Why Do We Have To Suffer For Our Faith Today?
Today’s Gospel proposes to us a question: If Jesus died on the cross so that we can be saved, then why do the disciples have to suffer.
St. Paul talks about completing what is lacking in Jesus’ sacrifice, but that implies that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough. How can Jesus’ perfect sacrifice not be enough? And if it was enough, why must we suffer. There must be another reason why persecution and suffering happens and why Jesus warns that those who are to be his followers must prepare for it.
The answer actually is simple.
When Jesus dies on the cross and resurrected, our salvation is secured. He lives the law perfectly and by doing so he breaks the hold the devil has on the human race. St. Maximus the Confessor explains that what we see in Jesus’ death is literally his last temptation. The devil throws everything at him in an attempt to get him not to love for even the slightest amount of time. Then the law is broken and humanity is lost. Jesus loves to the very end and humanity is saved. He resurrects and the gates of heaven are open again.
Our suffering is a witness to his action. So persecution against Catholics does not add to Jesus’ sacrifice as much as it is a witness to the world of the reality of our salvation through Jesus’ action.
Everything we do for Christ despite difficulties is a witness to Christ. Even what is happening now whether you are attending Mass in person or online. Your devotion to Christ in this difficult time is a witness to His reality and power. It is a witness to the truth.
Obviously, the devil despises this witness so we will suffer difficulties and persecution as Jesus says. However, our persecution is to get us to silence our witness.
How important is our witness.
I wrote an article which you can find on Medium and at the blog on CatholicAudioMedia.com based on an encyclical by Pope Benedict XV. He reigned a hundred years ago, literally.
He explains that bad preaching is one of the causes of World War I. That may not make sense at first glance but let’s look more closely.
He explained that the apostles speaking at a time when there was not Christianity and in a society that was hostile to its increase successfully converted many. Why, they were teaching the powerful truths that Christ taught them.
However, he lamented that had gone by the wayside. Those powerful truths were no longer being preached and because of that people saw no reason to seek Christ. So they pursued those things of the world that lead to territorial turf disputes and wars.
St. James remember teaches that wars actually come from people giving into the their passions and desires.
The pope said that had the word been preached with the same power of the apostles words, people’s heart would be changed. Do not forget it is only several decades before World War I that Friedrich Nietzche declared that God was dead. He stated that humanity made Him irrelevant.
He became irrelevant because we did not understand who He is and where He is leading us.
This is why it is essential that Catholic preaching improves including my own and that we embrace what Jesus really taught. We as a church need to testify to the truth that changes hearts not just a bunch of rules or a political position.
Our faith is all about pursuing truth for Jesus is the truth. It is all about drawing closer to Christ so that we may deepen our understanding of our existence. It is not just about avoiding sin. We avoid sin to see more clearly the truth.
St. Paul taught that you never speak of Jesus’ death without his resurrection and obviously you cannot speak of his resurrection without his death. The two go together. If you speak of his death and not his resurrection you turn Jesus into Socrates. A wise man, but he did not save us.
Jesus teaches divine eternal truth. Therefore, we cannot speak of avoiding sin if we are not also speaking of pursuing truth. We cannot pursue truth if we do not understand sin as an obstacle. We need to understand both elements not just one.
We need to understand our faith by seeking the truth that is Christ and we need to live our faith so that the world may know him. We need to change hearts.
If you look at our country today, we can use just one of Jesus’ teachings today as an indication of what has gone wrong.
What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul in the process? What good is it to gain everything that we can in the material world while our spiritual life atrophies on the vine.
In the encyclical Rerum Novarum written several decades earlier, Pope Leo XIII established the Catholic support for unions. However, he says that unions must also help establish humanity’s physical needs, its earthly aspirations but also its spiritual needs as well. If those principles do not exist then what happens is that people are taught to seek the whole world but only that and lose their spirituality in the process.
What is the reason for the violence in our country. It is a protest for the demands of the whole world without any connection to the spiritual realities attached to it.
What systems will lead us to make that error. Communism will, but so will capitalism. Both are materialist systems that focus on gaining the whole world with no focus on the soul. Both, by the way, have connections to slavery.
We testify more deeply to Christ when we live our faith. But you can see there are many forces that try to silence our witness. Hence the reason why Jesus called us to be prepared. There is a lot at stake: not only our own souls but the souls of everyone else we deal with in our lives.
So let us this week pray that the Lord will lead us to be faithful to His truth and he will bless our efforts.