May Faith Moment by Father Sullivan

At the Last Supper, on the night before his death, Jesus spoke to his disciples on a number of topics. He told them, not for the first time, that being his disciples would involve persecution and carrying a cross. In the Gospel of John, Ch 16, verse 2, he reminds them that “they will be put out of the synagogue; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” And indeed, the lot of the first Christians was not an easy one. Most were Jews who embraced Jesus as the Messiah and, as a result, were persecuted. To be put out of the synagogue meant that the Jewish leaders had barred Christians from worship and from fellowship with other Jews. Sometimes, this meant being cut off from family members who had remained in the Jewish faith. Considering how community-minded first-century Jews were, we can appreciate some of the pain and sadness that these first believers experienced. In fact, in the early centuries after the death of Christ, these early Christians underwent torture and death at the hands of the pagan Roman emperors. It was only when Constantine became emperor and became a Christian himself that Christianity became an accepted religion. But Jesus had promised his followers that he would send his Spirit, who would continue to reveal to them Jesus’ love and protection. It was by the Spirit’s power that these first Christians endured hardship and persecution calmly and heroically.

It is easy to forget that persecution continues today. All over the world, we have brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer because of their love for the Lord. Some are tortured and even martyred by anti-Christian guerilla groups; others are cast out of their families and tribes. Still more suffer when their obedience to the truth conflicts with the expectations of family and peers. Yet their witness continues, and the gospel advances. Jesus was right. Those who follow him can expect hardship and trials as they live the good news. But Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit would be with us to strengthen and comfort us. We are not alone; God’s love within us and between us is a source of great joy, a joy that overcomes great difficulty.

So, let us pray: Holy Spirit, be my strength and joy as I witness to Jesus. I pray also for all who are persecuted for their witness to Christ. Comfort them today. Protect and encourage them. Build your church on the witness of their faith. Amen.

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