Giving Testimony

They will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
–Luke 21:12–13

James_Intercisus,_II_Half_of_XVI_Century,_St_Nicholas_Bolnichki_ChurchIn the Gospel reading, Jesus describes the signs of persecution that his apostles will face in their evangelical endeavors. We know that when this gospel was written down, the disciples had already come to know abuse quite well. Romans and Jews martyred early Christians such as St. James Intercisus, patron of lost vocations and torture victims, whose feast day is today.

St. James Intercisus served as a decorated soldier during the reign of King Yezdigered I in fifth-century Persia. Fearing the retribution of the King, he apostatized his faith much to the dismay of his mother and wife. In time, St. James found the courage to defend his faith, which led to his public martyrdom. St. James was dismembered slowly, but tradition holds that during his execution, he gladly offered himself as a sacrifice to the true living God (DVRodrigues, 2018).

Knowing that this persecution continues in our present time, I find myself wondering, why would anyone want to give a Christian testimony today? Why would I choose to suffer when I could be silent and prosperous?

The answer, perhaps, is the love of Christ that we know through faith. We can see the goodness that comes from Him. When we plan a dinner for our fellow Christians or take a hike, we know He is with us. We see the inspiration Christ continues to give to us, the poor.

When Christ says, “because of my name,” we know that he has paved the way to heaven for us. If Christ suffered such senseless discrimination having both human and divine nature, do we expect to be treated any better? We know that the disorder in the world and our sinfulness prevents us from receiving the goodness we intend to give out, but that should not stop us from giving.

As the holidays approach, and we prepare delicious meals to be shared with family, think of the passage comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a woman making bread. Christ tells us the “kingdom of heaven is like yeast” (Luke 13:33).

Let us meditate on your abundance so that we may rise to the occasion if we are required to give testimony in times of persecution. Please help us to discern the Holy Spirit so that whether we are sharing a meal with family, or protesting against the senseless torture of captives, we can know the true beatitude that you have promised us. Help us remember your name and respond with love instead of hatred. Give us the courage to share your love alongside the poorest among us and within ourselves. Let us not suffer needlessly, but rather with the resolve to do your will. Please give us the Courage and Fortitude to bear our burdens.

Never let us forget your ultimate plan is not limited to us here and now but is ultimately a unitive love that is for all eternity.

Source: DVRodriguez, 2018, Saint James Intercisus, St. Vincent Ferrer Foundation of Texas, accessed Nov. 20, 2019.

Image: James Intercisus, II Half of XVI Century, St. Nicholas Bolnichki Church. [Public Domain]

Prayer is the Battle Plan

In my favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail, the main character Kathleen Kelly laments not being able to come up with the right words at the right time, finding herself tongue-tied and her mind blank. “What should I have said, for example, to the bottom-dweller who recently belittled my existence?” she says. I think we’ve all had those moments, where we realize later, perhaps at 11:30pm when we’re lying in bed trying to sleep, the thing we wanted to say and how we wanted to say it. These situations arise in moments of conflict, in a moment where we feel misunderstood, or when we are put in a circumstance where we are invited to stand up for the truth with love.

What do we say? What do we do? How do we get better at fighting the fear and speaking up, or maybe biting our tongue when anger arises and allowing God’s truth to pour out of us instead?

The Apostles in today’s first reading act with wisdom when they had every reason to both lash out in anger and be totally tongue-tied. Faced with opposition and death threats all around them, and after having just been released from prison, Peter and John and the other Apostles gather together to pray for boldness. They could’ve had a meeting to come up with a battle plan to confront their persecutors, or they could’ve strategized how to go into hiding. They could’ve given up on their mission to evangelize entirely. But praying for boldness was their battle plan. Surrounded by challenges and fear, they knew that it was not them doing the work of growing the early Church, but the Holy Spirit at work through them. They realized their acute need for the Holy Spirit to empower them and give them the boldness they needed to go out and answer God’s call.

So they prayed for boldness; then, trusting that the Holy Spirit would not abandon them, they went out and kept preaching.

I don’t think our Catholic Church has an issue of too many people living with holy boldness. That is not our problem. I think we are more caged in fear than anything. In what areas of our own lives do we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us with boldness? Where is God calling us to shake off the fear and trust in His faithfulness? The more open we are to the Holy Spirit, the more He can empower us. When we are faced with those challenging situations where we know in the pit of our stomach that we need to say something, we can call on the Holy Spirit to give us the words and the courage to speak as He is leading us. We can put the pressure on God to show up and give us what we need—we just have to be open.

Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit. Help us to be bold and on fire for Your mission for each of us.