In today’s first reading we hear, “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.” This is not the only time in the Old Testament that we hear of the “just one” being persecuted for preaching an unpopular message. The just one speaks as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord wants to lead his people back to following his ways. That’s why He sends prophets.
Unfortunately, the people often did not listen to the prophets. (Many do not listen to God now.) Instead, they plotted against the prophets, even killing some of them. Why didn’t they listen? Because if they did, they knew they would have to change their ways. I always find it interesting that while they speak against the prophets, they did not deny what the prophets said about their behavior. Their lack of denial of wrongdoing almost seems like an admission of guilt.
To justify their persecution of the just one, the wicked go on to say, “For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him.” They were right that God will defend the just one but not in the way they were thinking. They thought that if the prophets really speak for the Lord, then the Lord will not let anything bad happen to the prophets. That would seem reasonable but God looks at it another way.
When one is killed for their faith, we call them “martyrs.” The word “martyr” means “witness.” In accepting martyrdom over renouncing their faith, the martyrs serve as a great witness to what their faith means to them. When we stand up for our faith in this world we may face suffering in this world but we will receive glory in Heaven. Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
It is the Lord who upholds our lives. It is the Lord who saves us and defends us in our causes. The ruthless may seek our lives but the Lord will always sustain us (see today’s psalm). Knowing this, we can face suffering not in despair but with an “attitude of gratitude,” thankful for what the Lord has done for us.
We cannot let bad passions rule our lives. As James writes, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” Wars come from our passions. Peace comes from seeking God’s righteous. We do our best not when we seek our own will. We do our best when we live what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done.”
We may not always understand. The disciples did not understand Jesus when He told them about his coming passion. “They were afraid to question him.” When we don’t understand, God wants us to seek answers. God wants to help us know him better. However, we are not always going to understand. We are limited in our understanding by our humanity. God is not. We can always trust in God.