Posts Tagged Perseverance
“The story is told again of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. This time the account is from Matthew. We must listen again and let it pierce our hearts. Before the Passover Judas goes to the authorities and asks what they are willing to give him if hand him Jesus over them. This is a business transaction, a deal. Jesus is a commodity, and money changes hands.
Meanwhile, Jesus is making his own plans for the Passover meal, sending his disciples on ahead into the city to arrange a house for a dinner. An anonymous donor lends Jesus his house. And dinner begins. As it grows dark, Jesus speaks: “I give you my word, one of you is about to betray me.” The rest of the group is distressed and each asks Jesus the same question: “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Jesus replies them with this harsh word: “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is he one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Mt 26:23-24).
It was a custom among the tribes for either host or guest, or one of two close friends, to take a piece of bread or meat and dip it in oil or wine and feed it to the other as a sign of closeness, of kinship. In fact, once a person had eaten at the table in a Bedouin’s camp and shared food he literally was considered kin for the seventy-two hours that the food shared was in his body, bound even closer than by blood ties. Judas takes the food, and even bound as close as that to Jesus, he intends to betray him.” (Megan Mc Keena, Lent 1998, The Daily Readings, Orbis Books Maryknoll). ). By doing so, Jesus successfully shows to his disciples the horror of betrayal (committed by Judas) in the face of his act of hospitality (see JBC 61:176). Here the treachery of Judas is seen at its worst. He must have been the perfect actor and the perfect hypocrite. If the other disciples had known what Judas was about, he would never left that room alive.
Table fellowship is a celebration of friendship and oneness of mind and heart. Hearing Jesus accusing one of them being a traitor is indeed disturbing and shocking. Trying to lift the veil of gloom caused by Jesus’ words, each tried to assure him by asking, “Surely, it is not I Lord? Note that they address Jesus as “Lord,” a title that expresses their acceptance of the power of Jesus over them.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses (cf. Ex 3:14), is rendered Kyrios, “Lord.” From then on, “Lord” becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title “Lord” both for the Father and –what is new-for Jesus, who thereby recognized as God himself (cf. 1 Cor 2:8).
Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord.” This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing (cf. Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.). At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: It is the Lord!” (Jn 20:28; Jn 21:7).
Judas Iscariot is the only one who addreses Jesus as “Rabbi”” which is also used by Jesus’ enemies and critics. What makes Judas betray Jesus is more than just the love for money. Judas’ belief in Jesus’ person and mission has weakened or ceased altogether. He is scandalized, that is, he stumbles and loses faith in the Master.
“Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: ‘Wage the good warfare, holding faith and good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made a shipwreck of their faith’ (1 Tm 1:18-19). To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end, we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith” (CCC 162).
Officially, today is the last day of Lent. Our Journey is complete. Now we go to celebrate Easter. Alexander Schmemann, a great liturgical scholar, writes:
Even though we are baptized, what we constantly lose and betray is precisely that which we receive at baptism. Therefore, Easter is our return every year to our baptism, whereas Lent is our preparation for that return-the slow and sustained effort to perform, at the end, our passage into new life in Christ…Each Lent and Easter are, once again, the rediscovery and the recovery by us of what we were made through our own baptismal death and resurrection.
Thomas Edison, a famous inventor, known for his extraordinary diligence, observes: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
The theme of today’s Gospel narrative is perseverance. Jesus warns his disciples of the coming sufferings, persecutions and divisions as a result of their choice to follow Jesus as their teacher, lord and savior and promises salvation if and when they persevere in the face of trials to the very end: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).
Persecution for righteousness sake is a permanent feature of Christianity. It is indispensable consequence for following the Lord. The call to follow Jesus is the call to take up and carry the cross daily. This is understandable because the more we follow Jesus the more we become like Jesus. And the more we become Jesus, the more the world will hate us. As the Lord was persecuted and suffered in the hands of the Jews, so will his followers be. No disciple is greater than his Master.
Yes, suffering, trials and persecution cannot be avoided but “whoever perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22). Somebody once said that Christianity is not for starter but for finisher. Hence, James assures anyone who perseveres to the end of happiness and eternal life: “Happy is the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promise to those who love him” (Jas 3:12).
What are some of the qualities of a persevering person or a person willing to persevere to the end for the faith he professed? Persevering person possesses a combination of three traits: energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trials.
