What are we as Christian to take of Jesus’ opening and closing statements of his public ministry, where he speaks of the rejection and hatred that we, his followers, will experience? In the opening sermon of his ministry, Jesus speaks of the persecution and revile his followers will face (Matthew 5:10-11). In the closing moments of his earthly life, just prior to his crucifixion, he prays to his Father asking for protection of his followers from the hatred and evil of this world (John 17).
Like the poor who will always be with us, Jesus and his followers will always be persecuted and reviled until he returns in glory. Are we to take this persecution as an inescapable given and, therefore, do nothing? By no means!
As we have a responsibility for the care and comfort of the poor, the widowed and the orphaned, we also have a responsibility towards those who reject Christ, His Father and the Holy Spirit. We must bring God’s love with great charity to those who reject God and his Son.
St. Francis of Assisi instructed his monks to “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Our daily actions should proclaim the Gospel to all who we encounter. Our faith is not only our private relationship with God; it is also how we live our life in relationship with others. The commands are clear about this – three commandments deal with our relationship with God and seven deal with our relationship with others. The Christian faith fully lived is lived in the public square in the service of others.
The latter part of St. Francis’ instruction to his monks is to use words when necessary. We are to speak out with charity when lies, misinformation and ignorance need to revealed and countered.
We are called to be the salt of the earth and light to all nations. Salt to bring flavor to life and light to reveal truth. We are to draw all peoples to God and his Son. This is the work we must carry out in service to Christ and his Gospel.