Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-9
Today, the first reading and the psalm response seem to fit nicely together, but at first glance the gospel reading seems incongruous. The reading and the psalm are all about praise, and the gospel is about the persecution of the Christians. In the reading from Revelation, John sees in heaven the heavenly host celebrating their victory, praising God by singing old songs of praise and honor. Then the psalm response follows through with this by encouraging the people on earth to do like those in heaven and to praise God. In fact, the psalm response by its very nature accomplishes that. All the people at the Mass repeat the phrase, “Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!” And in the verses the people are encouraged to sing songs of praise to God to celebrate His victory and to thank Him for his justice. But then in the gospel Jesus says to his disciples that they will be persecuted because of Him. He says their own families will deliver them up to their enemies and that some of them will die just for saying His name. This makes it a little difficult to follow the psalm’s encouragement and praise God. Living in fear of death because of one’s words makes it a little hard to say them with conviction.
Those praising God in the reading from Revelation had just won a
victory for God over evil. They have every reason to be celebrating
and praising God. And as the heavens praise God above, so the earth
should praise him below. Whatever we do on earth should be done for
God and for Heaven. And it’s easy to praise God in the midst of a
victory and when it’s safe to do so. It’s harder to praise God when
those words can get you killed. And Jesus says, “some of you will
be put to death.” But then he also says that they will be given the
words to say and they are told, “yet not a hair of your head will be harmed.”
How can this be? Will they be killed, or will they be saved?
The answer may be both. These people, like the heavenly victors in
Revelation, are in the midst of a war between God and evil. And some
of them will be killed, but all of them will be saved. Whatever happens
to their lives on earth, they are part of God’s victory that is celebrated
in Revelation. If their lives on earth are lost, they are lost for
Jesus’ name, and their souls are saved in heaven. Who has better
reason to praise God and give Him thanks?
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