I recently figured out what my biggest weakness is. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted everyone to like me. The idea that someone out there might not like me is scary, and I think that’s a pretty common feeling for millennials. That might not sound like such a bad quality. That fear of someone not liking you makes you polite, considerate, and even teaches you to put on a fun personality that people enjoy to be around. But that can be a huge disadvantage when it comes to following God, as staying faithful to Him doesn’t always make friends.
The Jews of the first reading in Daniel 12:1-3 were steadfast and faithful to God. The Syrians invaded Israel and tried to force the Jews to worship pagan gods. Of course those that were faithful to the one true God refused and were usually executed. Obviously they weren’t worried about the Syrians wanting to be best buds with them. But how intense their persecution!
A close friend of mine recently displayed a truly courageous faith. Let’s call him Wallie, because I want to protect his identity and also just because I think that name will bug him. Recently a pro-life event came up in our home town and Wallie shared the event on his social media. The response from the twitter-verse was … vulgar. People that had been his friends since high school over 6 years ago cursed him and said they were “unfriending” him from their account. As we watched this I just kept thinking, how sad is it that you can’t say what you believe without being verbally attacked? Of course Wallie was patient and slow to respond. He waited for people to say what they needed to say, and then charitably offered an explanation of his belief, that we should uphold the dignity of all human life. If I was in that situation, I’d about have a panic attack! I’d think “Oh no! No one will like me now.”
Sometimes people tell us that we live in an age of entitlement, and we take that as a sort of attack, but their absolutely right. We need to step back and put this in perspective. I’m worried enough about someone not liking me (for a reason that has more to do with them than me) that I might hide my true convictions, while the Jews of Israel looked in the faces of their persecutors and boldly chose death over abandoning the one true God that has always been faithful to them. Well, God has always been faithful to me too! We should all take a page out of the book of Daniel, and consider it a great honor to stand for God and to endure in the face of all kinds of persecution, from nasty words on the internet, to someone actually taking our life! Every Sunday (and more often) we celebrate the Mass with the “glorious martyrs who have pleased [Him] throughout the ages.” We should channel their courage and their strength. We should ask for their prayers and remember their sacrifice when we walk onto the spiritual battlefield for which we are the soldiers in God’s never-ending campaign for souls!
This week’s readings are not merely telling us a story of what’s going to happen someday far off in the future. It’s that too, but moreover it is a promise of salvation, given to comfort us when we are beaten down. God is telling us that even though we are bruised and exhausted, we will receive a great reward in Heaven, because we have courageously upheld his commandment and loved Him above all in the face of everything.
God come to our assistance, and make us courageous believers in You. Help us to be not afraid of any persecution, no matter how small or great. Help us to always keep Your commandments as that is how You have instructed us to love You. And we ask that You deliver us from our needs to be understood and accepted by those who disagree with us. We put our every hope in You, for You are the endless fount of every blessing, nourishing us forever and ever. Amen.
“But the wise shall shine brightly
like the splendor of the firmament,
and those who lead the many to justice
shall be like the stars forever.”
“You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
You are my inheritance, O Lord!”
“But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
For by one offering
he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.”
“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’
with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”