Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reflection for the 6th Week of Easter, Part 1

Monday – Persecution

Jesus gives us fair warning. Our lives as Christians will not be easy. We will experience persecution from people who don't know Jesus and the Father. They will hate us for speaking the truth because their beliefs are false and they don't want to let go of them. They will hate us for following God's moral law because their consciences accuse them and they don't want to listen. They will hate us for loving others because their lives are filled with hate and apathy and they don't want to change.

Jesus also warns us that we will sometimes be thrown out of places just for being a Christian. As the early Jewish Christians were ejected from their synagogues on account of their faith in Jesus, we, too, risk losing our social standing by publicly following Christ. Friends may reject us. We may miss out on job or community opportunities. People may refuse to speak to us or acknowledge us.

Jesus even takes His warning one step further. Christians may sometimes face death for their faith. We may think this could never apply to us in the modern Western world. But are we so sure? Listen to what Jesus says: “...the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.” Are there groups in this world that would think exactly that? Are they willing to kill people who don't believe the way they do?

Yes, we Christians are and will be persecuted, but so was Jesus. He suffered and died for us, and we can join our suffering and even death to His so that not one little bit of either will ever be wasted. We must cling to our Lord and open ourselves to the grace He freely pours out that we may withstand any and every persecution and hold fast to the truth of our faith.

May it be so. Amen.

Tuesday – The Terrified Jailer

Don't you feel a bit sorry for the jailer in today's first reading? The poor man is terrified and with good reason! First he's awakened by a major earthquake, which is scary enough. Then he notices that the prison doors are open and all the chains pulled lose. Naturally, he believes that the prisoners, including Paul and Silas, have all escaped.

In his extreme fear, the jailer does the only thing he can think of: he pulls out his sword and prepares to kill himself. He knows that if the Romans find the prison empty, he will be punished (i.e., tortured) for it, and he decides that death would be better.

When Paul sees what the jailer is about to do, he cries out with reassurance. “Do not harm yourself,” he shouts, “we are all here.”

That probably scares the jailer more than anything else that has happened. The prisoners didn't escape? Why not? Who are these people who first pray and sing in prison and then don't make a run for freedom when they have the chance? What's going on? Something major. Something important. Something life saving.

The terrified jailer throws himself on the ground before Paul and Silas and asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” We can't be exactly sure what he means. He might simply be wondering how to get out of his current mess, but he has also seen enough wonders to realize that the situation calls for a deeper question.

Paul and Silas answer the deeper question and proclaim the Gospel to the jailer, who accepts it immediately with faith and is baptized along with his whole household.

The terrified jailer has become the joyful Christian jailer.

Wednesday – Responses

When Paul preaches the message of the one true God to the philosophically minded Athenians, he receives three different responses.

Some people merely scoff at Paul, especially when they hear about the resurrection. They are not willing to accept an idea that fails to fit into their own system of beliefs, so they ridicule it.

Others hesitate, unwilling to commit for the time being but leaving the door open just a crack. “We should like to hear you on this some other time,” they tell Paul. Of course, they don't specify when that other time might be, and perhaps they are hoping that it never arrives.

Still others, though, believe. They recognize the truth when they hear it, and they accept it. They are willing to let go of their old ways of thinking and conform to the new reality set before them.

If you had been an Athenian listening to Paul, how would you have responded?

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