“The call to discipleship is a call to continue. To carry on. To persist. To endure. To finish. The Lord needs finishers, those who make the commitment and then walk the road—no matter the difficulty or challenge—to the very end” (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship). Hence, never give up, nor give in. Don’t quit. Take this similar reminder from General Douglas MacArthur: “Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”
Faithful to the mission received, the Church today needs disciples who are ready and willing to persevere to the end even to the point of sacrifice and death. Be ready, therefore, to suffer and to die for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. Remember, “Christianity is not for the cowards”, said St. Athanasius. In doing so, you will receive the crown of eternal life promised by the Lord at the same time proclaimed, built up and spread the Kingdom of God here on earth. As St. Irenaeus beautifully puts it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human heart, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.” Heaven is the ultimate goal of human existence. It is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of every human being. Why? With God everything is sufficient. With God nothing is lacking. This is what we hope for. This is what we pray for. This is what we strive for.
In the letter of St. Paul to Timothy there it is revealed to us that God wants all men and women to be saved and come to the fullness of truth (1 Tim 2:4): Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him (Jn 14:6). Yes God wants all men and women of all nations and generations to be happy with him in heaven. Yes we desire to be happy with God in heaven. Yet there is always something that prevents or hinders us from reaching our goal or fulfilling the deepest longing of our inmost being/
What is it that prevents or blocks us from following Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life? These are: social and familial relations, lack of perseverance and wealth and possessions.
In order to be happy with God in heaven, believing is not enough. Following the Lord is not enough. To be true disciple of Jesus is necessary. A disciple not on our own terms and conditions. A disciple not on our standard or measure. A disciple not on our qualification and merit. But a disciple based on the grace, measure and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ who is our Lord, Savior and Teacher.
Considering the Gospel as a whole we can somehow conclude that a true disciple of Jesus possesses a combination of three traits: singleness of purpose, undivided heart, and persevering spirit.
Singleness of purpose requires of us that whatever happens our ultimate purpose in life is to be happy with God in heaven. St. Paul reminds us that our ultimate destiny is heaven and our ultimate goal is to be happy with God. Therefore let us always guard ourselves against the danger of overindulging in worldly pleasure like drugs, alcohol, sex and food and not to be more preoccupied with worldly, material physical and sexual concerns. Else we will be tempted, misled, deceived, lost and enslaved by them.
Undivided heart requires of us that we will follow, love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly, freely and generously. Undivided heart reminds us that God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away. The moment we decided to follow the Lord that is also the moment that our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to God must be unparalleled. Therefore, when it comes to priorities in life and hierarchy of values God takes precedence over our relations and possession, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is,” says the Lord.
Persevering spirit means that we will never give in to temptation and sins. It also means that we will never give up our faith, conviction, ideals, values in life even under the pressure of money, power, popularity and pleasure. Lastly, persevering spirit means that we will not quit what we have started even in the face of trials, hardships and persecution. Gen. Douglas McArthur once said, “Old age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles the soul.”
In today’s Mass let us be reminded that we are only pilgrims here on earth. Heaven is our homeland. To be completely and perfectly happy with God in heaven is our inmost longing, Have a singleness of purpose. Love and serve the Lord with undivided heart. Persevere in faith, hope and love.
Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” I do not exactly the context when and why he said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it. Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.
The gospel parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.
There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.
Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:
First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613).
Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22). This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote:
“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)
Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffering and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving and just God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.
Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.
If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait pause and think about this:
God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.
Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:
3. I have something better for you.
When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:
1. The love of God that wants the best for us.
2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.
3. The power of God that can accomplish it.
Sometimes in the past a friend of mine sent me this text message: “God never promised us an easy journey in life, only safe arrival.” I think this is true because Jesus in today’s gospel says that our life in this world is not an easy one. We should expect thorns in the forms of persecutions, sufferings and hardships; we should learn to bear our crosses and find more meanings in difficulties. But we should not worry because God will provide us the means.
He says: “By patient endurance you will save your lives.” Are we ready to suffer and to shed blood until the end, if necessary, for our faith? It is because Christianity is a religion of martyrdom. Christianity is a religion of the cross. Jesus willingly shed His blood for our sake and He calls us to be martyrs too. The word martyr in Greek means ‘witness.’ Some theologians in the past said something about being a witness like Tertullian and others. Tertullian said: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Cyprian also said: “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.” Augustine wrote: “The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered and they multiplied!”
