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Persevering in faith with Jesus Print E-mail
Sunday scripture column

Jem Sullivan


Sunday, August 26
Twenty-first Sunday
in Ordinary Time

Jos 24:1-2, 15-18
Psalm 34:2-3, 16-21
Eph 5:21-32 or 5:2, 25-32
Jn 6:60-69


It might surprise us to learn that we live in an age of Christian martyrdom. Some have claimed that more Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than in the first four centuries of the Church's history.

Around the world Christians are persecuted in subtle and not so subtle forms. The threat of martyrdom forces the ultimate test of courage and witness to Christ as they choose to persevere in faith.

"Decide today whom you will serve," Joshua said to the tribes of Israel at Shechem in today's first reading. As in various moments of their history, the Israelites were faced with a radical choice -- to live in covenant relationship with God or to fall back into the idolatry of multiple pagan gods.

And as the Israelites considered this choice of life, they began to recall the good works of God. "For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt . . . He performed those great miracles before our very eyes," said the Israelites.

In John's Gospel, the disciples of Jesus are faced with a similar decision -- to follow the Lord or to follow a life of their own making in the illusion of self-sufficiency. This decision is ours to make as well.

Jesus reminds his disciples that his way will not be an easy path. But to persevere in friendship with Jesus opens us to the peace, joy, and love of God that surpasses all understanding.

To choose God is to choose life, love, and genuine happiness. For only God, who created us in love, satisfies.

This knowledge strengthens martyrs as they choose to persevere to the point of death for faith in Jesus. It can strengthen us as we resolve to persevere in faith each day.

God's word invites us to renew our faith in Jesus with the courage of the martyrs. May our faith be strengthened to face the trials and difficulties we all face each day.


Jem Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

 
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