As a general rule, we like other people and we want to be liked by other people. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s good. We are made for connection, belonging, unity and union. We’re soaked to the bone in social urges because we are made for love. This is natural, unavoidable and wonderful.
Yet, here comes Jesus:
If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27, 33)
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el′zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:24-25)
Talk about a wet blanket. Maybe that’s the way it was ‘back then,’ right? Maybe that’s just Jesus speaking to their culture and times – surely we more enlightened, peaceful moderns would put it differently, right? Can we get someone else’s opinion on this? Let’s turn to St. Paul to make us feel a little more comfortable:
Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Sensing a clarion call from our Lord and Savior? Stop trying to ‘fit in.’ Put no value in being ‘comfortable.’ Pay no heed to ‘being liked.’ This is a challenge extraordinaire! Please, that it may shake us up from our hypnotized drowsiness!
To put it simply: there is no way to live a Christian life except as a disciple – one who drops everything and follows the Master wherever He goes, period. The Christian life is “total and radical” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio). Jesus doesn’t ask for only our Sunday mornings and I-try-to-be-a-good-person behavior. He asks for everything – our whole lives. He wants it all.
But what has it often looked like (throughout history) for those who were his disciples – those who gave Him everything? It has often looked something like this (look who Emperor Nero is using as human torches in the upper right):
It’s time we smell the salts. Persecution is coming. Rejection is coming. Being hated is coming. The age of comfortable Catholicism is over. And these hard times won’t feel normal (at first.) They will go against every natural, social instinct we have. Yet, what does Jesus say we should do in these kinds of situations? Rejoice – you are blessed! Hug the cross and do not be afraid! Do we trust Him?
Questions to reflect upon:
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means you lose your job?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means you are outcast, not invited to things, excluded and even hated?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means your kids might get bullied?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means your kids might have to go hungry some nights?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means your closest loved ones hate you for it?
- In the midst of this, are you able to rejoice and count yourself blessed/fortunate?
- In the midst of this, are you able to boldly and joyfully boast in the Gospel?
If not, ask the Lord for the grace to follow Him regardless of the cost. He does not ask us to do what He does not give us the grace to accomplish. Trusting in our Lord and King and stamped with confident, joyful smiles, “let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)