The stage is set for the celebrations of the Ascension and Pentecost. It is at this point that the Apostles and disciples will be called upon to witness to the Risen Lord and His Gospel, not just by their worship and the manner of living their lives, but in the proclamation of the Gospel. The Readings from Acts we have heard throughout the Easter season has told us how that proclamation occurred.
Listening to these accounts we heard about the persecution they endured. We know that this persecution continued as the Church grew and throughout her history. The readings remind us today that such persecutions are not a thing of the past. We, too, will experience forms of persecution: personal attacks, criticism or worse.
The Scriptures also give us reason to pause. These persecutions will sometimes occur by those who see themselves as defenders and promoters of truth and justice.
Two thoughts concerning this:
1. We shouldn’t be surprised, indignant or even offended. Jesus told us this would happen. So, what are we to do? We remain true to ourselves as children of God. We remain connected to the Lord in prayer and in the Sacraments. We remain connected to His Body the Church. And we remain in ‘mission mode’, not campaign mode. Remember Jesus’ example during his trial and crucifixion? He continued to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
2. If the one initiating the persecution is doing so in the name of truth or justice, it revelas that they may be an opening to hearing and accepting the Gospel. After all, we believe that truth and justice find their perfection in God. That opening may be quite small, but it is there and it is all God needs.
We need to remember that we are called to be instruments of the Lord. We heard in Acts today that it was the Lord who opened Lydia’s heart to hear Paul’s words. We set the table and prepare the way, God does the rest.
Pope Francis, preaching on the Transfiguration, reflected on the Father’s words: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” The Holy Father encouraged us that during those times we are having difficulty, such as being criticized or persecuted in some way for our Faith, we need to ask ourselves “what is Jesus saying to me today?” Then, he said, we should listen for His voice and let him inspire us.