God may call some of us to be martyrs. But for most of us our call is to be dry martyrs who bear testimony to the joy of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord; to witness to the joy, truth and freedom of the gospel; by our life, and real-life testimony. What attracts others to the gospel? They are attracted to the Gospel and to Christianity when they see us: Christians love their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless.
What are the marks of a true witness of Christ? David Watson in his, Called & Committed: World-Changing Discipleship (1982 pp. 142-143) said that the marks of a true witness are:
- A witness must have a first-hand experience of Christ. Hearsay is not acceptable in a court of law as well as in the court of this world’s opinion. People will listen only to what we have personally seen and heard.
- A witness must be able to express himself verbally. We may witness effectively through our lives, our work, our relationships, our attitudes, our suffering and even our death, yet we must still “be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.” We must do so “with gentleness and respect,” and with the integrity of our lives demonstrating the truth of our words.
- A witness will have confidence in the power of God. He relies on the power of the message of Christ and him crucified, and the power of the Holy Spirit. He knows that God can break through any defenses, and change any heart. This confidence will not be brash, but humble and sensitive, marked by much prayer. He knows that without God he can do nothing, but that with God all things are possible.
- A witness will have compassion for the spiritually lost. He will care for them as individuals who matter deeply to God: made in his image, redeemed by his Son and to be indwelt by his Spirit.
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OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
One day I received a text message from a friend. The message is: “”God never promised us an easy journey in life, only safe arrival.” I did not know if my friend had any idea about the difficulties I was experiencing in my work but the message was very timely and it just struck me from the heart.
We know that everybody experiences difficulties in life. But can our faith make a difference? I believe that what we can offer is hope. We Christians are people of hope. I remember one of our professors saying that if there is no hope there is no future, then what is the point of life? Indeed our life has meaning because of our hope rooted in Jesus Christ.
Even though Jesus did not promise an easy journey, he assured us a safe arrival only if we hold on to Him. We should not wallow in the problems and trials of life. Rather we should focus our attention on the assurance of Jesus that not a single hair of our head will perish. St. Paul proved this when he said in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Trial of every sort come to us, will perish but we are not discouraged. We are left without answer, but do not despair, persecuted but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed.”
We hold on to our hope in Jesus Christ that we will be able to stand firm, steadfast and enduring amidst the tribulations of life. (Jerome S. Montesclaros, SVD Bible Diary 2002)
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“By patient endurance you will save your lives.” Are you ready to suffer and to shed your blood, of necessary, for your faith? Christianity is a religion of the cross; it is a religion of martyrdom. Jesus willingly shed his blood for our sake and he calls us to be martyrs. The word martyr in Greek means witness. The Book of Revelation says that, “Jesus was the faithful witness…who freed us from our sins by his blood,” (1:5). Tertullian, a 2nd century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church. The 3rd century Bishop, Cyprian, said: “when persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.”.” Saint Augustine wrote: “the martyrs are bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered – and the multiplied!” Why is this the case? The martyrs witnessed to the joy, truth and freedom of the gospel by their life, their testimony, and by their blood. Are you also eager to witness to the joy and freedom of the gospel? Think about it. (Fr. Louie Punzalan, SVD Bible Diary 2004)
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It is said that “Christian life is not a bed of roses.” But come to think of it, the positive version is true as well. Christian life is a bed of roses. But not one that implies ease and comfort. Roses have thorns too signifying the possibilities of risk, blood-letting and pain. A rose is a rose because of its petaled beauty and its thorns. Both make it beautiful and complete.
Those who follow the Lord should expect thorns in the forms of persecutions, sufferings and hardships as He reveals in today’s gospel. But those exactly are the reasons why following Him is a “rosy” and wise decision, “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that…adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” Following him is following a path secure and safe, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”
We are also asked to persevere because Christian life is not how you run fast but how you carry on the journey. For those who keep up the struggle, “perseverance will secure your lives.”
I may be laughed at but not discouraged, I may be persecuted but not disheartened and I may be beaten up but not surrender. (Fr. Ferdinand D. Resuena, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
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“Be thankful with what you have, rather than lose your job and be sent back to the Philippines.” This is what I often tell my countrymen when they complain of work fatigue.
Most Filipinos here in Korea are engaged in Triple D jobs which means: Dirt, Difficult and Dangerous. They have endured everything because of love for their family.
A story is told about a group of devout people who went on pilgrimage to heaven. While on pilgrimage they carried individual crosses along. The going was rough and there was much moaning and groaning. One of the pilgrims found his cross just too heavy to carry, so he cut off a part and shortened it.
