Acts 16:1-10; Psalm 100; John 15:18-21
In today’s Gospel Jesus says: if the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you are its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore, the world hates you. The word hate is repeated four times. The Greek word for hate literally means to hate, detest especially, to persecute. This gives an idea of an internal stirring in a person that could result in physical violence.
Before he is arrested, Jesus tells his disciples what to expect: they will be arrested and killed because this is what will happen to him. Becoming a disciple of Jesus will NOT result in a life without suffering. In fact, Jesus guarantees a life of suffering, of being hated just because we believe in him. Jesus also tells us why this will happen: because you do not belong to the world. The world is our environment which rebels against God. It is society, the culture that goes against the Gospel. Today, when we speak out against abortion, euthanasia, adultery, fornication, sodomy, we are silenced and attacked, accused of promoting hate. But Jesus tells us this is expected because they do not know him who sent me. We will be hated, persecuted, some may even have the privilege of being martyred. But what should we do when this happens?
St Paul shows this in the First Reading. Luke wrote: they went through Phrygia and Galatia having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. They attempted to go to another place but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. We do not know what happened. They could have been blocked or some other thing prevented them from going to these places they had planned. But they interpret these as the Spirit guiding them to move on to another place. This is what we do when we are persecuted. We hold fast to our beliefs, BUT we move on to another place. We do not compromise our message because people do not want to hear. We continue to speak the Truth, listening to the Holy Spirit, moving to where he wants us to go. We see how Paul was able to reconcile his human reason with the movement of the Holy Spirit. He made plans but when he could not fulfill his plan, he moved on. He did not insist on doing what he planned.
Paul acted as what the Psalm says: know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Paul knew he can make plans but in the end, he has to listen to God, because Paul is God’s sheep. He knows God leads him to where he has to go.
We will encounter difficulties in our spiritual life. We make plans that fail. When this happens, we stop and think Is this God’s plan for me? What does the Lord want me to do? Self-doubt is always healthy in the sense that I do not know everything, I cannot do everything. I do not know what I am doing. I am not as good as I think. However, we need to have confidence in God, that he knows everything, he can do everything and he knows what he is doing. God is greater than I can imagine.
A Christian MUST discern the will of God ALWAYS! I cannot do whatever comes to my mind, believing this is God’s will. This attitude comes from pride, thinking I know God’s mind and I am right, and if I persevere, I will achieve what I want. If I have this attitude, I make myself god, I worship myself.
If I want to bear fruit that will last, I need to reach out to others and do my ministry. One of my disappointments is dealing with Catholic lay communities. I understand they have their own mission. But to restrict their members from doing ministry outside their community, to demand full loyalty from members, to harass those who do ministry outside of the community, to question a member for doing ministry outside the community is TERRIBLY WRONG. This is tyranny and an abuse of authority on the side of the leaders. This is what cults are. The leaders have appointed themselves as god and taken over the lives of their members. They have taken free will from their members and prevent their members from growing. If you are a member of this kind of community, discern what the Lord wants. This attitude is toxic and will harm your spiritual life. Do not think you can save the community because only Jesus is the Savior. God wants you to grow in holiness. Perhaps it is time to leave and let the Lord lead you to soar to heights to bear fruit that will last.
Lord, give me wisdom in the midst of persecution. Show me what I need to do. I want to serve you, but if I am prevented from serving you, lead me to where you want me to go. Never let me compromise the Truth, but bend my will so I can know yours.