instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And it shall happen unto you for a testimony

This week, the last of the liturgical year, the Lectionary takes us through the apocalyptic Chapter 21 of the Gospel According to St. Luke (though I suspect most Masses in the U.S. tomorrow will use the markedly less apocalyptic Thanksgiving Day readings (as entertaining as it would be for people who just showed up to get their pies blessed to hear a homily on the verse, "Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people."))

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus predicts the persecution -- in particular, the legal persecution -- of His followers because of His Name. He says being
led before kings and governors ... will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
On the one hand, this is a wonderful Emmanuel promise that Jesus is with us until the end of the age, not just to suffer alongside but to act through us (if we don't get in the way).

On the other hand, recall that Jesus Himself spoke with a wisdom that all His adversaries were powerless to resist or refute, and they stirred up a mob to shout, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" "Win an argument, lose a life" is a real possibility, even with this promise.

Legal victory, then, isn't Jesus' chief concern. He seems rather to be interested in the opportunity to give testimony. Persecution offers Him the chance to extend His preaching ministry beyond His ascension and on through time, through His disciples.

At least, through His disciples who are disciples enough to be persecuted because of His Name, and who allow His mouth and wisdom to speak in their defense.