Monday, May 23, 2016

TREASURE -- WITH PERSECUTION


Homily for May 24th, 2016: Mark 10:28-31.

          “We have given up everything and followed you,” Peter tells Jesus at the beginning of our brief gospel reading. Peter’s words immediately follow Jesus’ command to the rich young man in yesterday’s gospel reading: “Go sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” 

          In reminding Jesus about what he and the other disciples had sacrificed in order to follow Jesus, Peter was implying the question: ‘What reward will we have?’ Jesus responds by saying, in effect: ‘You will receive, already in this world, a hundred times as much as whatever you have given up for me; and in the world to come eternal life.’ Jesus qualifies this promise with the words, “with persecution.” The persecution which those two words foretold would start not long after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. It would continue, with varying intensity, for three centuries more.

          Today it has returned: in the Middle East and parts of Africa, where the age of martyrdom has returned with an intensity, cruelty, and brutality not seen since antiquity. The persecution we are witnessing in this and other western countries has not reached that intensity – yet. But it is there nonetheless. The late Cardinal George of Chicago was referring to this persecution in his oft-quoted statement to a priests’ gathering a few years ago: “I expect to die in my bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will die a martyr in the public square.” Too often omitted, when those words are quoted, is the cardinal’s concluding prophecy: “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the Church has done so often in human history."

          We pray therefore in this Mass, as Jesus has taught us to do: “Deliver us from evil.”