After days of walking, the pilgrims approached the promised land of God’s presence. But they still had one obstacle to overcome. Between them and heaven was yawning abyss. How could they get to the other side? Someone thought that they could use their crosses as bridge. Indeed their crosses were just the right length to bridge the gap except the one who shortened his cross to make it lighter.
Life is difficult. The Lord Himself has said our life in this world is not easy, so we should learn to bear our crosses. No shortcuts!
There are times when we are tempted to do “dirty” work in order to have palatial houses, expensive cars, fashionable clothes. In high school, I recall the remarks of our school janitor: “I don’t mind being a janitor because the work is respectable. I may not smell good but I make the CR clean and sweet-smelling.”
Life is surely difficult but it does not need to be dirty. When you choose a dirty life, your next life is in danger. That is why Jesus gives us a very good advice, “By patient endurance you will save your lives.” (Fr. Emmanuel Ferrer, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
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“…And they will put some of you to death.” I write this reflection a few days after Fr. Fransiskus Madhu, a fellow SVD missionary, an Indonesian, was shot to death in a remote barangay in the hinterlands of Kalinga-Apayao. It was a brutal reminder that the danger of death is something a missionary should be prepared for. Taking risks to life and limb is, for the missionary, part of the territory.
For many of us, the death of Fr. Fransiskus was senseless. Some missionaries reacted by proposing that the SVD should abandon the particular place because of its history of violence, especially to missionaries. Yet to do so would be essentially surrendering to the forces of evil. We find ourselves with no choice but to keep on proclaiming the gospel, no matter what it takes. We could only remind ourselves of the early Christian martyrs who gave their lives because of the faith. Because of what they did, the Church flourished, as it were a plant nourished by the life-giving blood of the martyrs. To offer one’s life for the Kingdom is one very convincing act of faith that cannot be easily ignored. For many in the past, it was the one single act that became the turning point for conversion. It is truly an imitation of Christ –no greater love than there is when one lays down his life for his friends.
For me personally, it reminded me of the days when I was a parish priest of Santa Teresa in Occidental Mindoro. Many times we had to go by boat to the remote barangays. Along the way, we would suddenly encounter inclement weather and big waves. It can be a terrifying experience. I remember that in those times, I would sing to myself the song, ‘Be Not Afraid.’ I would also remind myself very often that I am just doing God’s work and that surely, God would not let his worker down. Hence, putting myself in dangerous situations of life-threatening circumstances is an act of faith in God who will take care of His own. Death would not be a frightful prospect. (Fr. Gil Alejandria, SVD Bible Diary 2008)
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To be persecuted in the name of Christ is a special grace. Persecution is a consequence of following Christ who was persecuted and put to death on the cross for our redemption. Persecution can be direct or indirect. Directly, worldly power and authority suppresses the practice of the Christian faith through many forms of expression, including torture and death. Indirectly, worldly values and criticisms compel Christians to abandon the practice of the faith. Where direct persecution is the most common, as in the martyrdom of many Christians during the time of early church, indirect persecution occurs every day in almost all areas of human life.
In a government office, an employer was criticized for taking his job too seriously. While he attends to his tasks with painstaking care, others merely waited for the bundy clock to strike at 5:00PM. For his honest and faithful work, he was isolated from the rest of the employees. Notwithstanding the harsh remarks and reactions of his co-employees, he kept on doing his work as best as he could. One employee challenged him: “What are you trying to prove?” in a humble tone, he replied, “If I maybe offending you, I’m so sorry. But this is who I am and I’m happy with my work.”
Jesus in the gospel tells us that persecution is an opportunity to give authentic witnessing to Christ Jesus. he tells us not to prepare any defense for He Himself will give a wisdom that adversaries cannot refute. Persecution, then, provides good Christians to experience the Lord’s wisdom. Jesus, in the final analysis, invites all Christians to embrace the difficulties of being challenged or persecuted for living their faith in Him. (Fr. Fred Saniel, SVD Bible Diary 2009)
Fr. Joseph Benitez
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By your perseverance you will secure your lives. My parents, teachers, spiritual directors, and close friends have always advised me that, to succeed, I must persevere. Period. No excuses, no alibis, no other way, no way out but through perseverance.
The best things in life are bought with great pain and perseverance. No guts, no glory! No pain, no gain! No cross, no resurrection! These are all translated into one word: PERSEVERANCE.