PERSECUTED AND FAITHFUL

Saturday, 5th Week of Easter            

            Archaeologists digging in the remains of a school for imperial pages in Rome found a picture dating from the third century. It shows a boy standing, his hand raised, worshiping a figure on a cross, a figure that looks like a man with the head of an ass. Scrawled in the writing of a young person are the words, “Alexamenos worships his God.” Nearby in a second inscription: “Alexamenos is faithful.” Apparently, a young man who was a Christian was being mocked by his schoolmates for his faithful witness. But he was not ashamed; he was faithful.

            Jesus, in today’s gospel passage, talks about persecution entailed in following him. His followers are going to be mistreated and persecuted. But this must be an opportunity to bear witness to the Lord’s teaching.

            In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals. Paul Rader, an evangelist, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, “I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, ‘Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get His Gospel to the ends of the earth?’” Rader continued, “I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr, and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in Paul’s heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome.” “Those early Christians “lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of eternal home, no possessions to hold them back.”

            The world – the society that has fallen under the power of evil – remains hostile to Christ and everything he stands for. It is at odds with Jesus and his Spirit. Its values are opposed to the gospel values. In fact, the world hates Jesus and his followers. “If the world hates you, realize that it hated my first.”

            Be willing and ready to be wounded and scarred for Christ. I came across this haunting poem: As the Master shall the servant be And, pierced are the feet that follow Me But you have followed far Seeing you have no wounds, no scar. Do you have wounds and scars to show the Lord?

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