Although it is uncommon for Christians in America to be beaten or attacked on account of speaking or believing, recent events have reminded me of repercussions from holding fast to the truth. This past month, Miss California publicly stood up for traditional marriage while she was in the public spotlight. In response, she was subjected to vicious personal attacks by those who disagreed with her, which were presumably designed to deter others from standing up and bearing witness. Our modern situation is thus not really so different from Paul’s. Fear and intimidation are indeed at work, but faith is at work, too.
The Gospel reading for today reminds us that faith sometimes means not being in synch with the world. Those who do not love and serve God may indeed be rejoicing over things that should cause weeping and shame. However, we are encouraged to persevere, with the promised fulfillment of our hope in joy. Jesus chose the analogy of the woman in labor, who soon forgets the pain of childbirth in the joy of new life. Having been there with my wife as she gave birth to our six children, I have seen that joy does indeed come after pain. After our first child was born, I also sense that my wife gave herself more easily to the task, as she knew that joy would be there at the end. And in some small way, my presence and encouragement there with her may have helped, somehow, if just a little.
We seem to be in a time where Christians need courage to speak and not be silent. We may not receive a voice from the Lord himself, as Paul did, but we can also be strengthened through the scriptures as well as from the power of being in community with others who believe. Words of encouragement and assurance can be powerful in driving out fear, building faith, and embracing our role in the future that God is bringing forth. May God give each of us the reassurance we need, along with the wisdom and strength to go on bearing witness to the truth.
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