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Sunday Readings for Nov. 14, 2010 (33C)
By Father Cusick
The Lord tells his disciples that natural disasters and tragedies will come, and human conflict will be a fixture in the world.
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven." (Lk 21:10-11)
More significant for the believer, though, will be the persecution leveled against those who are faithful to Christ:
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my names' sake...You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsman and friends, and some of you they will out to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. (Lk 21:12.16-17)
Most to be feared are not anti-Christs from without, but the false worship for which each must take personal responsibility. Only through endurance will men and women of faith survive the Church's ultimate trial: man's temptation to worship himself as the "Antichrist" and to persecute all who reject this false idol.
Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. (Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.) The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. (Cf. 2 Thess 2:4-12; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; 1 Jn 2:18,22) (CCC 675)
The Lord tells us what we are to do if we are called to suffer for the sake of the Name, for which martyrdom the Apostles glorified God (Acts). Rather than simple suffering, persecution finds its fullest Christian meaning in the "testimony" of those who bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, further cementing their bond to Him as his martyrs, those who bear witness to Him. Fear in the face of the persecutor must be rejected.
"This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." (Lk 21:13-15)
In another place in the Gospel the Lord promises us that we need not worry what we are to say when called before the authorities to give testimony, for then, the Holy Spirit, who is with us always and will never abandon us, will give us "the words to speak". Endurance is the key for those who would be victorious over their enemies. "But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will save your lives." (Lk 20:29-33)
Endurance is an active, rather than a passive, virtue for the Christian. Endurance is built up against temptation to sin and apathy through a life of regular prayer. Prayer is both private, such as the Rosary and meditation upon Scripture, and public, to include the Sunday liturgy and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. The graces given once in Baptism, strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, arm the Christian for the daily battle of faith.
When our endurance weakens and we fall in battle by sinning, we must be healed and strengthened by sorrow and absolution. The forgiveness of mortal sins is gained through regular Confession. Through the frequent reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist our Savior forgives our venial sins.
Penances generously accepted free us from the attachment to sin which remain even after we express our sorrow to the Lord in Confession. All these and so many other helps are ours so that the life of faith will be strong enough to withstand the many attacks against it both from without and within.
To "save our lives" is to live now and forever in union with our sole Savior, Jesus Christ, who eternally reigns with the Father in glory. To endure is to reign.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him..." (2 Timothy 2:10-12)
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy."