Praise Amidst Persecution
May 16, 2020
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“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: God my Father, I praise you for your plan of salvation for all men. Thank you for sending your Son to reveal you to us, our Creator, God, and Father. Strengthen me for the battle of prayer today.
1. The World’s Hatred: Jesus does not mince words. The world hated him, and it hates Christians too. But the Lord’s message is one of encouragement. He does not ask us to go where he has not already trod before us. “Have confidence!” he says. “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). This ‘trouble’ is very real–as when Christ promises his followers a hundredfold in this life, with persecutions–but the true lover rejoices at undergoing trials in order to prove his love. In Tokien’s Silmarillion, the mortal man Beren requests to marry King Thingol’s daughter—the immortal Elven princess Lúthien the Fair. Thingol, thinking to cleverly dispose of the unwanted suitor, bids him recover one of the jewels set in the crown of the dark lord Morgoth. This is impossible, for “Balrogs were about them, and countless swords, and strong bars, and unassailable walls, and the dark majesty of Morgoth. But Beren laughed. ‘For little price,’ he said, ‘do Elven-kings sell their daughters…I will perform it.’” Let our confidence in God before the hatred of the world be as Beren’s.
2. Knowledge of the Father: Persecutions come from those who “do not know the one who sent Jesus.” God the Father is the sender; do we know him? Is God a father to me, or does he seem distant and indifferent? Jesus gave us a powerful weapon, the “Our Father.” We must learn to wield it, every day a little better, every day with more confidence and affection. He is truly our Father. We come from him; he provides for us; he protects us; he lets us endure trials if it will help us grow. He calls us back to himself; we are on a journey toward him.
3. Te Deum: The “Te Deum” is an ancient Latin hymn of praise to God. Countless stories tell of martyrs and saints singing this hymn as they go joyfully to their deaths, or conversely, after having been delivered from some great material or spiritual calamity. As Christians, we are to praise God in the storm. Matthew 5:11-12 tells us, “Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.” For a little while, we endure persecution and the hatred of the world, but our reward is a heavenly homeland with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the guarantee of this hope in life after death is the Resurrection of the one who promised it—Jesus Christ.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, you inspire in the members of your Church holy devotion and reverence for God; grant us the grace to love him above all earthly things, and to overcome all persecutions through the power and confidence and love of your Spirit. Amen!
Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, with joy in my heart, I will pray (or sing!) the Church’s Easter Vigil song of praise, the Exultet.
For Further Reflection: Francis Talbot, SJ, tells of the Jesuits’ heroic efforts in the early seventeenth century to evangelize the Native Americans despite severe persecutions, focusing on the life of St. Isaac Jogues in Saint Among Savages and on St. Jean de Brebeuf in Saint Among the Hurons.