Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

The reasons for persecution

He [Paul] reached (also) Derbe and Lystra where there was a disciple named Timothy,… Paul wanted him to come along with him … Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number…  Acts 16,1-10

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. Jn 15,18-20

The dynamics of the grain of wheat which must die underground in order to bear fruit, comes from persecution, in which the Christian communities grow, back in the days of Paul as well as today. Why are living and proclaiming the gospel a cause of persecution? To be fair, there is a part of the Gospel message that is received with sympathy: it is that relating to social justice, the faith in Providence, healing the sick, and generally all of the Gospel proposal dealing with something to ‘do’ or to ‘get’, two verbs that perfectly reflect human nature. This part of the gospel does not require great inner changes, but it asks only to make slight changes to our lives, in order to improve our way of living, as well as the one of the people who are close to us. It is a message that can be accepted or not, but it is not a cause for particular persecution. Persecution breaks out, however, when people are asked to change their inner convictions, the ones which have been built up slowly over time and which are the pillars of their existence. In other words, the persecution comes when we are proposed self-denial, because man is made to live and move forward starting from what he is already, not to start it all over again. Forgiving those who hurt us is not human, as it is not turning the other cheek, and neither is the radical change in the way of living, feeling and to relating to God and our neighbours. We also agree on believing in Providence, because this allows us to increase what we have, but we do not agree on yielding to it as the birds in the sky and the lilies in the field do, totally renouncing to our certainties. Finally, it is easy for a Christian to speak of social justice, but there are few people who act on it and even fewer are those who live according to it radically. This second part of the Gospel message is cause of persecution, and the apostle is tempted to stay away from it.

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