Sunday, May 16, 2021

Persecution preparation

Propers for the Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension

Sermon for the Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension

So what now?

The Lord ascends into Heaven and then there is this pause as the disciples wait for something to happen.

After standing around and being told by the angels about the Second Coming of the Lord, the disciples do the only thing that they can: they go home to their common room and stay together.

They're lucky. They know what they are waiting for.

What are you waiting for?


St Peter reminds us that the end of the world is nigh. It's a bit rich of him because, two thousand years later, we are still waiting for the end. There are lots of elaborate theories - premillennialism, postmillennialism, even some very spurious theories like The Rapture. So much ink has been spilled trying to predict or to determine when the end will happen.

But, after telling us that the end is near, St Peter tells us what we should be doing. We are to be sober, prayerful, and charitable. Nowhere does he say that we need to be obsessing about the end. Indeed St Peter is mindful that the Lord has told him that no-one - not even the Son - knows when the end will happen.

For St Peter, it's not when or how the end happens, it is that it happens. We are to prepare to meet Christ at any moment and that means living the faith. 

Indeed, rather than preparing for the end, we ought to be preparing for our faith to be tested by our living in this world. Our faith is tested by the suffering induced by living in a world that has become hostile to God. Our Lord says that this will involve persecution. 

Certainly this means the physical persecution that the Church has seen under the Emperors Diocletian and Decius, but there is also spiritual persecution that comes from other people, even Society itself, and from the Devil.

In Africa and Asia, there is gross physical persecution and we cannot forget our brothers and sisters being tortured and killed for the Faith. In the West, we have a different type of persecution - this is very much an attack on our spirits. We are encouraged to drop our Faith, or relax our standards, or accept that which is immoral. We are encouraged to receive the superficial expression of being virtuous in exchange for the struggle to be virtuous in our hearts. We are being told to shut up because we offend others just by telling the truth, and that our love, this true and wonderful life-affirming Holy Love that is God, is really hate-speech and the denial of the individual's right to control what other people think.

This is persecution nonetheless and we must be sober. This means we must not allow our spiritual senses to be filled by being drunk in the spirits of this world. We must stand firm using subtlety, generousity and that love which is not a simple feeling of "niceness" but that thing that underpins all of existence. If we think of love as just a feeling then we are drunk on the worldly spirit of deception and are no longer sober.


We are not to look for the end but be sober, prayerful and charitable. That end will come soon enough and not in the way we expect. 

So what are you waiting for?

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