Persecution- A Price Worth Paying

Three brightly colored threads have woven their way into my spiritual life in this past month.

First thread. Persecution. News reports that Chinese Christians are bracing themselves for persecution. A pastor and 100 members of a Protestant church detained. The words spoken by the pastor jumped out at me: “Persecution is a price worth paying for the Lord.” Another pastor and all 1500 members of his church have been detained, searched and questioned. With their new police records, they will be denied rights to travel, employment, government assistance, etc. In rural areas, the elderly who are dependent on government subsidies have been told to remove Christian symbols from their home or lose the monthly financial assistance they rely on for food and housing.

The letter to the Hebrews which we have been reading over the past couple of weeks was written to a group of Christians who had suffered persecution in the past and who were now threatened with another persecution. Although we experience in the West a growing hatred for Christianity, it is hard for us to imagine what it is like to be forced to choose our faith at the cost of freedoms, providing for our families, and life itself. Yet this is all too real a situation for our Christian brothers and sisters in China…today.

This first thread represents how God is calling me to strengthen my own determination to live with faith.

Second thread. Faith. The letter to the Hebrews is a majestic hymn to Christ who took hold of our humanity in every way, endured every test and temptation so he could help us when we pass through the ordeals of life, made us his brothers and sisters, and became our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Our ancestors grieved God by their unbelief. The author of Hebrews pleads with his readers not to follow in their stead. He urges them to believe that God’s works have been accomplished in Christ. The gracious work of God supersedes the fallen brokenness of what we see in the world around us. “Continue with courage to hold firmly to our bold confidence and our victorious hope.”

Today much of what we in the West once knew of the classical expression of Christian religious practice has broken down or as Bishop Barron has stated recently, “quietly surrendered to the spirit of the age, devolving into one more form of political correctness.” I feel that this thread of faith is God’s call to me to courage, to bold confidence, and to a steadfast belief in our victorious hope.

Third thread. Creative love. In today’s first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, the author encourages the Christians who are suffering persecution and struggling with their faith to do two things:

·      Support each other and find creative ways to encourage one another. “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.” There is much fear among people I know today, as family, parish, and cultural realities are becoming more uncertain. People seem bewildered, weighed down. The letter to the Hebrews urges us to look out for each other, to look on each other with the excitement of love, for love is contagious, love can do great things.

·      Come together in your assembly. A time of persecution and weakened faith is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together. The Greek here implies a person who is extremely discouraged. When we are discouraged, and we have so many reasons to feel disillusioned and heartbroken in our Church today, it is in our meeting together around the table of the Lord that we are held, taught, fed, compassioned and led by him. The art and the gift of invitation is so important if we can extend a helping hand to those whose faith is weak.

Persecution. Faith. Creative Love. I’m not sure if I’d have the courage of the Pastor who said that persecution is a price worth paying. Right now, however, I want to redouble my commitment to encouraging my brothers and sisters in the faith, offering a helping hand, raising the light, affirming the Promise, “and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.


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