Sunday, November 17, 2013

How To Be Persecuted For The RIGHT Reason


(Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on November 18, 2013 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Luke 21: 5-19.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-third Sunday 2013]


There are, basically, two reasons for experiencing persecution in this life:

1.) We can be persecuted because of the evil we say or do; or 2.) We can be persecuted because of the good we say or do.

Today’s gospel reading deals with the latter reason.  And it indicates that as the time approaches for the end of the world and the consummation of human history, the persecution of those who do and say what’s good (in other words, of those who truly love and serve the Lord) will increase.

That’s why Jesus makes it clear at the end of the passage that his followers need perseverance: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

So today’s homily will be about how you can make sure that you are persecuted for the right reason, so that you will “secure your life” before God on the Day of Judgment.

Now I’ll do that by giving you some very practical suggestions.  These are suggestions of things—good things—that you can do or say which are almost certain to get you persecuted (maybe even by members of your own family!).

So here they are:

Suggestion number 1: Go on vacation with Catholic members of your extended family, and tell them that you’re going to Mass and not to the beach on Sunday morning.  Since all too many Catholics take a “vacation” from God and Mass when they’re on vacation from their work, that’s almost certain to elicit a few snide remarks.

Suggestion number 2: If you’re married, have more than two children.  You’ll be accused of trying to overpopulate the world—which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what’s happening in most western, industrialized countries at the present time!  But, since many people are ignorant of that fact, having three or more children will bring you at least some persecution.

Suggestion number 3: Publicly announce that you believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and that you don’t believe in so-called “gay marriage”.  Then duck when the rocks get thrown at you!  And make no mistake about it, they will be thrown—at least in the figurative sense.  I speak from experience!

Suggestion number 4: Don’t live together with your fiancée before you get married, and then tell people you don’t believe that it’s right for a couple to live together before their wedding day.  A variation of this is to make a chastity pledge to wait to have sex until you get married (as many of our teenagers do every year at the Steubenville East Youth Conference).

Suggestion number 5: Speaking of marriages, decline an invitation to attend a friend’s wedding, because your friend is Catholic and the marriage is outside the Church and therefore invalid.  Even if you respectfully decline, and at the same time profess love and support for your friend, that action of saying no is almost certain to get you some big-time persecution.

And speaking of weddings, suggestion number 6 is the following: If you attend a wedding ceremony or a funeral liturgy at a Protestant church (like Christ Episcopal down the road), don’t go to communion—even if many of your Catholic friends and relatives do.  That will get at least a few of them talking.  As Catholics, of course, we can pray with Protestants in their churches, but we’re not supposed to receive during their services (just like they aren’t supposed to receive at ours), because we are not united enough with them in terms of what we believe.  As St. Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 10: 17, the Eucharist is supposed to be a sign of our unity in faith—a unity, unfortunately, that we do not have at the present time with our Protestant brothers and sisters.

Suggestion number 7 is for the students in the congregation (especially those in high school and college): When the subject of abortion comes up in one of your classes, publicly announce that you’re pro-life.  (And, by the way, don’t assume you’ll be less persecuted by your teacher and your peers because you go to a so-called “Catholic school”!  Unfortunately, not every Catholic school is like St. Pius X or the Franciscan University of Steubenville!)

Suggestion number 8 is for everyone: Tell your friends and acquaintances that you’re proud to be Catholic!  Since, as one commentator has said, “Anti-Catholicism is the last respectable prejudice left in America,” such a positive endorsement of the Church will more than likely get at least a few negative responses.

Or how about this last one: Tell people that you’re seriously thinking about entering the priesthood or religious life (presuming you are), or tell people you know someone who is (if you do) and that you support them in their vocation.  Then watch the sparks fly!  And don’t be surprised if some of the biggest sparks come from “good, devout, churchgoing” members of your own family!

I’ve seen that happen many times over the years.  The very people who should be the most supportive—aren’t!

I’ll end my homily now as I began it:

There are, basically, two reasons for experiencing persecution:

We can either be persecuted because of the evil we say or do, or we can be persecuted because of the good we say or do.

Let’s pray at this Mass that ALL the persecution we experience in this life will be because of the latter, keeping in mind that persecution for doing and saying good things has a reward—a reward from God himself.

And that reward lasts forever!