Thursday, November 10, 2016

After Tuesday's election surprise, continue to pray for our nation

Sunday's Gospel was written about 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It describes what happened to Jesus’ followers: they were thrown out of their synagogues, imprisoned and brought before civil authorities, all because they were followers of Christ. This reading must have encouraged and comforted them, as it might comfort us. When our world collapses, or events raise our fears, these words help us see opportunities to live out of our faith and witness to others. As Jesus tells us:  the endings, difficulties and persecutions because of our faith “will lead to your giving testimony.” At the darkest times, suffering can provide opportunities for us to express our hope.  Those around us might ask us, “Where do you get your strength from?” or “What makes you so hopeful?” Just as Jesus said, this will “lead to your giving witness.”

Jesus predicted “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Luke’s readers would know that what Jesus said had come true. Less than 40 years after Jesus died, the Romans destroyed the Temple, looted it and took its treasures back to Rome.  Early Christians, hearing Jesus’ prediction and knowing what had happened, could be confident when Jesus said: “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”

After the resurrection, Jesus did not leave his disciples on their own during difficult times. He would be with them and enable them to persevere. He told them: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  When we read the story of the early church in Acts of the Apostles we see how Jesus’ words were fulfilled. His disciples were “handed over” to authorities, arrested, and gave testimony “before kings and governors,” just as Jesus had anticipated.  And, they also manifested a wisdom that confounded their persecutors, as Jesus had promised.
Christians are persecuted in our current time and in our nation.  We can be reassured that even as we suffer for our faith Jesus has not left us on our own. We have the confidence of Jesus’ words that he will give his followers wisdom to witness to him and the strength to persevere. Through all the trials Christians have had to endure, his promises have held: he has been with us and we will be safe for all eternity in him. Jesus’ words are as relevant for us now as they were for his disciples.
In our nation today, it is unlikely that a foreign power will come in and destroy our churches as occurred when the Romans destroyed the temple in the first century.  Instead, the threat to our churches comes from within.  Clearly, strong forces in our nation want to discredit and divide the Catholic Church.  That was the motive behind the attack on religious freedom in the HHS mandate several years ago.  And it is also the motive behind the support for partial birth abortion and the defense of Planned Parenthood as they continue to abort babies and to sell baby parts.  Then, last Tuesday we witnessed the surprise election of a candidate who promises change.  We don't know what sort of change to expect from our newly elected president.  We can only pray that he can unite the country over the next four years.
In last Saturday's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan, a Catholic editorial writer who often seems to mimic my thoughts, wrote:  "God is in charge of history.  He asks us to work, to try, to pour ourselves out to make things better.  But he is an actor in history also.  He chastises and rescues, he intervenes in ways seen and unseen. Or chooses not to." 
I can only add: The answer for our nation is found in Jesus and in his kingdom.  I'd encourage all of us to pray for our nation that it become once again one nation under God.

God bless