Last Sunday afternoon, despite the beautiful weather, only about 20 faithful people turned up for the annual Life Chain Rosary (on Respect Life Sunday) where we spent an hour in prayer and silent witness to passersby, at the intersection of Federal Highway and Linton Boulevard. It may have been an inconvenient time for some to join in prayer to defend the life of the unborn, but those who came bore true witness to their Christian calling. Most people who drove by gave us the “thumbs-up” signal, or slightly tapped their horns in support. Some were even parishioners who, I had hoped, would have joined us instead. Few were the scoundrels who usually gave obscene gestures or derided us; but we bear such insults patiently, in imitation of many saints who have gone before us and now are celebrating the glories of heaven.
The journey of the Church through the centuries had been foreshadowed in Scripture, in the Acts of the Apostles. Would-be disciples of Jesus are told that the followers of the Christ will have to suffer, and perhaps even be persecuted for their relationship with Jesus. Jesus had predicted rejection by the Jews, coming persecutions, and great blowbacks while preaching to the people in many different nations.
In reading the Acts of the Apostles, there is no mistaking the fact that it is impossible to be a Christian without embracing the cross. Peter and Paul experienced persecution, imprisonment, and execution despite their wholehearted dedication to Christ and the Gospel. Additionally, the fact is that the many holy men and women in the litany of the saints testify to the reality that the path of following Christ is beset with challenges, danger, and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice – that of one’s life.
Of course, we may not encounter many of these kinds of challenges today. Ours can and will be different. But know that while these challenges may test our knowledge, our patience or perhaps even our commitment to serve God’s people, they are also opportunities for us to grow in our relationship with Our Lord.
Have you ever heard the story told about how St. Teresa of Avila was once knocked off her donkey and fell into the mud, injuring her leg. “Lord,” she said, “you couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?” The response in prayer that she heard was, “That is how I treat my friends,” to which the saintly sister reportedly replied, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it’s not surprising you have so few!”
No matter what difficulties and trials we may face throughout our lives, eternal life awaits those who are dedicated to following the risen Lord. For the suffering of this life pales in comparison to the joy of heaven. This conviction has, from the beginning of the Church, sustained Christians in the face of trials and troubles and, if we let it, it will sustain us as we serve as Christ’s disciples in this day and age as we go out to proclaim the good news of Christ.
I want to encourage you to commit yourselves to be of service to the people in our parish and community. This will assist me in my responsibility of shepherding the flock entrusted to my care. The work may be challenging, at times, and you may not initially see the fruits of your labors, but you can be assured that if you remain close to the Lord and faithful to the work that you are being asked to do, the Lord will do great things through you in the lives of many.