LK 21: 5-19


Perseverance is a hackneyed term in religious, devotional parlance. Novices should “persevere” in their vocation. Students need “perseverance” in their studies, and so on. And the Lord tells us in the gospel: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” So, the word connotes consistency, constancy and diligent pursuit in living the way of Christ, in following Christ even in the midst of difficulties. This idea of perseverance applies to us all.


The gospel however speaks of a unique form of perseverance and it is connected to the now rarely heard phenomenon of persecution. Yes, followers of Christ are still persecuted in various parts of the world. Filipinos may have difficulty understanding this since such an occurrence is alien to our experience. Yes, a previous Philippine president encouraged people to steal from and even kill their bishops, played down the successive murders of priests, and harassed religious sisters working for the poor. But this did not amount to any systematic attack on Catholic leaders or followers at large.


While Christians live comfortably in our country, it pays to realize that elsewhere real persecutions happen. In Nigeria, priests are routinely kidnapped and killed, Christian girls are abducted, raped or enslaved. In Hongkong, Catholics who support democracy are arrested and charged with crimes against the state. In Nicaragua where the Church is a vocal critic of a corrupt government, churches have been vandalized, bishops vilified and threatened, and priests and seminarians have been taken in custody. Even the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa, working among the poorest of the poor, were expelled from the country.


Jesus assures those persecuted that their lives are safe in his hands. Though surrounded by danger, they need not fear. For their faithfulness, they are closest to his heart. But what about us? What should be our response to the hardship endured by our persecuted brethren?


First we must pray for them. We who are free to exercise our religious right should remember in fervent prayer those who suffer because of their faith. Prayer is a small but significant sharing in their sacrifice. Then, we must reflect on our own faith. Do we persevere in following the Lord in the midst of little annoyances, small irritations, or  perhaps even great challenges that we face? Are we steadfast in our faith when these happen or do we easily compromise our values?


We pray for the end of persecution of Christians and of all minority and disadvantaged groups. We promise not to forget them but to remember and support them in their difficult road. We beg the Lord to give us the inspiration and courage to persevere in keeping the Gospel alive and close to our hearts.