33rd Sunday Ordinary Time
Year C

Bringing You To Trial Because of My Name

There is one trial for which we must have a wholesome fear. That is the trial to which all human beings will be subjected when Christ comes to judge the living and the dead.

Even before that judicial trial, however, we must all suffer many trials, Our Lord himself has warned us. Not only the anguish of natural griefs and disasters, but even the efforts of evil men to win us away from Christ because they hate His name and all that it represents. So even you and I might be called to martyrdom. "Some of you will be put to death," Jesus says in today's gospel. But even in the midst of such persecution, we must not fear. He will stand unseen by our side.

He stood by the side of Captain John P. Flynn, U.S.M.C. in 1954. When we think of martyrs, we usually think of people long ago and far away. Captain Flynn was a very modern and very American "martyr" during the Korean conflict. A news dispatch of the National Catholic News Service reported the stirring tale of this Catholic Officer whose airplane was downed behind the North Korea Communist Lines.

Flynn survived the crash of his plane but was captured and marched off to a Communist prison camp. En route, his captors made him face a drum-head trial in a small Korean village. They discovered from his rosary that he was a Catholic. The court ordered him to throw this rosary on the ground, trample on it and spit upon it. This would have meant, as his captors knew, his rejection of the Catholic faith; for the rosary is both symbol and summary of Christian belief.

John Flynn refused. They next brought out a block of wood and an axe, and made him kneel and put his neck upon the block. They raised the axe. In that brief moment, he said later on, "I thought of my family and how they needed me. But I knew if I gave in to the Reds, I would be no good to my family or to myself and that I might lose my soul. This was it!"

The threat of beheading proved to be only a trick. What the court really wanted was to have Flynn "confess" that he had carried on germ warfare. Far from "confessing", he talked back, ridiculed their propaganda, and when put into prison plotted escapes, and led prayer services for his fellow captives, using with gratitude the rosary he had refused to desecrate. After 16 months, he was finally freed. On his return to headquarters, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Cross for valor.

But John Flynn already had a greater reward than any decoration. It was the remembrance that when he had been brought to trial for Christ's name, he had offered his life totally to God. If Jesus had withheld the axe, he had not withheld the martyr's crown.

-Fr. Robert F. McNamara

Q293: St. Paul says just after today's reading (2 Thess 3:7-12) that we are to "warn" and "ostracize" those who are disorderly (v. 7,11), not as an enemy but as a brother. What was it that he considered to be "disorderly"?

Bible scholars can only suggest possibilities, based on the limited clues that Paul gives in this situation. The basic concern seems to be that the "disorderly" are interfering with the daily "stability" of others in the believing community.

Since stability comes only through a lived faith – characterized by mutual sharing of God-given gifts and the self-giving that flows willingly from true Discipleship – it seems clear that some people are disturbing the lived faith of others. Paul does indicate that there is an element that is so concerned about the imminent Second Coming of Christ that they have disregarded their responsibility to contribute to their own support, and may even be spreading false rumors and false prophecies about the parousia. So they are distracting the rest of the community with their gossip and idleness, neglecting their need to be self-giving.

When the Lord comes, he will want to find us actively using the gifts he gave to us to build up the community, living out our faith in self-sacrifice, rather than cowering in a prayer corner fearful of what the future might bring. "Being" church - the people of God - consists of "communion" (gathering, listening, sharing) and "mission" (living our faith, proclaiming the good news, and inviting others into this same communion).

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! God does not invite us to idleness, but wants us to trust in his providence (CCC #2830). Hand in hand with that blessing goes the responsibility to recognize the needs of our brothers and sisters in the human family, and contribute to their well being (CCC #2831). The last judgment will give an accounting of our response (CCC #1038).

Q450: This is a “scary” gospel [Luke 21:5-19]. We hear of natural disasters, plagues, persecutions, family disruptions, cosmic upheavals… where is the Good News?

This can indeed be a “scary” gospel [Luke 21:5-19] if we don’t listen to it carefully. But to focus on the “bad news” would be to miss the “Good News.” Did you hear what Jesus promised for you? He promised you would be hated and persecuted because of your faith; he promised you would have to defend your faith in court; and he promised that your friends and relatives would turn against you because of your faith. This is nothing more than a Catholic can expect today. If you truly believe in Jesus and live out his teachings, then you will be in conflict with the structures and people around you.

Note carefully: these things that Jesus promised are happening in our country today, just like they happened in Jesus’ generation! Here are some examples. If you hate the heinous crime of abortion, that puts you at odds with the immoral interpretation of bad laws by our courts. If you defend “life” issues in any forum, you will be labeled a fool or idiot (probably behind your back) by the misguided pro-choice people. If you object to the pagan approach our government takes regarding the education of your children on moral issues, then you will be persecuted. These are realities! Persecution takes many forms.

But Jesus also promises to give you wisdom in all of those situations. In other words, he will arm you with the truth. No matter what happens, even death, if you cling to the truth – as passed on to us through our bishops united with the Holy Father, then you have the best gift of all: the very wisdom of Jesus! Knowing you have Jesus on your side, and willing to die proclaiming his truth, gives one the hope that one needs in any unpleasant situation. That is Good News!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Our “patient endurance” in clinging to our faith in Jesus will gain us eternal life, but we can lose our faith if we do not wage spiritual warfare (CCC #162). Make sure you inform your conscience properly, and examine it frequently; we are always safely guided in that critical endeavor by the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church (CCC #1785) which passes on the fullness of the truth that Jesus taught and lived.

Come Lord Jesus

Hollywood has known for years that people are fascinated by catastrophes and disasters, whether natural or man made.  That's why some people will approach today's readings with great relish. Some will hear with a morbid interest in calamity and try to figure out just when all this will come about. But the Scriptures present the End-Time as a time of fulfillment as well as a time of retribution. Malachi uses the image of the sun to describe the Day of the Lord. The light of the sun can burn and destroy but it also gives the light and warmth necessary for life. We depend on it's warmth and light but overexposure can cause blindness or cancer. The choice is ours to use or abuse. So too our experience of the Last Days will depend on the human choices we made in response to the Lord's call.

Some of the Thessalonian Christians, convinced that the second coming was just around the corner, had given up working. This is wrong, says St. Paul; we must continue living our lives and doing our work for the glory of the Lord, working at the tasks he has set for us. Let that day come in the Lord's own good time. The Gospel, for all its apocalyptic language, ends with the assurance that "by your endurance you will gain your souls.

God, our Father, give us the grace to put away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light so that on the Last Day when your Son comes again in glory, he may find us watching in prayer and working to prepare the way of the lord.  Come Lord Jesus and renew the face of the earth.

Grant us, Lord, the wonderstruck patience that perceives the coming of your promise and already contemplates the love of Jesus Christ the only Son of God and our brother forever and ever.