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Tribulation and the Battle Cry

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus never promised to keep his followers from suffering. Jesus promises to accompany us in our sorrows and to sustain us with his grace, even when all seems lost. An important lesson for every Christian is that the journey for us, just as for Jesus, leads to the cross of Calvary. We place our hope in our Lord who has gone before us, given meaning to life’s travails, and has been raised on the other side of death.

The readings today bring us a step closer to the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent. Each year as the days grow colder and Thanksgiving approaches, the Church places before her people lessons related to readiness for the end times.

Take today’s Gospel: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end…. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…. Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you…” (Lk 21) Good times!

Our Lord prophecies violence, turmoil and upheaval. Jesus recognizes that the Kingdom of God will not be brought about by a peaceful transition of power. Why would the  powerful relinquish control? Instead, just as Jesus overturned the moneychangers in the Temple, his religious revolution will overturn the former order. A new reign of service and selfless love will spread. That we do not yet often perceive this reality fully visible brings us to admit the great work left for the Church to undertake with our Head Jesus.

The road to the fullness of Christianity passes through these difficulties. Jesus assures us: keep the faith; trust in me; abide in the Spirit. He will help us make our defense (apologia). While those who do not embrace the new reality will hate us: “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,” (Lk 21:19) victory will eventually be ours!

As Americans, we may just be too comfortable to really hear Jesus’ words with relish! They are off-putting. Day after day, however, our nation grows increasingly secular and even anti-religious. Through the mid-20th century our culture could be described as Judeo-Christian, but that has been eroding. A secular worldview proposes a vision for America that would roil our founding fathers. And it should rile us! It is time to take up arms. Our weapons are the Gospel. Our faith is our shield. We are clothed with Christ.

Some of these Gospel warnings end with the eerie question: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:18) We might pose: will our faith move us to trust in the Lord even when our adversaries are at the gate? Or, are we willing to stand and fight for the truth of the Gospel?

With you in the fight,

Fr. Joel Wilson

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