Today’s Gospel seems to be full of doom and gloom: the Temple will be destroyed, there will be natural disasters and wars, and Christians will be hated because they bear the name of Christ. But this passage in Luke’s Gospel needs to be read in context. In particular, Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount and in the Acts of the Apostles, the sequel to the Gospel of Luke, shed light on the meaning of the last verse of today’s Gospel that contains our hope: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Luke 21:19).
In Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). Jesus does not elaborate on what He means by “hate” while on the Mount, but He does in today’s Gospel: “You will be led before kings and governors” – the powerful of the earth – and will give testimony (v.12-13).
To understand how one gives “testimony” we look ahead to Acts 7. The deacon Stephen is arrested and gives an eloquent speech before the authorities. He testifies to the truth of Jesus Christ as the Son of God who fulfills the Old Covenant, and that the authorities are too arrogant to believe the truth. Therefore, to give testimony means one has to defend the faith with words provided by Jesus Himself. The Lord will will give the wisdom needed in speaking so “that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute” (Luke 21:15).
But there is a more literal meaning to “testimony.” The Greek word for testimony is “martyr.” Therefore, to give testimony means to be willing to die for Christ, just as Stephen did when he was stoned to death (cf. Acts 7:54-60). Indeed, the Lord Himself says “they will put some of you to death” (Luke 21:16).
Persevering for the sake of Christ means wanting to be with Him forever in heaven to the point of dying for Him. Persevering means being counted as one of the righteous who see the sun of justice’s light and warmth as a healing ray rather than a scorching fire (cf. Malachi 4:1-2). Our perseverance today should have the ultimate goal of dying for the sake of the Lord Jesus not as though we are scoring points to buy our salvation, but to be united with Christ in a death like his so that we may share in a resurrection like His (cf Romans 6:8). That is, the cross. Our perseverance towards our own martyrdom begins with the little works of love, little crosses, for they are the individual stones forming the true dwelling place of the King of the Universe: the lowly human heart raised by God’s grace above the powers of the world.
Joseph Yuson – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
Fot. Daniele Franchi/Unsplash.com