Timless Persecutions

In 06 Conclusion on 2011/08/13 at 1:23 PM

Jesus had told his disciples: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”   Persecution provides Christians with an opportunity to bear witness to Christ.  St. Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom said: “The harder the struggle, the greater the prize.”  By the time St. Paul arrived in Rome, the early Christians were being discriminated against for their religious beliefs; everywhere they were being spoken against.  St. Justin Martyr wrote:  “In our case you use the mere name as proof against us.”

The people to whom the epistle to the Hebrews was written were Christian of Jewish background.  They were being invited to leave behind the Jewish religion which was considered a lawful religion by the Roman Empire and not to fear the problems, risks and persecutions that they would encounter from both Jews and Gentiles for following Christ.    Hebrews 1:3-13 appears as a quotation in Clement of Rome’s letter to the Corinthians (36: 2-5) which appears to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Apostle John and many others had then dispersed throughout the Roman Empire.

Augustine would later speak of how Jesus foretold the good things which his followers would attain and of the many bad experiences they would undergo in this life.  He wished to assure us that we would reach the good things which will come at the end of time in spite of preceding difficulties and evils.

Throughout the centuries there have been countless Christians whose lives, reputations and property have been attacked out of hatred of the Gospel.  In them are fulfilled the words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for  righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Supported by Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, which we see so often fulfilled in the lives of the martyrs and other confessors, we should never be afraid, regardless of what evils beset us.  Such circumstances are permitted by God so that we can achieve good results.  Every generation of Christians needs to redeem and sanctify its own time.  We need to confess, spread and defend the faith and in doing so we fulfill our apostolic obligation in our own environment.

Our modern times continue to be difficult ones for Christians.

Pope John XXIII wrote in 1961: “In this task of evangelization we have reckon with  a completely new and disconcerting phenomenon, namely, the existence of a militant atheism, which has already invaded entire peoples:” an atheism which exhorts men to turn their backs on God, or at least to forget about Him.  We are faced with ideologies which use powerful means of diffusion, like television, newspapers, the cinema, the theater, in the fact of which many christians feel themselves defenseless and lacking in the necessary formation to be able to cope with them.”

The author of Hebrews 13: 8-9 admonishes: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; not be led away by diverse and strange teachings.”

For Christians, this admonition reminds us to be wary of the lure of new perspectives, new doctrine, “diverse” teachings, meaning contradictory and changeable teachings.  Truth, the Truth of Christ, is objective and unchangeable, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever.


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