March 1, 2011 - Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus makes us impressive promises today: One hundred times the houses! One hundred times the brothers and sisters! One hundred times the mothers! One hundred times the children. One hundred times the lands! And persecutions too! This last promise might draw us up short, but if we are following Christ we should not expect anything less. The cross is an inseparable part of the Christian life. There are those who point to the Gospel today and say that Jesus is promising us prosperity, that Jesus is promising that if we give away the little that we have, we will be made rich in this world. Jesus does say that, but the riches that he offers are not the riches of Mammon whom he just told us to hate. The idea that God became man and died for our sins on the cross so that we would have a trick we could use to get a new car is absurd. We cannot get God to do our bidding against his will: not by directly asking him and certainly not by bribing him with the trifles that we have in this world.

If persecutions do not come, we clearly have not given up everything and followed Jesus; he promises that he will send us persecutions if we do. If we wanted to do well in this world, we would not be happy with this offer, but, if we want to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, then we will embrace suffering as we fill up in our bodies what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.   

God, like the good Father that he is, will always do what is good for us, even if we do not understand, and there is nothing so good for us as persecution. Persecutions are the workout of the spiritual world. Trying to live the Christian life without suffering would be like trying to live our natural life without exercise.  Heaven is like the Olympics. We will not get in to heaven until we can do the spiritual equivalent of running the mile in 4 minutes and lifting 500 pounds, until we look at our enemies and love them, until we love God with all our strength. Heaven is not for the mediocre; God will make us extraordinary, if we want to be extraordinary.