Sunday, September 20, 2009

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Reflection

Today is actually the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but I feel compelled to share last week's question first. Today's reflection will be quickly following.

You can check out the readings for last Sunday here on the USCCB website. These were all great readings by the way!

Question: Have I ever encountered prejudice because of my faith?

Jesus emphasizes that, just as he had to suffer rejection, so too must we disciples take up our own crosses if we want to follow him. We "must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks. Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1816). "The Christian is not to be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord. In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation" (CCC 2471).

I had to answer this question because I did once feel prejudice from being a Catholic. But I will admit, that I don't believe I have ever faced prejudice in being a Christian. We are lucky to live in a country where we can practice any faith and be accepted. I have had discussions with non-believers, but usually those are open and honest conversations with both sides asking questions and both sides listening.

But several years ago I did encounter prejudice, and I wasn't prepared for it. I was in college and was visiting my then-boyfriend's family in another state. While I was in the family room with his sister, he and his mother were in the kitchen. Unfortunately it was a small house and I could hear their conversation, though I don't think I ever let on that I had heard what they were discussing. Anyway, all I remember now is that his mother was concerned that I was a Catholic and she told him that I wasn't Christian. He (thankfully) told her that I was a Christian, which I appreciated!

Now you have to also understand that at the time I was not a practicing Catholic. I hardly ever went to Church and I know I didn't really understand my faith at the time. I was in college, afterall, so not an uncommon thing for that age group. Despite that, I always considered myself Catholic and deep down knew that I would want to marry in the Church and raise my kids Catholic. It was at least ingrained in me enough that I couldn't even contemplate joining another faith. So despite not practicing at the time, this statement shocked and hurt me. I was glad to hear that my boyfriend at the time stood up for me and understood that Catholics are Christians (the first Christians, truth be told, but that's a discussion for another time). However, it was still a shock to hear it. I had never encountered that before. I also couldn't really respond, since I wasn't actually part of the conversation. I didn't want to reveal that I was eavesdropping, which, of course, wasn't hard to do, but still!

Anyway, I've come a long way since then and would know better how to respond should something similar happen to me again. I am thankful that I live in a country where we can be Christians openly without fear for our lives. Which reminds me of something I heard earlier this week during an introductory lecture to the Book of Revelation.

The lecture focused on some of the history of Revelation (authorship, dating, what the first century church was like, etc.). During the part on the first century church the teacher talked about the persecutions the early Christians dealt with, particularly death. Many, many Christians were killed for their faith, for refusing to worship the gods of the Roman empire and the Emperor, and for insisting that Christ was God. Despite all this, the Church was a place of hope and the book of Revelation is a book of hope. It is hope in the second coming, that if we live for Him, we will join Him in heaven one day for the continual worship of God! And she said that the early Christians were told not to compromise. Despite everything happening around them, they were told by the early Church fathers, and by writings such as Revelation, not to compromise. That was pretty powerful!

This is true even today. We can not compromise our moral beliefs in any way. We can not compromise our belief in Christ for anything the secular world throws at us. Despite any difficulties that are put before us, we should be willing to lay down our lives for what we believe in. And there are plenty of people all over the world who still do so everyday.

How about you? Any reflections or thoughts on this question: Have you ever encountered prejudice because of your faith?

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