In the trials of life, are you living with perseverance? Are you staying strong each day as a faithful disciple? Are you persisting in prayer and enduring in faith? World events are terribly disturbing, so it is tempting to give up.
This week there was a school shooting in California where two students were killed, and the shooter killed himself. School kids have shooting drills because this has become a regularized tragedy. Because of violence and insecurity in Africa this year, more than 9,000 schools were shut down in eight countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
Millions of innocent people are subject to violence and death in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong and the list goes on. But when they flee for safety, often they are met with disdain. We see a stubborn disregard for the human dignity of the least. Many are indifferent to the victims of human trafficking, others fail to protect the unborn or undocumented, or they are deaf to the cries of poor families desperately seeking the basic necessities of life.
Jesus cited all kinds of suffering when people asked him about the end-times. Then he urged them to have perseverance despite violence, war and tragedy. He said, “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; . . . they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons. . . . 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.” (Lk. 21:9, 12, 17-19)
In the trials of life, are you living with perseverance? Are you staying strong each day as a faithful disciple? “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” What is the secret to perseverance?
First of all, we learn perseverance from Jesus. Last week St. Paul encouraged us by saying, “The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one . . . . May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.” (2 Thes. 3:5) Paul must have pondered the amazing endurance of Jesus in the passion. So he spoke of the ‘endurance’ of Christ. The same Greek word is translated as either endurance or perseverance.
One dictionary defines it as “resolute continuance in a course of action.” It means to stay the course no matter what, even if everyone else gives up. Perseverance means steadfastness, especially like you see in Christ. In the Book of Revelation, St. John describes it as a strength that comes from communion with Jesus. He wrote, “I, John . . . share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the perseverance we have in Jesus.” (Rev. 1:9)
We learn perseverance from Jesus, and we receive it from him. When I am tempted to give up and when I don’t feel like praying, often it’s because I am too focused on all the problems. Then I need to re-focus on Christ by renewing my prayer. I need to renew my communion with the Lord.
Perseverance is not something we can conjure up by ourselves. Rather, Christ gives us his enduring strength in prayer, in the Eucharist and in his Word. This word only appears twice in all four Gospels, here and in Luke’s explanation of the Word that falls on rich soil. In that passage Jesus says, “As for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart and bear fruit through perseverance.” (Lk. 8:15)
People with perseverance let the Word take root in them. No matter what, they take time to listen to the Lord. Even in sickness or tragedy or isolation, they persevere in prayer. Are you struggling with perseverance? Are you tempted to give up hope in your faith life? Or are you tempted to despair because of the chaos in the world? Then renew your commitment to prayer and the Word of God. Ask the Holy Spirit for the ‘endurance of Christ.’
I have been carefully reviewing the Gospels. I am on a subcommittee for the Translation of the Scriptures for the USCCB, and we are in the process of reviewing the New Testament translation. Since June, I have spent 1-2 hours a day carefully reading the gospels. I have been constantly reflecting on the words of Jesus. It keeps me in a steady conversation with Christ.
I have a different attitude when I maintain a good habit of prayer. The problems remain, but my perspective is hopeful and peaceful. Then I see myself as serving the Lord and not working by myself. It’s his Church, not mine. I’m a worker in the Lord’s vineyard.
Parents, you have so many concerns about your children. But remember, they are God’s children first. Pray for them, and every day put them in God’s hands. If you try to take care of them all by yourself, you will become weary. But if you see them as gifts from God who loves them more than you do, then you will have the ‘endurance of Christ.’ Care for them inside of your communion with Christ.
Another main source of perseverance is the example of the saints. Reading stories of the saints always inspires me to keep going. Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. She had untiring perseverance.
Born in France, she joined the convent when she was nineteen. Soon the French Revolution began and the convent was closed, so she took care of the poor and the sick, opened a school for homeless kids and risked her life helping priests in the underground. Eventually, she came with four nuns to the United States to work among the Indians. She was 49 years old, and founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi. But cold and hunger drove them out, and the school failed.
Then she went to Florrisant, Missouri where she founded the first Catholic Native American School. Father DeSmet met her there in 1823. He said he had never seen a soul more ardent in its love of Our Lord. At 72 years of age, she was in poor health and retired. But she went to a newly founded Indian mission in Kansas and dedicated her time to prayer. The Indians named her ‘Woman who prays always.’ (pp. 359-360, Saint of the Day)
People saw in St. Rose Philippine two characteristics – perseverance in hardship and persistence in prayer. The two go together. She had perseverance only because she was a ‘Woman who prays always.’ She stayed in close communion with God, so she had the ‘endurance of Christ.’
In the trials of life, are you living with perseverance? Are you staying strong each day as a faithful disciple? Jesus said, “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.” (Lk. 21:17-19) He could say that because he was secure in the Father’s love. At every Eucharist, that same love is poured into our hearts.