Christianity should come with a warning label: “May be hazardous to your health.” “They will seize and persecute you and hand you over because of my name.” Jesus warned His followers and never withheld the truth.
Our Lord spoke only the truth. He wanted His disciples to be prepared for eminent disaster. Living the Gospel means suffering, getting into trouble, experiencing rejection. The opposite message is preached by “the feel good” religions—who have softened the message for the sake of their popularity. False preachers tell people what they want to hear. We all want to hear that everything will be all right, that God loves us and that we are all going to go to heaven. Which is true, but not without the pain. Pain is what “feel good” religions leave out. Consider the amount of growth that storefront churches have experienced. They are full of Catholics who do not know how to defend their Faith. They were initiated into the Catholic Faith but never grew in their promises, or bothered to learn the meaning behind the symbolism of the Sacraments. Takes effort to learn who we are in our Tradition. Doesn’t just come down from heaven—we have to want to learn. Watching Catholic channels is not enough, because they also color the message for their audience. The Parish Community is the best place to grow. Bible classes, retreats, seminars—they are never full. Given the population of our Parish we should have 10 times the amount of courses that we offer. What is wrong with this picture? Why don’t folks want to learn about their faith? Most have the desire, they are lacking the time, or perhaps they are afraid. Opportunities are available. The fundamental religions obligate the members to attend night meetings, weekend meetings and extra Bible study. Here we just invite. Jesus only invited people, He never forced anyone to follow Him.
Our Faith might seem too good to be true. We have a difficult time believing that we can get something for nothing. Our salvation is free. The price for our sins has been paid. Therefore, when suffering comes our way, we think that we are somehow having to pay for what we’ve done. Not true. Suffering is a consequence of being human and might happen because of the Gospel message. Yet, we never suffer in order to pay for our sins.
We can offer our pain in union with the sufferings of Christ—perfectly acceptable—but that’s a bonus. We are the ones who benefit. We neither add nor subtract to the perfect Sacrifice of the Cross. Another misconception is to think that God is punishing us because we haven’t measured up to His expectations. Nonsense! God is not out to get us, or get even with us, much less make us pay for something that is free. The early Christians were aware that suffering was the way to freedom—true peace. Some went to their death singing praises to God. We have lost some of the passion of sharing the Good News, mostly because we focus on ourselves and not on God’s grace. We have done nothing to deserve to be Christians. All is gift. Since the Lord has called us, He will also give us what we need to be His instruments. God will not give us a task beyond our capability. Our life is for Him. Only when we live our life for God will we experience true happiness, even if we have to die for Him. Remember the airlines that said at the end of the flight, “We realize that you have a choice when you fly. Thank you for choosing Wacco Wings Airlines.” We would like to think that we have chosen God, that we are in charge; but He is the One who has chosen us.
All we can do is say, “Thank you God for loving us and making us Your disciples. Help us to speak the truth even in adversity.