Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Persecution and Discernment

The eighth beatitude is:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10-12)

A Christian is called, in this beatitude, to be a sort of counter witness to the anti-Christian values that pervade the world. As a counter witness, we would be persecuted. A priest is called to play that role more earnestly as a service to the Christians that he pastors. Thus, persecutions of the kind mentioned would come more intensely to the priest.

Often the persecutions we receive play a part in the discerning a vocation. We might have many ideals and be very willing to suffer injustices for the Lord. However, there is also a reality that we might be discouraged by these things we suffer. The key is not to desire something noble like suffering for Christ. The most important thing in discerning the call is to see what God wants. The Lord might want us to be in a situation where there is no real suffering at all. Our discernment is not choosing to become an exemplary Christian by our own efforts. Our discernment should lead us to the knowledge of God's will and then obey this will. Of course, the life of a priest would include many instances of persecution and misunderstanding. We need to be aware of this. However, this beatitude should lead us to consider that the call is more important than the consequences of following the call. Most people who do things for Christ’s sake would be able to understand that it is not the consequences of following Christ that are important but the fact that we follow Christ. Similarly, our discernment should not focus on whether what kind of priesthood we would live but whether we are called. There would be those who choose to enter the seminary because they have seen the standard of priests in our churches and want to improve the quality of priests. Whilst this should be a consideration during formation, it should not be a condition during discernment.

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