It would be so easy to lay down the burdens that Christians face. To be honest, how many of us were truly, personally effected by the Obama commencement appearance at Notre Dame? In my letters to editors, essays, and discussions I was asked this question often – “Did you even go to Notre Dame?” No, I have never even been to South Bend. “So why are you getting worked up about this?” Good question. “Why does everything have to be about religion?” Another question I get often. Another good question. “Can’t you keep your beliefs out of politics?” Yet another good question.
All of these questions demonstrate to me that I ‘am not of this world’ – and I am happy about it.
Things look bleak for people of Faith in these United States. An administration that is hostile – despite protestations at Notre Dame to the contrary – to Catholic doctrine. A culture that celebrates secular values while simultaneously and systematically working to destroy traditional moral values. I had a colleague lament a couple of years ago that shopping for his pre-teen daughter was torture – the racks were full of clothing that offended his sensibilities. Truly, this seems to be the age of secularism triumphant. But Jesus left a message for us to embrace in times like this.
If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: – John 15:19-20
John 15 in general is a wonderfully inspirational chapter to read in times when things look impossible. And it is important that we stop and reflect on God’s love, that those forces arrayed against us really don’t mean much in God’s plan. Let’s look at these verses.
“If you had been of this world…” What a powerful philosophy packed into a half dozen words. Christ spoke – quite often – that His kingdom was not of this world, but in Heaven. Think about it. If He is saying that we are not loved because we are ‘not of this world’ than He is saying that as people who do His will, we have a place in His Kingdom. He then states that those who follow Him are ‘chosen out of this world’. Because our loyalties are to the King of Heaven, because we choose to follow him despite the hardships that faith engenders, we are set apart. What a gift. What a wonderful opportunity to prove to the Lord that we are worthy of our place in the Kingdom.
The end of this selection is also an assurance – no matter how hard the path we are called to walk because of our faith, Christ is there. In fact, no matter the severity of the persecution, Christ – as our master – has walked a far harder one than ours. And He warns us that in following Him, we will face persecution.
Christ also explains the rewards that loyalty will bring – and the price that those who place this world over the one He promised to us.
If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father’s commandments, and do abide in his love. – John 15: 6-10
Like a tree that needs to be pruned, some branches will wither and die, others will not bear fruit He explained. Those that are not fit are cut off and discarded. And those that are kept shall grow stronger and bear fruit. They will be part of the Body of Christ. If we accept our small part of the burden of the Cross, if we strive to follow Christ in all things, He promises that He shall grant us ‘whatever we will, and it shall be done unto you.’ If we keep the Commandments, live according to the Catechism, and strive to use our gifts to serve the needs of our Church, than we will always have Christ in our hearts.
These may be dark times, brothers and sisters, but in the greatest of trials lie the greatest opportunities. Christ promises us in John 15 that no matter how hard the road, He showed us the way he walked was a harder one. So when you are toiling on that path and wonder if you are heading in the right direction – look down and you will see His footprints. Follow them and all will be well in the end.
Never forget – ‘As my Father hath love me, I also have loved you.’ And that is a prize worth any price!
God Bless you all!