Blessed Those Persecuted for Being Christian
(See Jer 38:4-6.8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah tells us how the Prophet was condemned to death by the king and the temple authorities for, according to the latter, speaking bad news “against the welfare of the people.” What did those in power mean by “against the welfare of the people”? Was it true that the Prophet did not love his country and his people? Was it true that the Prophet by violating the law caused disorder and harm to the society of which the welfare he was responsible for? If he did do so, he really deserved the capital punishment for the grave crimes which he committed.
However, when we read Chapter 38 of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, from verse 1 on, we come to know the whole story and, as a result, the false accusations of the leaders of the country and those of the temple.
The truth is that Jerusalem under King Zedekiah of Judah was invaded by the powerful army of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Lord God sent the Prophet Jeremiah to tell the king and the leaders of the temple that Judah was ending up in the hands of the enemy for being unfaithful to God. The only way for them to escape the fatal destruction would be, not to look for human rescuers, but to go back to the true God, the Lord and Savior, to repent of their sin and renew their way of life in accordance with God’s Commandments.
No one listened to God’s message through the mouth of the holy man of God. On the contrary, the palace authorities and those of the temple, having found promises of military backing from foreign allies, decided to silence the Prophet by unjustly putting him to death.
What happened to the Prophet Jeremiah also happened to generations of Christians. From the early times of Christianity, Christians have been harassed, rejected, persecuted and eliminated by the world powerful for not giving up their faith in the Lord God and their moral principles which are strongly and profoundly established on the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior.
Saint Paul, for this reason, admonished his listeners in the Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews that they have the good example and support from “so great a cloud of witnesses” who would rather risk their lives than betray their identity as Christians, those belonging to Christ, whether alive or dead. Because, in the end of their pilgrimage on earth, the painful but happy journey following in the footsteps of Christ, their Lord and Savior, they will proudly find themselves being conformed to the image of the Son of God. We do know how obedient Christ was to God the Father to the point of death, and death on the Cross. In fact, Christ was sent by God to tell the truth that the sinful human race should repent of their sin, go back to God, in order that they may be saved from the hands of the forces of evil. Not all people listened to Him because they already put their confidence in the world’s superpowers. They did to Christ what they did to Jeremiah. Despite all forms of persecutions and oppressions, Christ was eager to accomplish His saving mission and finally proud to say His last word on the Cross, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit!”
In our turn, we have to suffer, too, for being faithful to our calling, to speak the same truth about the urgent need for our peoples, our countries, our religious and political leaders, to repent of their sins, repent of their crimes against the Lord God and against the innocent, the poor, and the voiceless. What we say, the truth we speak would fall into deaf ears. What we say, the truth we speak will hurt. What we say, the truth we speak will cause us big troubles, even persecution, imprisonment, and even death penalty, in one way or another. Sometimes, all forms of suffering happen in our very families and communities, done by our own relatives and friends. However, this is the only way for our peoples and our countries to be saved from the hands of the forces of evil. “The truth will set you free”, Christ our Lord and Savior taught us so.
Let us pray hard to Christ our Lord and Savior to help us strongly cling to Him, our powerful Guide and Master, and faithfully follow Him to the end. We are really proud of being Christians, His disciples and witnesses to His saving truth. Amen.