Jesus really needs to work on his marketing techniques. He WANTS us all to buy-in this “disciple” stuff – but then he turns around and gives us today’s Gospel….You’ll be persecuted ….oh – and some of you will be put to death…. Fortunately for us, he was only talking to THEM and not to US…right? I mean - all of the persecution that Jesus warned about was 2000 years ago, wasn’t it?
In 1914 – less than 100 years ago, The Mexican government had become VERY anti-Catholic. They closed churches and demolished them. It became illegal for the Church to run a school…which by-the-way is still true in Mexico. The priests went into hiding. In some places the Mass was outlawed altogether and priests and nuns were forbidden to wear their religious garb. One seminarian, Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez fled to the U.S. to complete his studies . He returned to Mexico in 1926 as a Priest – even though conditions continued to worsen for the Church there. He spent his time serving the people of God – helping the sick and the poor – and celebrating Mass with the few Catholics who dared to join him, since the Mass was against the law. In 1927, somebody attempted to assassinate the Mexican president, and somehow Fr. Juarez got blamed for it – so they arrested him and immediately sentenced him to be executed.
On the morning of 23 November, soldiers took him to the prison yard. Fr. Miguel knelt and briefly prayed quietly. He then rose, and said, "May God have mercy on you! Lord, with all my heart I forgive my enemies!" Seconds before the firing squad was ordered to Fire, he stretched his arms out in the form of a cross with a rosary in one hand and a crucifix in the other, and he proclaimed “Vivo, Cristo Rey!” ….”Long live Christ the King!”
Jesus warned us this would happen… he told us in the Gospel that we would be drug before kings and courts – and some of us would be killed – BUT - that would our big opportunity to testify to his name. Can you imagine what you would say if it happened to you? Jesus told us not to worry about what we would say – that he would give us a wisdom in speaking that none can refute or resist!
But – Jesus – if none can resist it – why did Fr. Miguel die? Why have Christians died by the thousands over the years?
I’m thinking that maybe the ‘wisdom in speaking’ that Jesus gives us is not at all what we think. If I was choosing, I’d want some great philosophical or theological argument that would capture the hearts of my persecutors and bring them to Christ – so I could walk free and stay alive. However, I’m thinking the wisdom he gives may be for us to simply shut up.
Because - When someone innocent is killed, Their silence screams louder than any argument. Just think about the young people we’ve lost too early from our own community. Their death just tears at our hearts – because we know they didn’t deserve it. It’s just not fair! Jesus was the perfect example. Have you ever listened to the Passion story on Good Friday and thought – Jesus – if you would just say this or just do that….you could have gone free! The whole Gospel would be different, because Jesus wouldn’t have died. But maybe that’s the point. The Gospel HAD to go that way. Jesus HAD to die – because it was his SILENT acceptance of his execution that touched the hearts of the first century Christians – and continues to tug our heartstrings today.
The persecution of Catholics continues. Just two weeks ago, militants broke into the Catholic Church in Baghdad and killed 56 people. They killed another 5 just this week. In India, where Christians are less than 3% of the population, they are routinely singled out and persecuted. Every year, 1.2 million innocent babies are aborted just in this country. This is today. … this is not 2000 years ago. Christianity is still under attack.
Jesus’ warnings and promises are still relevant to us today. Since we live in an area that is mostly Christian, we may think this doesn’t apply to us – but many believe that the persecution of Christians, and Catholics in particular will likely increase in our lifetime. How will we give testimony? I hope that I have the eloquence to speak the words of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez, “Vivo Christo Rey”. If not, I hope Jesus gives me the wisdom to just shut up…because the silence of the innocent screams louder than any argument.