AFFLICTED IN EVERY WAY
June 14, 2013
Today’s readings: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Ps 116:10-18
The New Evangelization is a special call. It can only happen if God’s people put on God’s mind and take on the proper posture required of God’s instruments. It is a very challenging call, because it discards the wisdom of the world and takes on a radical outlook regarding the circumstances of life and mission. Here is what Paul says:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9)
When we zealously proclaim the gospel, we will be afflicted in every way. Why? Because we come against Satan and he will certainly assault us. Since he has dominion over the world, he marshals all his forces in this assault, and so we will even see friends, co-workers and Church leaders join in. There will be oppression and persecution. But we are not constrained. We should never give up. We do not allow the enemy to dictate our actions or our agenda. In fact, when we face intense affliction, we rejoice in the affirmation that we are being effective in our mission.
Of course, when such intense affliction happens, despite our entreaties for relief from God, knowing that we are doing what is good as we serve Him, we will at times be perplexed. We are hard put to understand why God allows us to seemingly fail, or does not provide for our need or come to our rescue. We will be troubled. We may even begin to question if we are doing the right thing. So we may be discouraged, but we are never driven to despair. To despair is to give up all hope. To despair is to abandon the work, thinking that no good will come of it. But we know that we are serving God, that we are doing what He tells us to do. And we are called to persistence and perseverance. We know that in God’s time and in His own way, the victory will be ours.
So we are persecuted, but we know that we are not abandoned. In fact, we realize that such is actually the very way of God. Jesus too was on a mission, and Jesus too was severely afflicted and persecuted, to the point when he even cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But God did not forsake him. He suffered death, but on the third day was raised. The way of God is the way of the cross. This is why Paul rejoiced in his sufferings. Thus, in the depths of severe affliction, to the point nearing despair, we trust in God, we hold on to His promises, we know that all things will work for our good in the end. We are not abandoned, but rather, God is always with us, until the end of the age.
In the spiritual war we are engaged in, the enemy will strike us down. We will be bruised and bloodied. We will be down and out. We will have our face ground to the dust. We will be laid low. We may even lose our lives. But we are never destroyed. Our spirituality in fact should increase through affliction, because we are purified, we cling more tightly to Jesus, we are humbled and stripped of our human weaknesses, we trust more in God, we begin to understand the mysterious workings of the Spirit. And if we lose our lives, then we have gained it. “For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:11).
Such is the paradox of the ministry entrusted to us as we are called to the New Evangelization. We humans do the very divine work of God. We are entrusted with the great treasure of salvation in Jesus, “but we hold this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7a). We engage in the greatest conflict of the ages, the war between God and Satan for the souls of people. We thus need to be greatly aware, not just of being in spiritual warfare, but of the reality that in this work we are totally and utterly dependent on God. That is why we need to be afflicted, not just to have the privilege of walking in the very path of Jesus, but to keep us humbled and always looking to God, knowing “that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2 Cor 4:7b).
We respond to the call to the New Evangelization, with no agenda but to obey and please God, in order to continue Jesus’ work of salvation, and bring many more back to God. We suffer for the sake of righteousness. We manifest Jesus’ great love for God’s people, those that he gave his very life for. “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor 4:12).
We need never be afraid, whatever affliction awaits us. We simply put our total faith and trust in God, “knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence.” (2 Cor 4:14). We keep our eyes on Jesus, especially on Jesus hanging on the cross. Death is simply the gateway to eternal life. “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps 116:13).
When we focus on Jesus, then we focus on all the good that we have experienced from his hands. God is never lacking in generosity. We must not dwell on our pain or suffering, knowing that even such affliction is God’s gift to us. “How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me?” (Ps 116:12). We never look down or backward, but always up and forward. We know we ourselves have received the gift of salvation, and now we are given the great privilege of being God’s instruments for sharing that great treasure with everyone else. Now that is worth every bit of sacrifice.
Let us all be able to say, “I kept faith, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted!’” (Ps 116:10). Onward to the New Evangelization!
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)