What a difference a few days make. Usually change takes time and is hard work. Progress is not achieved quickly. A few weeks ago we had the disciples hiding in a room in Jerusalem because they thought the Jewish guard was going to kill them. Now they are all gathered together: including women, to prayer, thanksgiving, and caring for one another. Fear was gone. Jesus had appeared to them and they were united in faith. No more extreme fear and worry that they would arrested. They could pray and be together with peace, reassurance, and joy.
This was the calm before the storm. In the second reading St. Peter is exhorting his followers to be prepared to rejoice when God’s glory is revealed to you. But there is a line in the reading that is not used often. It says “when you share in the sufferings of Christ, God’s glory will be revealed to you. The reading goes on to say that if you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you.
Now wait a minute. This does not sound like it is a good thing. If I do what I am supposed to do in the name of Christ I might suffer and be insulted and even die!! We all wish that following the words of Jesus would bring happiness and joy. If I do the right thing, I wish that people will see that I am doing right and will applaud and follow my actions. This can be dangerous, however, if I take the teachings of Jesus seriously. As you will see in the readings that all people, including many, many that are not like me are called to be with God. There are so many opinions on so many things that not all are going to believe and act like together.
We all live in our own sheltered world where life goes on day to day without much change. But when change happens in our world we need to become aware and act. We can choose not to and that is our choice. But if God begins to bring something to our mind we need to at least think about changing our actions.
I want you to hear a brief story about two priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Rev. Jerry Zawada gathered with other people at Fort Benning, Georgia once a year to protest the United States military training South American special units. Over twenty thousand of people would join in this action. The US Government would teach ways to kill, torture, and get information from prisoners. He was arrested several times. Jerry believed that this government action was wrong and was willing to suffer the consequences. Just last year Rev. Zawada celebrated Mass with a woman and was told by his superiors and our bishop that he can no longer be a priest and needs to spend the rest of his life in solitude and penance.
Another priest, Rev. Bill Brennan, who is in his ninety’s celebrated Mass with a woman. His priest faculties were removed and he is not allowed to say Mass.
Why am I telling you about these two men? It is because they heard a message from God that told them that needed to participate in these events because it was the right thing to do for them. They are suffering greatly because of their actions but they can rejoice abundantly because they did what they thought was right.
I am not telling any of you what to do. Only God can do that. I am telling you that you must think more broadly and more openly when you make your decisions. All kinds of people have heard the word of God and must choose actions that affirm what they heard. It is never good to make fun of people if they choose an action that is different than one we would make. It is not our right to judge other’s actions if they act in ways that are different than our beliefs. There is a basic rightness and wrongness to certain actions that the law and our judicial system will enforce. But the question is can we be open to the differing decisions of the people around us because God has called them to follow different ways.
I recently received part of writing by St. Hildegard of Bingen. She is the patron saint of Excommunicated and “whistle blowers”. St. Hildegard was placed under interdict by her bishop.
“You ask me why I disobey you, my bishop; I answer in a spirit of prayer,
… I the Abbess, disobey, and all my sisters choose to disobey, because in such obedience is only darkness. … We are obeying Christ, We are following Christ, and we choose not to insult Christ, as obeying you would force us to do.”
We are all forced with difficult choices when we follow God’s word. No one can tell you what to do. And that is between you and God.