Brothers and sisters: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.
Last week we met Zacchaeus and found in his encounter with Jesus one reborn to new life. We found great hope and promise because each person has the opportunity to be reborn into new victorious life in Jesus.
This week we meet a different group, people who at great cost kept faith, did not falter through every cruelty, and persevered in the new lives they knew they had in the Kingdom.
These last few weeks of the Church year are dedicated to contemplation of the Eschatological moment, the end times, Jesusâ€™ victorious return and our being caught up with Him. These are topics of wonder, so the Holy Church lays before us teaching that shows us the way.
Our starting point is the encouragement of God, called to mind by St. Paul. Our hope is not temporary nor is it fleeting. What we have is everlasting. Having come to Jesus by faith and confession of sin, we have new life. We have the promise of victory and we must not take it lightly. Let us study, read, pray, mutually encourage and be steadfast in our faith and in the expectation of Jesusâ€™ return.
You know, it isnâ€™t easy. The world and even other churches are throwing every distraction before people. Like the mother and seven sons, we must face torments that attempt to pull us away from the Kingdom life into abandonment of God. For us, these things may not be as outright as others face, but know Christians face these sorts of things daily in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Among us, it is not so obvious, more insidious.
I encourage you to read 2nd Maccabees. In Chapter 6 we see this: The Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; They also brought forbidden things into the temple so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings. This is literally happening today on the altars of St. Peterâ€™s in Rome and other Roman churches. Where is faith being kept? It is kept here!
Keep faith in these last days where the costs are high. Keep faith here and in your hearts. Jesus reminds us not to fret over the detail or the cost but maintain the hope that is our promise of victory – everlasting life.