At times, when we face hardships, we sometimes become frustrated, want to give up, or are blinded by the difficulties that we encounter and do not see other, more encouraging, aspects of our life. We can become paralyzed, losing sight of the wider picture and purpose and feeling pity for ourselves. We all have experienced this sometime in our lives and this was also the experience of the early Church. The original communities of Christians were ridiculed, discriminated, and persecuted. However, the way they conceptualized their difficulties and how they interpreted their hardships is exemplary and guides us during times of trouble.
First, the Gospel reading of today expresses the early Church’s strong belief in Christ’s presence and protection. We hear Jesus saying that his followers will never perish and that no one can take them out of the Father’s hands. Whatever happens to his disciples is never powerful enough to destroy them and to separate them from God. These are words of great comfort for anyone in trouble. However, it is definitely not always easy to believe this powerful message when we are surrounded with and overwhelmed by difficulties. Such words may even seem like mockery to someone who feels like drowning in major problems and we have to be very careful when we share these words with someone in such a situation. Yet, it is our supportive presence that makes these encouraging words of Jesus credible. We should utter them only in conjunction with clear actions of support and encouragement.
Second, the mutual support given to each other by the early Christians helped them to see positive meaning in the hardships they had to endure. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks about the persecution of the Apostle Stephen and how subsequently the Christian community was scattered. This devastating event could have destroyed the early Church. However, its members supported each other and continued to believe in the presence of the risen Lord who will guide them through and out of all difficulties.
Third, during this process of preaching the early Christians realized that God’s plan was much wider than they had ever imagined. Others, who were not originally raised in the Jewish faith, were touched by Christ’s Good News and desired to be baptized. Originally, Christians only preached to fellow Jews. Now, the early Christians realized that God’s grace is present in the lives of non-Jews too, and this transformed the Church from a small Jewish sect ultimately into a worldwide Church, truly “Catholic” and all-encompassing in nature.
Let’s pray that we realize in times of trouble that Christ is present in our life and supporting us...
Let’s encourage each other in times of crisis so that this message becomes credible to those around us...
Let us pray that we identify and clearly see the positive meanings hidden within or triggered by the hardships we are facing.