WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Our Lady's Encouragement
I got off the subway at Termini station and went up to the busy streets of Rome. I had to walk past the place where all the prostitutes gathered. I looked down at the street and began to pray in fear. Suddenly I heard a feminine voice say, "Be a man!" I felt strong enough to look up at a young woman in the face who was there selling herself on the corner and say with a gentle understanding smile that said, "JESUS LOVES YOU. BE NOT AFRAID."
P>HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - It is terrifying to witness to Jesus Christ. It means we must become like him, even to face public scorn and mockery with meekness and confident hope that our sacrifice will make a difference.
This is what the seven Jewish sons had to do from the first reading for today. This is also what those bold investors had to do with the king's gold in a climate of contempt of the king that we read about in today's Gospel. This is what many Catholics have to face every day, just by quietly being faithful to Christ and his Church.
It will never be easy to witness to the truth of the King of Kings in a place that fundamentally rejects him. God knows this, and today's Mass readings are given to us to strengthen us. God knows what kind of subtle and at times very blatant and open persecution we face simply for investing in a kingdom that others who lack faith cannot see or refuse to see.
That is why Jesus gives us his Mother, Mary, the Queen of Martyrs. She is like the mother in the first reading. She had to watch her baby boy die before her eyes, yet every time his eyes met hers, we can be sure that she was full of encouragement for him, knowing that he was obtaining a far greater prize by being faithful to the plan of God by forgoing present comfort and good reputation.
She prays into us the grace of courage that flows from love. She gives us heart, the tender love that is mightier than any army or power of this world. She shows by example to stand down the opposition of this land that says about Jesus, like the men said in the Gospel for today, "We do not want this man to be king."
When it comes right down to it, persecution is merely intimidation, bullying, and a kind of arrogant presumption that God is not going to pay us back either for the good or for the evil that we do. For this reason, it is also merely defeated by confidence. Meekness is another word for confidence. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).
Meekness of witnessing to Christ means that we do not react to bullies. We react only to Our Father. We follow not our fear. We follow God. When we are being goaded, hated, maligned, misrepresented, even violently abused and maltreated, we set our face like flint toward Abba. This is what the King of martyrs taught us. This is what Our Lady teaches us.
I remember once when I felt her presence amidst this world's evils. I got off the subway at Termini station and went up to the busy streets of Rome. I had to walk past the place where all the prostitutes gathered to get to the university where I was studying theology. I looked down at the street and began to pray in fear. Suddenly I heard a feminine voice say deep inside my heart, "Be a man!" I felt strong enough to look up at a young woman in the face who was there selling herself on the corner and say with a gentle understanding smile that said, "JESUS LOVES YOU. BE NOT AFRAID." I do not know if it had any effect on her. I just know that she was very surprised to see that kind of smile on my face and exchanged a glance with me as if to say, "Thank you."
It seems like there are many little times every day where we can witness to Christ in this way, and there are many times a day we need to call on Our Lady to obtain for us the gift of fortitude to stand firm when the enemy is near.
Here are some practical things we can do:
-Spend time with Our Lady, either by praying the Rosary, keeping images of her nearby, or any kind of devotion that fosters that heart to heart friendship with our royal Mother.
-Read the lives of the saints. Allow their prayers and example to fortify us.
-Regroup and retreat with other Catholics who are going through the same thing. Strengthen one another, especially families that can help each other walk through this world like, as St Francis de Sales says, "fresh water fish through salt water or a butterfly through flames." It was a mother who strengthened her sons and brothers that strengthened each other in the first reading for today.
-Listen to Pope Francis! This Pope has courage. Follow his example. Let the successor turn and strengthen his brethren, i.e. YOU. Follow his 140 character tweets of fortification on twitter, listen to his two minute youtube homilies, read his short ferverino words to crowds. Let the Pope shepherd you.
-Frequent the Sacraments of Eucharist and Penance as much as you can. These are like to poles of electricity the negative charge (repenting of sin) and positive charge of filling up of grace to give your witness a sure and tangible power of Christ himself acting in and through you.
-Be sure to rest. Try living the Lord's day. Stop working. Stop fighting. Sleep. Stop. Pray. Be.
May Mary our Mother, the glorious Mother who strengthens her children fight the good fight, help us to witness to Christ with meekness and courage.
Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom. He speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Visit his homily blog http://medleyminute.blogspot.com or his blog on the Church's teachings on marriage and family life http://loveandresponsibility.org
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