You think it very hard to lead a life of such restraint unless you keep your eye of faith always open. Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle? - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Gospel Text: (LK 21:12-19)
Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It 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.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Holidays have the tendency to lose their connectedness to their origins. I suppose it is inevitable. None of us were there at the first Christmas. Easter, or Thanksgiving to really understand the profound moment it was. Even the very word "holiday" is rarely connected to its origin, "holy day."
Our religious holy days remind us that the journey we travel now is possible only through the light and grace of God.
The journey gives meaning to the holiday. And that journey, as we hear in today's gospel from Luke, is not always easy. Were it easy, there would be no need to celebrate the holiday. Disappointments and failures, hardships, hurt and sadness - even betrayal, as Jesus says - are woven into the story of our lives. Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, which traditionally marks the bringing in of the harvest after months of punishing toil on the raw, tough and at times unforgiving land. The harvest was not only a celebration of a successful growing season but the promise of making it through a long, cold winter ahead. It only became a national holiday when President Lincoln called the nation to a moment of prayer and thanksgiving in 1863 in the middle of the long, grueling experience of the Civil War.
Jesus does not promise a road easily travelled. He promises that he will be our companion along the way. He's not going to take away the hardships or hurt or sadness, but he will accompany us through these to new life. He can guide us and encourage us, urging us not to give up. And in the end, like the Pilgrims 400 years ago or a young married couple celebrating a first anniversary, we can sit together in awe and say to one another, "I don't know how we did it, but here we are. Thanks be to God!"