Warning About Persecution

My dear friends, on this memorial of Saint George, who suffered and died for the gospel, I reflect on the Lord Jesus’ suffering. Jesus suffered, died and rose. He has become a source of inspiration to us in our moments of suffering.

Jesus Suffered

The Lord Jesus suffered and died for our sake. Jesus died on the cross to give us life. He suffered persecution right from his birth to his death. He witnessed hate and all kinds of attacks.

Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, accomplishing the time of fervor for the hungry, the rejected and the weak. He raised the dead. He brought God’s good tidings to us. Yet many rejected him, as many do today. They set traps for him to use as an excuse to execute him. The crowd rejected him and preferred a bandit, Barabbas, to him. Pilate unjustly condemned Jesus though he knew he was innocent. We learn from Scripture that Jesus learned obedience through suffering.

Jesus Knows

Jesus, having gone through hatred and persecutions, knew what it means to suffer. He is fully aware of what will become of his followers. Hence, he warns his disciples: If the world hates you, remember they hated me before you…If they persecuted me, they would persecute you too (John 15:18; 20).

These are difficult but necessary words needed to encourage perseverance in hard times. The Lord Jesus is aware that those days would surely come. They will come due to the choice we have made to be his disciples as Christians.  He says: ‘If you are of the world, the world will love you. But you are not of the world because I have separated you from the world by the choice you have made’ (John 15:19).

Bearings Witness Requires Heroism

Hence, being a follower of Christ in any age and even more in our world today requires heroism. Bearing witness to Christ can attract persecutions. It is even more challenging when it touches the core values of our faith such as the gospel of life, standing against abortion, defending traditional family life, and affirming that salvation is in Christ. Any Christian who upholds these kinds of teachings should be ready to die for what he or she believes.

You should not even be surprised that some of those who claim to be Christians with you, who have a habit of picking and choosing the commandments to follow, will betray you. We must be ready for martyrdom for what we believe. The Lord Jesus Christ never minced words when he said: ‘It will be on my account that they will do all this’ and persecute you. When it happens, we should be glad if we can have some share in the suffering of Christ ‘for we will enjoy much greater gladness when his glory is revealed’ (1 Peter 4:12).

Do Not Be Afraid

Therefore, we should never be afraid to suffer for Christ. Pope Leo the Great once said that the cross ‘is the source of all blessings and the cause of all graces. Through it those who believe receive strength from weakness, glory from shame, life from death.’ Many saints who gave their lives this way received it back. It is in dying that we live forever in Christ.

St George, whose feast we celebrate today, died for Christ… but lives on. We must be ready to accept persecution and even death on account of the name of Jesus. ‘Those who win the victory will not be hurt by the second death’ (Rev 2:11). The Lord assures that he ‘will give them the crown of life’ (Rev 2:10) and ‘the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the Garden of God’ (Rev. 2:8).

Peace be with you.

[Readings: Acts 9:1-20; Jn 6:52-59]

Fr. Cyriacus Uzochukwu

Rev Fr Cyriacus Uzochukwu is a priest of the Catholic diocese of Orlu, a former editor of The Forum Newspaper of the diocese and currently the associate pastor of Sacred Heart Church Exeter, Devon, UK.

Leave a Comment