Select Page

Remaining Faithful

by Nov 23, 2022Friar Reflection

Yesterday’s gospel, when combined with the gospel for today, forms the gospel reading from the recent 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time when Jesus and the disciples stand before the awesome sight of the Jerusalem Temple. After having foretold that this man-made temple will inevitably fall, Jesus speaks to the disciples about the inner temple: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)

While the future will unfold before the disciples as though pages turning in a book, we can peruse the book of history to view the fall of Jerusalem and the persecution of the first martyrs. Readers of this Gospel would be able to think of concrete examples of the persecution foretold by Jesus.

In the mention of “kings and governors” we can recall Roman emperors, medieval princes, foreign invaders, reformation burghers, and any number of leaders from Herod to Henry. The stories of saints giving witness before authorities range from Peter and John before the leaders of Sanhedrin (Acts 4:20) to acts of simple courage like Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc and the Vietnamese Martyrs. Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day will occupy our attention on their traditional feast day. Perhaps we can add them to our prayers, giving thanks for their witness.

The history of the martyrs are replete with stories of families of faith as well as families that turned a believer into the authorities. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53) The history of faith is filled with such stories. Tomorrow is also a regional celebration: the feast day of St. Flora of Cordoba, the patron saint of those who have been betrayed by family members.

During the 9th century, the Muslims invaded and conquered large parts of what is today Spain. One area was known as Al-Andalus. It was from this conquered area where 48 Christians were put to death for their faith. These are known as the Martyrs of Cordoba. These people were executed from the years 851 to 859. They were all convicted of violating Sharia law, their crimes ranging from apostasy to blasphemy. Flora’s brother betrayed her to the Muslim leaders.

In all this, Jesus’ followers are reliving and experiencing what Jesus faced. They are to carry the cross all the way to Calvary, as he did – the trials, the persecutions, the betrayals. In light of all this, the promise that no harm will come to even one hair seems strange in the prediction of persecution. It is simply a graphic statement of the ultimate spiritual protection of all those who endure persecution for the sake of Jesus. As the gospel alleluia says “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)


Image credit: The martyrdom of Perpetua, Felicitas, Revocatus, Saturninus and Secundulus, from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD), Public Domain