HARDSHIPS IN THE WORK
April 28, 2013
Today’s readings: Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145:8-13; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35
The call to the New Evangelization can be euphoric. God’s people can become all excited (I hope so) and be gung-ho about moving ahead. After all, we fight for a victorious God. But we really need to be aware that as we plunge into spiritual warfare, we will be bloodied. The enemy opposes those who assault his dominion in the world, and especially when our intent is to help bring people into the kingdom of God.
Thus there is a need to “strengthen the spirits of the disciples and exhort them to persevere in the faith” (Acts 14:22a). But strangely, this strengthening and exhortation is done by saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b). There is no deception that this work will be easy or comfortable. There will be many hardships! But this work, being a participation in the very work of Jesus, is also a participation in going to the cross. There lies the privilege. We walk the very path of Christ. And when we walk that path, then we reach heaven and enter the kingdom of God.
So the work will be hard and challenging. But since we do God’s work, then He is there for us.
* “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.” (Ps 145:8). Though the work can be harsh, God is not a harsh taskmaster. He is mindful of our weaknesses and shortcomings. He takes us as we are, but continues to grant us the grace to become better.
* “The Lord is good to all, compassionate toward all your works.” (Ps 145:9). God only has our well-being in mind, even as He sends us forth into battle. He appreciates what we do for Him, even as at times we become the very obstacles to His work.
* “The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” (Ps 145:14). God is there in the difficult moments, even in seeming defeats. He catches us when we are falling. He fills us when we are empty. He raises us when we are laid low.
* “The Lord is trustworthy in all his words, and loving in all his works.” (Ps 145:13b). God promises us His grace, guidance and empowerment. We can trust in His word. And even when we face hardships and cannot understand why, we must always lie secure in His great love for us. He wants nothing but what is best for us.
We also know that we are destined to enter into eternal life. That is the ultimate consolation and assurance, as we struggle through the many hardships. One day, after we have done our duty, God will welcome us into His eternal embrace. “He will wipe every tear from (our) eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” (Rev 21:4).
Now there is one more thing. God calls us as individuals, but then He also calls us as a body. We are to be a community of Jesus’ disciples. We are to be an army of the Spirit. As such, we are called to love one another. We are commanded to love. Jesus loved us, giving his very life for us. We are to love those whom Jesus loves. “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” (Jn 13:34a).
How are we to love? We say we love our spouse but fight with her. We say we love our children but neglect them. We say we love our brethren but continue to hurt each other. We are to love as Jesus himself loves. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34b). We are to love unilaterally, unconditionally, and self-sacrificially.
Such love not only enables us to be God’s people that will collectively work as one in the task of evangelization and mission, but it is also such love that will make us effective with those we are trying to reach. We are supposed to be witnesses, and this is a witness of love. How can we proclaim God’s love to the world, when we might be tearing each other apart? When we do this, then we betray the gospel and the cause of Christ. The world will need to see Christ in us, characterized by our fraternal love. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35).
Jesus’ glory shone on the cross. “Now is the Son of Man glorified” (Jn 13:31b). With the New Evangelization, it is that which we proclaim, so that all the world will give glory to God. We work such that “God is glorified in him.” (Jn 13:31c). It is God’s reign and dominion that we promote, so that all ages will be blessed. “Your reign is a reign for all ages, your dominion for all generations.” (Ps 145:13a).
Jesus told the apostles what he told the Jews, “Where I go you cannot come” (Jn 13:33c). Jesus has gone on ahead to the Father in heaven. As we live our lives in Christ, enduring many hardships, doing the work entrusted to us, then we too will go where Jesus has gone.
What a glorious time that will be! “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem” (Rev 21:1a,2a). And we will hear God confirm our status. “He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.” (Rev 21:3b). Always and forever!
“Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5b). Onward to the New Evangelization!
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)