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Wednesday, November 23, 2005


The Gospel reading for Nov. 23 comes from Luke 21:12 - 19:

Jesus said: ‘Before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

and the notion of endurance comes up again. When I was looking at Hab 2:4, Heb 10:38, Rom 1:17 and Gal 5:6 in an earlier post, the notion of endurance also seemed to be relevant. The original context in Hab 2:4 was when God was reassuring the prophet Habakkuk and his people of Israel to endure the suffering they were undergoing at the hands of foreign oppressors. 'He will not delay' and the prophet was referring to the Messiah who was coming to save his people. In the meantime, the upright, through faith, shall live.

I get uncomfortable when someone preaches a nice, no-suffering, no-hardship gospel. I agree that the tribulations we must endure for the gospel do not give glory to God simply because they are painful, and it is no cause for pride on our part. But I'd be very careful myself not to give the impression that following the Lord is burden-free. The Lord said "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt 11:25-30).He did not say that there was no yoke, that there was no burden. I am reminded instead of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Pio of Petrelcina, and perhaps every martyr whose tribulations and martyrdom were endured with great hope, faith and above all, love. There is a burden involved in following Christ, but the one thing that makes that burden easy and light is love, and it is love which gives glory to God because it is exactly that which our God wishes us to learn and live in our lives. St. Francis found out the paradox of absolute freedom and joy when he embraced Sister Poverty as he called her, not because being absolutely without material possessions was pleasurable but because it was liberating to be in total abandonment to God's providence.

Endurance. Because love endures.

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