By Elizabeth Baumann

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 24:1-14

1 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

9 “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.”

Meditation

In a book recently, I read the assertion that the world isn’t intrinsically opposed to Christianity, but only to inauthentic Christians who don’t walk their talk. And we have all encountered people who have been turned away from the Church in disgust over those who sit in the pews and fail to take seriously the call to follow Jesus. Yet here Jesus stands assuring us that the world will hate us if we do walk the talk — and hate us for his sake.

If only authenticity and goodness guaranteed we would be loved, or even simply not persecuted. But we have about 2,000 years of history behind us now filled with the martyrdoms of the best and most authentic of us. And, much like Jesus, they were persecuted and killed not only by secular forces in the world but by religious ones — even those who called themselves Christian.

In this lesson, Jesus seems to be issuing his disciples a wake-up call. When they were called in the wake of John the Baptist’s arrest, they knew it might cost them everything. But since then there have been miracles, and ecstatic crowds, and widespread popularity. Now they are hastening quickly toward the crucifixion. They will again face the reality that their calling can — and will — cost everything. They have to be reminded that it was something they chose in the first place, not for all the blessings they’ve enjoyed in the meantime, but for something deeper.

And so we, too, can use the reminder from time to time, if only to stop asking questions and making decisions based on the approval of others, or what makes us most comfortable. We will be hated for binding ourselves to Jesus. The only question is: is he worth it?

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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