It amazes me when I think about all that the early Church had to go through and put up with. Saint Paul writes that he put up with persecution from all sides: from his own people as well as the Gentiles. He was beaten often, endured hazardous journeys and perilous weather, as well as every kind of deprivation. His experience was definitely extreme, but others who lived the faith in those days were also subject to persecution, torture and death. Our experience isn’t quite like that, is it? I mean, here we sit in this air-conditioned church and relatively comfortable surroundings. We came here freely to Mass this morning and it is unlikely that anyone will openly persecute us or torture us or put us to death for worshipping our God, although of course, it does happen occasionally in some parts of the world.
But there is a subtle kind of persecution that we often must endure. We know that even if our society is not openly hostile to living the Gospel, it might be just one step short of that. Life is not respected in our society: babies are aborted, the elderly are not respected or given adequate care, children are not raised in nurturing families, people are hated because of their race, color or creed. Faith is ridiculed as the crutch of the weak. Hope is crushed by those who abuse power. Love is diminished by the world’s shabby standards of loving. Living the Gospel is costly to anyone who would want to be taken seriously in our culture.
To all of us who come to this holy place to worship this morning and who hope to work out our salvation by living the Gospel, Saint Paul speaks eloquently. We know that he, as well as all of the communion of saints, is there to intercede for us and show us the way. He says to us today, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?” He points us to our Lord Jesus who paid the ultimate price for the Gospel, and reminds us that in living that Gospel, regardless of its cost, we store up for ourselves incredible treasures in heaven, because it is in heaven that our heart resides.