Your Perseverance Will Secure Your Lives

Homily for the Thirty-Third Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

There is a battle going on between good and evil but we already know the outcome. Christ has already won during his Passion, Death and Resurrection. But the battle continues to be played out and will be played out until the end of time. Good for us that we know who the Victor is, Jesus. All evil will be conquered even if for a little while it looks like it is winning or will win. Again and again Scripture assures us that even if we have to endure persecution because of our faith, in the end we will be vindicated. For some who are persecuted for their faith, that vindication might be in the next life. Whether the persecution be long or short the really important thing to remember is that Jesus will win, all evil will be conquered and no matter what happens we have every reason to hope and believe in Jesus and in his victory.

In both the first reading (Mal 3:19-20a) and the Gospel today (Luke 21:5-19) we see this hope. In the first reading we heard about the destruction of evil:

the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
And the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch. (Mal 3:19)

Then we heard God’s promise for those who are on his side:

But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Mal 3:20)

Jesus is that sun of justice with healing rays and again and again in the Gospels we read of Jesus healing the sick.

We also see hope beyond persecution in the Gospel today (Luke 21:5-19) when Jesus tells the disciples about the persecutions of his followers that would take place before the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Today you can still see some of those stones thrown down as Jesus said they would be. Jesus said his disciples would be seized and persecuted, put in prison, and some of them would be put to death. But then Jesus said, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:19) Christians in the Middle East have unfortunately had to suffer persecution for decades and we know many paid with their lives. I think of one in particular, Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni, of the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church, who, with his three subdeacons, was gunned down on Sunday June 3rd 2007 outside the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, after celebrating Divine Liturgy (Mass) on the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity. He had been ordained just under six years. He had grown up in Mosul and became an engineer before he heard the Lord call him to the priesthood. When he became a seminarian, his bishop sent him to study in Rome. He used to spend his summer vacations while studying in Rome in Ireland where was affectionately called “Paddy the Iraqi.” In October 2001 he was ordained in Rome and was a very good priest in Mosul. Not long before he was murdered, he helped a child with eye problems get surgery in Rome. Unfortunately he began to experience threats only about a year after returning to Mosul and some family members, friends and parishioners left Mosul for safety in the countryside or outside of Iraq. His decision to remain meant he would give his life for his parishioners just as he prayed during every consecration, “This is my Body which will be given up for you.” Believing the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Luke 21:19), he secured his life for the eternity. We believe he is vindicated in the next life and although his life was brutally taken from him, he and all the many other Christians martyred in recent decades all around the world are on Christ’s winning side.

For us here in this country, thank God, we do not have to endure such persecution. But there is misunderstanding of our Catholic faith and consequently discrimination sometimes even in this country. In the Land of the Free, sometimes we even have to stand up for our freedom of religion and freedom to believe our creed and not be forced to act against our conscience. We have heard of some, in the medical and other professions, who have had to surrender their career in order not to be forced to act contrary to our Catholic faith or who paid some other price for remaining faithful. They are fulfilling the words of Jesus in our Gospel today, “It will lead to your giving testimony.” (Luke 21:13) We do not have persecution like in Mosul but even in the Land of the Free some have had to make sacrifices in order to remain faithful to Christ. They are Catholic heroes.

The well-known Prayer to St. Michael reminds us that there is a battle going on between good and evil:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

We already know the outcome. Christ has already won during his Passion, Death and Resurrection. But the battle continues to be played out and will be played out until the end of time. Again and again Scripture assures us that even if we have to endure persecution because of our faith, in the end we will be vindicated even if we have to wait until the next life. Jesus will win, all evil will be conquered and no matter what happens we have every reason to hope and believe in Jesus and in his victory and in his words in today’s Gospel, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:19)

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2016

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

 

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