Today’s readings emphasise joy, faith and sacrifice in Christian life. St. Paul has insight into his impending martyrdom in Rome. Instead of being apprehensive and fearful, he embraces his forthcoming death, just like St Peter and St Stephen, knowing that eternal life with God follows martyrdom. St Paul exhorts us to share our joy with him as he shares his joy in our faith. Many of us do not experience persecution – at most we may be ridiculed for our beliefs. We may downplay our faith among friends for fear of being considered “uncool”. Contrast this with the worshippers who were killed in the Easter Sunday Attacks in Sri Lanka; Mr. Staines and his two boys who were burnt in their motor vehicle in India; Asia Bibi in Pakistan, unjustly condemned to death under trumped up charges of blasphemy against Islam but providentially reprieved.
The Gospel proclamation follows the same theme. The word ‘hating’ sounds harsh but it is a hyperbolic emphasis to exhort us to give our highest priority to God over other things, including the love of our families, since they themselves are a gift of God to us. As Our Lord Jesus wanted, some of us devote our lives to the service of God and our fellow human beings, giving up our families, homes, the prospect of career, income, social status and the comfort of forming our own families. Some go to far-off places, risking and often losing their lives at the hands of hostile people.
Are we prepared to make some sacrifice in serving the community? Following the Lord Jesus is not easy. He requires us to give up our possessions and follow him – both material possessions and selfgratifying pleasures. For a start, should we not begin by empathising with those less fortunate than ourselves? Do we spare a thought about the poor in underdeveloped countries confronting the existential challenges of disease, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, starvation, war and constant fear for their lives and that of their families? Or are we comfortable in our complascency? Do we share the joyous Christian faith?
Prayer: Abba Father, give us the grace to appreciate and thank you for your gifts without becoming obsessed by them. Amen.
Source : On our Knees publication