Wednesday of Week 34 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 21:12-19

Jesus continues his warnings, but now mainly to his own disciples. He foretells experiences and happenings which will be soon realised in the Acts of the Apostles, not to mention in the subsequent history of the Church through the centuries, including our own.

Jesus speaks of abuse and persecution:

…they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons…

The term ‘hand over’ is a theme word occurring again and again in the New Testament. John the Baptist was handed over to Herod who put him in prison and then executed him. Jesus himself is handed over first to the leaders of his own people and then into the hands of the Romans who would execute him. And now Jesus tells his disciples that they, too, can expect to be handed over and to be dragged before civil and religious courts, and “because of my name”.

Many of the early Christians came in conflict with Jewish communities and were handed over to synagogues. Synagogues were not only prayer halls and places to learn the Scriptures, but also for civil administration and as places of confinement while awaiting trial.

The charges may be civil or criminal, but the real reason will be that the accused are followers of Christ (for example, a country like China always insists that the arrest of religious people is because of their violation of civil and criminal laws, and not because of their religious affiliation). As such, Christians become objects of fear and hatred, their ideas seen as threatening and even subversive.

But, says Jesus, they are not themselves to fear or be anxious. When the time comes, they will know what to do and what to say. He will tell them what to say and how to answer. This promise has been vindicated again and again across time. The really sad thing is that those betraying them to the authorities will often be members of their own household – “parents and siblings, by relatives and friends”. Again, this prophecy sadly has been realised all too often.

Jesus continues:

You will be hated by all because of my name.

This is strange and, in a way, makes no sense. Jesus who preached truth, love, freedom, peace, justice and non-violence becomes, in his followers, the object of lies, hatred, imprisonment and torture, division, injustice and the most terrible violence.

But not a hair of your head will perish.

This is not a phrase to be taken literally, because many suffer terribly in their bodies, but there is an inner integrity and wholeness that nothing can destroy.

By your endurance you will gain your souls.

That is, by going through all that our enemies can throw at us, we come out at the end people who are whole and complete and who can lift our heads up high. There are many examples even in our own recent past: Bishop Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maximilian Kolbe to name a few. Their memories are treasured and become an inspiration to all of us.

Let us pray that we may have the courage to be true to our Christian values whatever the cost. Let us not be surprised that our faith and our religion can create such anger and such hostility.

At the same time, we reach out continually in truth and love to dissipate the unjustified fears that our beliefs can engender in others. We are a threat to false values, but we must try hard to help people see where real truth and goodness lie. And we do that by seeking for that in our own lives.

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