Daily Reflection readers for the past week will know that the gospel reading for today is part of St. Luke's account of Jesus' discourse about the end times. In today's reading Jesus speaks of the persecution that many of the faithful will undergo before the end of their life here on earth. In my reading and meditating upon this gospel, I was struck by the final sentence. "By your perseverance you will secure your lives." The word perseverance has a special connotation for me as one who has been a Jesuit for more than 50 years. From my earliest years as a Jesuit my classmates and I were exhorted to pray for the grace to remain faithful to our vows, in other words to persevere. Those exhortations have resonated with me throughout the years and they are still very powerful. By the grace of God many of us have been successful until now in our prayers for perseverance.
But I don't think that the words of Jesus about perseverance were addressed just to us or to any one group. The words of Jesus are timeless and are addressed to any persons of any age who will listen and hear them. They are addressed to me and to you and to all who read these reflections and all who read St. Luke's gospel. These words tell us that if we persevere, that is if we faithfully follow the words and teaching of Jesus, we will be saved. We may suffer in this life, but we will attain eternal happiness in the next.
Jesus also talks about the trials and sufferings that come with persecution. The words: "you are not to prepare your defense beforehand" remind me of the example of so many martyrs. Their stories show us how human they were. They reacted with fear in the face of torture and death. They found it difficult to find words to defend themselves. Yet over and over again the stories of martyrs show us that Jesus gave them a wisdom that confounded their persecutors. Today they provide us with a powerful example of fidelity to the words and teaching of Jesus. And their stories impress upon us that Jesus is faithful to his promises.
Today those of us reading the words of Jesus about perseverance may not be destined for martyrdom, but we are all called to heed the words of Jesus. We are called to persevere in following Jesus and to secure our lives in the happiness of heaven.
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