The first reading and the gospel illustrate the ideal of the Church and the challenges for us as believers. The newly converted Lydia said “’If you really think me a true believer in the Lord, come and stay with us,’ and she would take no refusal.” That statement contrasts with Jesus' warning in the Gospel, a warning that remains relevant today.
Jesus describes two risks to believers: loss of faith and persecution. The two are frequently related. The words so that your faith may not be shaken” can also be translated as “to keep you from falling away.” “to keep you from stumbling.” or to keep you from scandal.”
Falling away is a risk to all believers. No one is immune. Faith that goes untended, faith that is not nourished by prayer, contemplation on scripture and, particularly the Eucharistic banquet, is at serious risk in times of persecution.
Unlike the current situation in the Middle East our lives are not at risk, because of our faith in Jesus. However, we are subject to a different form of persecution. A persecution that some may find as painful as imprisonment. It is the persecution of ostracism, of being considered hopelessly behind the times. It is the persecution of being mocked. It is the persecution seen in an event last year when Harvard University chose to permit a "Black Mass," a sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament. The permission was withdrawn when Cardinal O'Malley made his fury known. It is the persecution of those who argue that it should have been allowed to go on because of free speech, an idea that no longer exists in this country for certain groups.
We face the persecution of being asked, “how can someone as smart as you believe all that stuff?” Some, in their desire to be seen as hip, modern, cool, or progressive willingly abandon their faith.
It is difficult to stand up for the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman in a society saturated by sex and enamored of perversion. One may be roundly criticized for speaking against the culture of death. One may be demonized for insisting that abortion is not a form of women’s health care, particularly for the large number of girl babies aborted in China and India. Somehow those who oppose killing grandma because she has Alzheimer’s are the ones criticized for being callous and cruel.
The reasons are easy to understand. “They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.” Our choice is to fall away or to say to Jesus the same words that Lydia said to Paul, “Come and stay with us.”
Granted today is the 6th Tuesday of Easter. However, good intentions got waylaid by exhaustion. It was too far to walk from the recliner to the desk. The bed was closer.
One of my favorite photo settings is through windows. The first photo was taken in October at Regina Laudis. The red shed is not too far from the men's guest house. Am going to try to recapture the shot next week. Nice project would be to take the same shot in each of the four seasons. The second is through a window in a previously unused and junky shed at the Gloucester retreat house. I took it in November. About a year ago I went back to retake the photo. Big mistake. The shed had been converted into a small chapel. It is a lovely small chapel but the ghastly wire (chicken wire) put on the windows to keep out critters, made any significant photography impossible.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD