“What is the good of keeping God’s commands?” Does it remind you of someone you know?
“We have reached the point when we call arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God’s patience and yet go free.” Has this question ever crossed your mind?
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! These are the ancient questions. When the people of God were returning from an exile and rebuilding the Temple, of which Jesus spoke in the Gospel today, they were asking themselves: What’s the point of doing that? Or even more dramatic question: What’s the point of remaining faithful to God? That’s why prophet Malachi, whose book closes the Old Testament although it is not the latest book chronologically, revealed to his compatriots what we had in our First Reading: “The day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up.” It is not a cosy message, is it? Jesus picks up this trait in the Gospel. He said: “Nation will fight against nation. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” It is his final talk before he begins his passion. In today’s Gospel we find Jesus in the Holy Week already. But don’t worry, you didn’t sleep through Christmas and Lent yet. That’s how the Church simply reads the Gospel over the year. So Jesus is aware that hatred has its hour. He is aware that some are conspiring against him. He is aware of that but he doesn’t run away. Why? Because he doesn’t want us to run away either when it is tough to be a believer.
When you see prosperity of those who don’t care about God, remember that Jesus has invited us to participate in the mission He himself received from his Heavenly Father. Don’t envy presumptuous and apparently easy lifestyle of the evildoers but treasure the life-giving words of our Blessed Lord: “Your light must shine in the sight of people, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.” If your life doesn’t lead others to God it is waste of life. We become like that chaff or weed Jesus spoke of. When you love someone you want the best for the person, don’t you? Ultimately the best we can hope and dream for our loved ones is God himself. We will never replace God. There is a saying that: All roads lead to Rome, which used to be the centre of Western Civilisation at some stage. The same needs to be said of us: All lives lead to God, not only us but others as well. When Jesus prepared his followers for times of trouble he didn’t want them to be stubborn or simply resistant while facing persecutions. He showed them those difficulties; they were to face, as an opportunity to bear witness. St Luke in the Gospel put it as being martyrs. In our Catholic Tradition we recognise as martyrs those who were killed for their faith in Christ. However death doesn’t make automatically one a martyr. The death must tell others of God. A writer from the second century captured it profoundly: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The martyrs don’t die simply to get to heaven. Their death is their final and most powerful act of evangelising, telling the Good News by their endurance to the end.
Most of us will never face such violent persecutions these days. However it doesn’t relieve us of being a martyr, a witness, in its most fundamental way of leading others to God by our own way of life. Me may not be shot or beheaded because of our faith but still we face humiliation, ostracism, ridicule etc. due to our faith which is expressed in our Christian values, commitments, belief, mercy and love. Our endurance will win us our lives because we offer our lives, nurtured and supported by the sacraments, the Word of God, prayers and the Church community, as a means to lead others to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.
“It is useless to serve God.” It is not. It is life-giving like Jesus.
“What is the good of keeping God’s commands?” To be a martyr, a witness leading others to Christ.
“We have reached the point when we call arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God’s patience and yet go free.” It will end.