The Gospel according to John (15:26-16:4a)
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. “I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”
Reflection: What’s interesting in this Gospel is what Jesus did not say. He did not tell them they should fight back, start a riot, form a revolution, etc. Rather, if you read the context to this statement, we see Jesus telling them that the Holy Spirit will take care of all things, will lead them and will enable them to testify to Jesus. To testify to Jesus is to be His witness. Thus, Jesus prepared His disciples for their heavy cross of persecution by the religious leaders by letting them know that they would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to give witness and testimony to Him. And once this began to take place, the disciples began to recall all that Jesus had told them.
In our society today, people are so quick to judge, persecute and try to get other people to join them. There are so many examples in our life that we see or hear. Society has opinions about war, suffering, death, illness and destruction. We hear these arguments at home, at work, at church, everywhere. What ever happened to “Love thy Neighbor”? Richard Rohr calls this “Mouthy certitude” which is filled with bravado, overstatement, quick, dogmatic conclusions, and a rush to judgment. People like this are always trying to convince others. They need to get us on their side and has a lot of anxiety about being right. Mouthy certitude, I think, often gives itself away, frankly, by being rude and even unkind because it’s so convinced it has the whole truth. We see this persecution in our world today through the war in Ukraine. Some see it also, at times, within the “Domestic Church,” when places of worship are victimized by shootings and death.
A small example of this is a series on Netflix called “Friday Night Lights”. It’s about a high school football program in Dillon, Texas and it has stories/drama of different people associated with this high school. There is the Head Coach of the football team that is pressured not only to win, and not only to make the playoffs, but to win the State Championship. There is one scene where he is mistreated when the team lost a game in the regular season to a worthy opponent and everyone in the town immediately turned against him and his family. In fact, when he got home from the game, he saw several “For Sale” signs on his lawn. My question is this … Is all this really worth it? Is it worth the stress, anxiety and the persecution?
The key is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a significant role right now in our world. That role is to strengthen us in our witness to Christ and to ignore any way the evil one would attack. So if you feel the pressure of persecution in any way, realize that Jesus spoke these words not only for His first disciples and you are also one of His disciples.
Action of the Day: Reflect, today, upon any way that you experience persecution in your life. Allow it to become an opportunity for hope and trust in the Lord through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He will never leave your side if you trust in Him.