Some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead. The disciples came crowding round him but, as they did so, he stood up and went back to the town. The next day he and Barnabas went off to Derbe.
Jesus said to his disciples:
We all have to experience many hardships…before we enter the kingdom of God.
Our Lord and Saviour had to suffer and die before He entered His kingdom. He gave up His right to be in His kingdom to assume a human life, to suffer and die and to rise again so that we will have salvation and that He will live with us here and now, throughout eternity.
It was by choice that He endured this suffering and gave up His heavenly home; such is His great love. No words can describe His wonder, His majesty which is present today through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, especially through His body and His blood in the sacrament of Communion.
When I first took my current job, 5 years ago I shared an office with a colleague. One year later, we both had to move to a more compact working space with potentially 10 other colleague. On hindsight, I realise that it was not such a big deal at all. But back then, both of us were not terribly thrilled at the outset because of the uncertainty that it brought about, and possibly because we thought we had a right to a better office space. In actual fact, the moving of an office or workstation is, in itself, not really a hardship at all; and yet, sometimes, we act as if it is. Given that experience, I don’t think that if I was the son (or daughter) of God, I would have left heaven voluntarily.
Today, we face a lot of hardships; some perceived, some temporary and some truly challenging. And the Lord tells us today, that He gives us peace and this is not the peace the world gives. Anything that comes from God is perfect and so is His peace.
So while we struggle to uphold our rights to practice our religion; while, as parents and elders, we strive to impose the teaching of our faith in morality and truth in a very liberal society; and while we who are single strive to live in chastity and purity, Jesus reassures us much like the parent in today’s reading.
When I am down, lost or troubled, my parents do assure me that I need not be afraid, they give me the confidence that I can do what it takes and that God is with us during those painful times. One such time was 4 years ago when I had initially agreed to be the commentator at my uncle’s funeral. On the day of the funeral, I told my dad that I could not do it because all I wanted to do was to mourn and grieve during the funeral mass. My father assured me that the right thing to do was to commentate at the mass.
Do we expect anything less from our perfect Father? Is He not consoling us when we are humiliated, persecuted and constantly faced with dead ends? Is He not holding our hands when we need to rise up and stand up for our faith? Is He not smiling at us when we continuously uphold His teaching and live life aligned to His truth? Not many of us will have the privilege of dying a martyr like St Stephen but every time each of us ‘dies to ourselves’ so that His dominion endures throughout generations, we receive this great privilege to know the our faith is worth upholding so that we can pass it on to the generation after us.
What is God asking of you today? What hardship do you need to endure to enter His kingdom?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Father God, help us to offer up all our suffering, hardship and persecution for the salvation of the departed souls. Give us the grace to accept our crosses.
Thanksgiving: With all of our hearts, and all of our lives, we thank you and praise you for the gift of your perfect Son, our perfect Father and Lord.