Today’s gospel passage follows immediately on yesterday’s from John 15, which we have been reading for the past 4 days. Over the preceding 3 days Jesus has spoken to his disciples at the Last Supper about the vine and the branches, his choosing them (not vice versa) and calling them friends, and his commandment that they love one another as He has loved them.
But be forewarned, he tells them, that precisely because of Him the world will persecute them as they have persecuted Him.
And we know that once again, he spoke the Truth. From the very beginning, starting with the Cross, Jesus and his followers have been persecuted and rejected by many, up to and including the present.
Perhaps this rather jarring passage today might occasion our asking, “Why IS this the case?” What is it about Jesus and his gospel message that evokes this response?
Is it His emphasis on love? on equality? on inclusiveness? on forgiveness? on justice? on reconciliation? on compassion? on his concept of neighbor (read Samaritan) crossing racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries? on his non-traditional understanding of what constitutes a successful life?
Is it one of the above? some of the above? many of the above? all of the above?
Why IS it that followers of Jesus over the centuries have literally paid with their lives for their faith in Him? Does our own faith and attempts to walk in His footsteps create any tensions within us?
In a Pastoral Letter written in 1986 by the American Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR ALL, the bishops wrote:
“The example of Jesus poses a number of challenges to the contemporary Church. ….It demands a compassionate vision that enables the Church to see things from the side of the poor and the powerless and to assess lifestyle, policies, and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor.”
“Holiness is not limited to the sanctuary or to moments of private prayer….for the laity, holiness is achieved in the midst of the world, in family, in community, in friendships, in work, in leisure, in citizenship… As disciples of Christ we must constantly ask ourselves how deeply the biblical and ethical vision of justice and love permeates our thinking. How thoroughly does it influence our way of life?”
How prevalent and well-received is this thinking in our world of today? As we know, this is what Pope Francis continues to insist on!