In the Coming Persecution, We Must Remain Faithful
Friday† June 4, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Timothy 3:10-17)†† Gospel (St. Mark 12:35-37)
Saint Paul, in writing to Timothy, reminds Timothy of the various persecutions that Saint Paul himself had endured in his preaching through the various cities, and then he goes on to say that anyone who wants to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. It is a universal statement that he is making: Every single person who is going to live religiously in Christ will be persecuted. Then he goes on to tell us also what is going to happen on the other side of things. He says that the bad people, the wicked ones and the charlatans, are going to go from bad to worse, both being deceivers and themselves being deceived.
As we look forward, we have to be very clear about what is about to be. Things are going to get real bad, real bad. The persecution is going to be such that I suspect none of us have ever really experienced it. The wicked people are going to go from bad to worse. As the Lord Himself makes exceedingly clear, those who do not want to accept Him, those who willfully reject Him are going to get worse. Now one can look around the word and ask the question: How could things get worse? Do not ask that question because it is going to get much worse. They have lots of ways that they can get worse. The devil is going to go into a tirade and all of those who are in league with him will carry out his evil designs. In the meantime, the Church will be purified in a most severe way, and those who are going to be faithful to Christ are going to be purified as well.
Saint Paul also makes clear to Timothy how it is that he is going to be able to survive the various persecutions that Timothy himself would have to endure. He tells us that it is through the Scriptures. We have to understand that if worse comes to worst, you have the Scriptures. You have the psalms which Jesus quotes in the Gospel today, Psalm 110, part of the Messianic Psalms telling about Who Jesus Himself is. The psalms are the prayer of the Bible. And if the day comes when you cannot get to the sacraments, you have your Scriptures. You must use them; you must pray the Scriptures. When you have an opportunity to get to the sacraments, then by all means you need to take advantage of that; but if it comes to the point where you cannot, then hang on to your Scriptures.
Read the Gospels. Read what is in the Scriptures and see what the people have been through. Remember words like those of Judith: It is not for vengeance that God puts us into the crucible to try us, but rather it is by way of admonition that He chastises those whom He loves. You can read Saint Paulís Letter to the Hebrews where he reminds us that God chastises every son whom He chooses and whom He loves, and that any son who does not get disciplined is not a son because obviously the father does not care enough to discipline the person, and therefore he is not part of the family. So we have reminders. We can look at Our Lordís Passion and we can look at what the apostles had to endure. We can look at what all the prophets had to endure. Everyone in the Scriptures who was trying to live according to the way of God suffered. We have their example; we have their instruction; we have all that we need right there.
So if things get that bad, do not panic. Remain faithful in all things. You have the Word of God to keep you on track. You have everything right there, the divinely inspired Word of God, and you can read that. You can read John 6 and make a spiritual communion everyday even if you cannot get to Mass. You can read what Jesus tells the apostles in John 20 or what we hear in Saint James, and you can confess your sins even if there is not a priest there. In times like that, confess your sins and wait for the priest to arrive. Everything is right there in Scripture. The sacraments are all there; the teachings are all there; all the doctrines and dogmas of the Church are right there. The way that we are to live our lives is laid out for us. Read in Matthew 5-7 the Sermon on the Mount; Jesus lays out for us what we are supposed to do. There is nothing lacking in Scripture. It is the Word of God, as God wanted it laid out for us. We have everything; we are lacking in nothing.
If our faith is going to be tried, we need to praise God for that. If the Church is going to be persecuted, we need to praise God for that. We need to learn to see things from Godís perspective, and we need to remain faithful because it is going to be far worse than what any of us ever could have imagined. We need to be faithful and we need to trust. Everything is present for our success as long as we remain faithful to Christ, as long as we pray, as long as we hang on to the Scriptures so that we can be reminded of the promises of Christ. We have the example of the holy ones who have gone before us laid out for us. As Saint Paul points out, God has delivered me from all these things, and so He will with us. We need only to trust, and to know that fidelity to the Lord in the face of persecution, whether it means our death or whether it means simply suffering and being purified through it, is going to give great glory to God and it is going to bring about holiness for us. That is what it is all about, and that is all that matters: doing Godís Will and growing in holiness. So there is no need to fear, there is no need to panic, there is not even any need to be worried or anxious. All that is necessary is that we be faithful and rooted deeply in prayer so that no matter what comes we will remain loyal to Jesus Christ.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.