In today’s gospel, Jesus does not mince his words. First, he tells us that we must be one with him and his Father and in this, we will find our joy. Second, the world will hate us and we will need protection from the evil one. Third, that we are to be consecrated in the truth and then sent into the world. It is precisely because of this consecration that we will be ready to give witness to Christ.
In the gospel, Jesus is preparing his disciples for when they shall receive the holy spirit which will enable them to be firm in the truth, ready for martyrdom and also full of joy. This means that we are made to be with and in him, both now and into eternity. Our very being finds its realisation when we are united with Christ. Also, we will be attacked persecuted and indeed some will become martyrs.
Christ is preparing his disciples, and indeed us, for when he will no longer be with us. He tells us it will not be easy and certainly no stroll in the park. There is no getting around this fundamental truth that a disciple has to be ready in unconditional love to give themselves generously to Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel.
It is instructive to read how it was in the early church for those first Christians, namely how they lived and were received by their contemporaries. We read that they dressed in the same way as other citizens. They respected the Emperor and his office but would also keep the first day of the week holy, namely Sunday when they broke bread and celebrated the Eucharist. They only took one spouse and lived lives of chastity and purity. They refused to sacrifice to the pagan idols. They had a special care for the poor, lived in peace and were looked up to by many. However, at the same time, many were thrown to the lions, beheaded or put into prison. They enjoyed great peace and joy as communities and families but at the same time, the powers of the time appeared to hate and vilify them.
So what sustained, supported and emboldened them? They knew that the truth was the only possibility of true liberation and they searched for it. In the words of today’s gospel, they were consecrated into it and lived by it. This is a story that invites us to perfect discipleship and indeed marks the history of Christianity throughout the centuries. In the gospel today Christ predicts that there will always be opposition from the world and that the evil one pursues us. As it was true of ancient Rome, so to of Thomas More in the 1530s and Archbishop Oscar Romero in the 1980s. As we know, the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries outnumber the rest of history. The common thread throughout is the notion of truth. When I live, search for and am consecrated in the truth, I will become a true disciple.
We may not be confronted by the same starkness but the battle remains. First, in my own life can I look at my soul in the mirror? Do I show myself to others as I truly am or is it an image I portray? Am I plagued by insecurity, ready to receive or give fraternal correction? Second, do I live according to the teachings and truth of Christ and his Church? Am I prepared to stand with Christ before my friends and proclaim Him? Third, will I witness to Christ as the only truth that liberates?
The answer to all these questions will ultimately be answered by my prayer. It is only in prayer that I can come to know, seek and listen to Christ. Prayer is about wasting your time with God, as opposed to being preoccupied with targets, achievement, making money and being more popular with my friends. Prayer is that moment when I go to my room, close the door and am alone with God. It is only in prayer that I can truly discern what is the truth that I want to live by and give witness to. There can be no running away from the truth when I’m determined upon living the life of prayer. Ultimately, in prayer, I am being as Christ has consecrated me in the truth, which is the demand of the gospel today.