"“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Therefore, according to the Gospel, any citizen can be a good Catholic – that is, side with Jesus Christ and the Pope, and do good to his fellow men – and at the same time side with Caesar, namely, observe the laws of the land, except when the rulers persecute religion or tyrannize the consciences and minds of citizens." - St. John Bosco
Gospel text (Jn 15,18-21):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.”
I have always found Jesus’ prediction in today’s Gospel to be particularly foreboding. It is one thing to know that there will be trials, that we will have crosses to bear for following him; it’s another to be told that we will be hated because of it.
Consequently, one of the main characteristics of Christ's followers is fighting all evil and sin to be found in the world and inside every man. This is why, Jesus is the light of men, the light that illuminates the world's darkness. Karol Wojtyla exhorts us «so that this light makes us strong and capable to accept and love the entire Truth of Christ, and love it even more when opposed by our world».
Neither Christians nor the Church can follow the passing fads or criteria of this world. Christ's criterion is the unique, definitive and unavoidable one for us to follow. It is not up to Jesus to adapt himself to the world where we live; it is up to us instead to transform our lives after Jesus. «Christ is the same yesterday, today, and always». This should make us wonder. When our secularized society demands from us and from the Church certain changes or licenses, we are simply being asked to move away from God. We, Christians, however, should be faithful to Christ and to his message. Saint Ireneus says: «God does not need anything; but man needs to be in permanent communion with God. And man's glory lies in persevering and always keep in God's service».
This fidelity may, quite often, mean persecution: «If they persecuted me, they will persecute you, too» (Jn 15:20). We should not be afraid of persecution; we should rather be afraid of not attempting strongly enough to always live in God's will. Let's be brave and let us proclaim without any fear Christ resurrected, light and joy of all Christians! Let us allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, so that we can inform the whole world about it!