We don’t have to be afraid. Today’s readings may send chills down our spine, but the invitation to us is not to fear.
In this final handful of days in the liturgical year, we are given a “great and awe-inspiring” vision from Revelation, complete with plagues, God’s fury and a “sea of glass, mingled with fire.”
But what about those faithful ones who remain? They have made it through the maelstrom and are holding harps, singing songs and praising the glory of God. They sing of “fearing God,” whose awesome power has saved them, but not of being afraid.
In the gospel today, Jesus carries an ominous message for his followers: life will be difficult for those who live the gospel. If we really turn our hearts over and live as Jesus asks us to, we will find ourselves cut off from many of the support systems in our world, mocked by those in authority and perhaps reviled by family and friends.
Living the truth of the gospel is not easy and speaking it out loud will challenge those around us. How are we asked to speak that truth in our lives today? Who are the most powerless people in our lives – and how are we protecting them? Who are the poor among us to whom we are asked to give a special care? How are we speaking out to help them, to fight for their dignity and needs?
It will not go easy for us, whether we are challenging our government policies or our own family’s spending habits, but as followers of Jesus, we are called to live by unpopular standards.
Yet what encouragement does Jesus offer us? He offers us his presence as a source of strength and wisdom. He promises that if we trust, the right words will be given to us at the right time. We can expect difficulties, pressure to conform and apathy to the message we carry. We are asked by Jesus to die for this message, even if the death is only of our own needs to be popular and honored by the world.
He promises us challenges but offers us solace in him: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
It is a message that makes us want to be afraid, but what he is really offering us is a rebirth and a new life in him.
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