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Persecuted for Christ
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, you chose me to be your light in this world. The idea of being persecuted in your name can be a scary thought. Help me trust in you. Send me your Holy Spirit of charity and fortitude to be your light in the world. Open my heart to hear and understand your word, my Lord.
- Why Do They Hate Christ?: Why does the world hate Jesus? For one, the presence of Jesus demands some type of response. Either one believes that he is God or one must profess unbelief in him. No one is truly “neutral” about Christ. In a similar way, when we see Christ, the truth (John 14:6), his presence is like a mirror held up to our behavior. If we are living in a sinful way, our sins are revealed to us by Christ. Jesus is the light, and those who live in godless ways seek to remain in darkness to hide their sins: “…the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed” (John 3:19-20). The light of truth is painful for those who sit in darkness.
- Blessed Are the Persecuted: This is why the world hates Jesus’s followers, as well. As Christian disciples, we seek to imitate Christ. When we gaze upon him and try to follow him, we actually come to resemble him. St. Paul wrote, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we receive Holy Communion, we are transformed into Christ: “The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood” (Pope Benedict XVI). When we kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we gaze upon God himself. He is there, unveiled, truly present for us. This transforms us into “the same image,” as St. Paul says. So when the world sees us, they see Christ, the truth. This is painful for those who have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). This is why we as Christians will experience persecution. When we imitate Christ, the world will treat us in the same way that it treated Christ. Remember that Jesus says being persecuted is a blessing: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). When we experience the hatred of the world, we can remember that we are in the good company of Christ, the prophets before him, and his saints after him.
- Chosen for Holiness: Israel was God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22). God set his people apart from the world for holiness. They were a cherished possession of the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 14:2). They were to be “a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). The Church is the new Israel, the new light for the nations, called to live as an example of holiness: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). We do not belong to the world, we belong to God. We are consecrated to him; we are set apart from the world for holiness: “…the Lord has set apart the godly for himself” (Psalms 4:3). God chose us to love, serve, and worship him. We are not to conform ourselves to the culture around us (Romans 12:2). In fact, not only are we not to conform to the ways of the world, we are called to change the culture of this world and bring about Christ’s kingdom here and now.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, when others see me, may they see you instead. May I be a light to the world around me, no matter what it may cost me. May I never be afraid of being persecuted for your sake. Strengthen my spirit to persevere in faith, for I know that it will be necessary for me to undergo many hardships to enter your kingdom (cf. Acts 14:22). Consecrate me in your holiness; set me apart from this world to be its light.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will spend time in adoration of you in the Blessed Sacrament and ask for you to transform me into your image and likeness so I can be your face in the world.
For Further Reflection: Watch this video from Father Mike Schmitz: “In the World, but Not of It.”
Written by Carey Boyzuck.