There are those moments in our lives where we may face fires and difficulties. In my own life, I had one of those moments. I was a deacon anticipating my priestly ordination and, I get an email from the rector saying he wanted to meet with me. It’s just like being called into the principal’s office. I show up and unexpectedly my vocation director is there with the rector. To make a long story short, I was told that I needed to grow more, especially in my social skills before becoming a priest. I eventually was ordained a priest, so I was able to get through that time. However, I would say that I faced some fire and tribulation during that time. During that time, I sought to have a deeper encounter with my Lord, and I believe through that he gave me the joy and the hope to preserver to where I am now. Even if I wasn’t ordained a priest, I had the hope and confidence in my Lord that he would bring joy and fulfillment into my life and bring me to his everlasting kingdom.
Jesus came to bring about the kingdom of God, to restore humanity and to bring salvation to the world. However, he warns us that he too is brining fire upon the earth. Our Lord says that he didn’t come to establish peace on the earth but rather division. Jesus statement may be shocking to us as we tend to think that Jesus would bring peace and harmony. Here he says he is going to bring fire and division.
Our Lord is trying to explain that even though our Lord is bringing the kingdom, even though he is bringing everlasting salvation, he first is bringing tribulation to the earth, his words will cause division. Another passage that comes to mind is when Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The cost of following our Lord does involve the cross, does involve some struggles and sufferings.
We see this cross in people like Jeremiah went through in our first reading. The leaders of the people wanted to put him to death. He faced persecution, and he faced certain death for the sake of God. We see how God remained faithful to him and removed him from the cistern.
The Lord’s apostles too had to face their crosses in their lives. Most of them faced a cross of dying for the sake of Christ. All of them were persecuted for the name of Jesus as they proclaimed God’s kingdom. We now proclaim that all the Apostles, except Judas, are saints in heaven enjoying eternal salvation.
While we may not face the same persecution or tribulation as they did, there are some ways that we may face our tribulation and the cross in our own lives. When those tribulations and crosses come into our lives, what we can do is hold onto hope and the joy that only comes from our God.
Where do we find this joy? It comes from an encounter with Jesus. Through an encounter with God, we find a joy that cannot be taken away from us, and we find a joy that sets us free from sin, from sorrow, from emptiness. (The above is a paraphrase of Evangelii Gaudium 1) The joy that God gives us cannot be taken away by anything, and it will sustain us even as we face great fire and tribulation.
What should we do if we may not be feeling this joy? I encourage you to run to the Lord and ask him to give you that joy. It doesn’t have to be a complicated prayer; just go to him and ask. “God, I want to know the joy that you give.” Or even simpler, “bring joy into my life.” See where the Lord leads you and trust he will bring you joy.
As I look back on my trial my delay before my ordination, at times, I was uncertain whether I would be ordained or not, and this was challenging and a cross for me. I’m grateful to God that he brought me to the priesthood, but I’m also grateful to God that he gave me the joy and the hope that kept me going and helped me preserver through that uncertainty.
My hope is now that as a priest, I can share the joy that I have from the Lord, through the ministry that I do. I know more crosses and tribulations will come to me, but I hope I can hold onto that joy that comes from the Lord. Finally, I’d like to leave all of us with a challenge if you have found that joy in the Lord, that hope in the midst’s of tribulation, I encourage you to share it with others and be a witness to the Gospel. As we all continue our journey’s with the Lord, may we look to him who gives us joy that will endure all trials.