The Hatred and Persecution of the World
May 21st Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Jesus and the New Law are so closely associated with love that it is sometimes startling to read a passage such as today’s Gospel reading. Jesus was telling His disciples that they can expect to be treated the same way that He was: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first…. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
If we are true disciples of Jesus, these words apply to us, too — a prospect which can be frightening. As humans, we have a natural fear of being hated, derided, and persecuted. How then are we to be faithful disciples of Jesus if this is to be our fate?
Near the end of this chapter in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus gives hope to His disciples: He promises to send His Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, Who will strengthen and enlighten them, filling them with His gifts and fruits and enabling them to willingly and joyfully accept the Cross of Christ (cf. Phil 4:13). These gifts and fruits include fortitude, longanimity (the grace to be long-suffering), and mildness. Rather than being opposed to the first two virtues, mildness or humility is the key to accepting the hatred of the world.
In the beautiful Litany of Humility, the faithful implore Christ to bestow on them the graces of humility as they apply to everyday life. Several of these petitions pertain directly to Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel: “From the fear of being despised…From the fear of suffering rebukes…From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.”
It is not easy to accept the hatred of the world; our pride wants to be loved and accepted, and it sometimes feels tempting to reject or at least hide our Faith, lest we be ridiculed. To do so, however, is at the peril of our souls and possibly even those of our neighbour. If we are willing to place our reputations over our love for God, we are essentially making ourselves an idol in place of God.
Pierre Martin, the father of St. Louis Martin and grandfather of St. Therese of Lisieux, was a captain in the French Army. Every time he attended Mass, he would remain kneeling in prayer for a long time afterwards. The members of his regiment would often tease him for this, but he replied, “Tell them that it is because I believe!” This is the attitude every Christian should have; we should not allow ourselves to become afraid or lose peace when the world derides us, for all that truly matters is God.
Today, let us pray for the grace to never be ashamed of our Faith, but to allow our love for God to permeate all that we do. Let us strive to humble ourselves and peacefully accept ridicule for our Faith, knowing that a far greater reward lies in store for us in eternity if we remain faithful.
 Stéphane-Joseph Piat, The Story of a Family: The Home of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1994), 10, quoted in Patrick O’Hearn, Parents of the Saints: The Hidden Heroes Behind Our Favorite Saints (Gastonia, NC: TAN, 2020), Part I, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin and Pierre Martin, eBook.