all in Christ who will be given that final victory over the EVIL one at the end of time. Even St. Paul (II Tim. 3: 1-5 and others) alerted the people of his time to live a pure and holy life because the end may be close at hand.
There is always a sense of morbid curiosity about an end, or the end of others, or our own end, or the end of the world, especially when we read the words of Jesus in the Gospel from Luke today. Jesus says as he contemplates the beauty of the Temple of Solomon from across the Kidron Valley in all its shining splendor: "All that you see here, the days will come there will not be left a stone upon another that will be not thrown down" (Luke 21: 6). Bad days will come. Invaders will come from afar and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be taken captive and into exile. That indeed would happen with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in the year 70.
Luke is already aware of the persecutions early Christians are undergoing. Such suffering will test the faith of many. Jesus says about those end times: "Thy will seize you and persecute you and hand you over to the Synagogues and to prisons and you will be led before governors. It will lead you to your giving testimony ... You will be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends and they will put some of you to death" (Luke 21: 16). No doubt that was already happening and Luke just gives us a frame of reference that ultimately can be described as the cost of discipleship for the followers of Jesus.
There is persecution now of Christians in many parts of the world. Many are dying now for their faith. In Iraq Christians have been systematically decimated and killed. Others have had to go into exile. The 01aldean Church, part of the Catholic Faith, in Mosul, Tikrit and surrounding towns that have flourished for 2000 years is almost nonexistent. And so it is in many parts of the world. And so it is in our midst where there is no direct persecution, but those who are willing to profess their Catholic Faith in public are treated cynically as non-progressives and retrogrades. God, in a way, is being exiled from our lives, from our community, from our legal system, all in the name of liberty and artificial rights. Persecution is alive today, far and near.
Jesus in the Gospel from St. Luke this Sunday reminds us of all that but offers a great word of hope and triumph when at the end of those bad news time, he says: "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 SAVE YOUR LIVES" (v. 17-19) (emphasis mine). These words of Jesus continue to strengthen us today. And for this reason, we are able to continue bearing witness to His Name and offering an alternative way of being and acting, in spite of the noise that is present outside. In the words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, "we have not been asked to be successful but to be faithful."
Therefore, our faith must be true and readily identifiable, our witnessing authentic and continuous, our prayer intense and unrelenting, and our service to the world's poor and needy, practical and persevering. We know the victory is HIS and therefore ours. Quite a journey.
So, start walking it. PEACE.