Fr. Rodrigue Azanmasso, CJM
Beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus-Christ, we have learnt through history how evangelization was very hard for the first missionaries, and for those who, in the evangelized countries, welcomed favorably the Good News. For those among us who watched the movie Silence which gives an account of the early evangelization in Japan, a glimpse of the harshness of the task was shown. There were some who apostatized, but there were also some, (a great many men and women) who stood firm in their faith, accepting death, they were willing to give up their lives and die (Rev 12:11).
To be true to ourselves, the willingness to give up one’s life for God’s sake, is not naturally granted, it can be, as the prophet Jeremiah said in the first reading, like a fire burning deep within one’s heart. Jeremiah said Yahweh, you have seduced me and I let myself be seduced. You have taken me by force and prevailed. In effect, holding on one’s faith despite trial, hardship and persecution has never been easy. Jeremiah experienced a very strong and dramatic interior crisis, he lamented, and even felt betrayed by God, whom he dared called ‘’seducer’’.
Jeremiah faced constant persecutions, nevertheless, as he confessed his word (God’s word) in my heart becomes like a fire burning deep within my bones. I try hard to hold it, but I cannot do it. Jeremiah realized that, his prophetic inspiration, his task as prophet are not his natural will or desire, their urge is irresistible. He acknowledged that someone stronger than him, a force above his capacity was pushing him to do what he had to, despite his natural reluctance and unwillingness.
Jeremiah could naturally resist the burning fire within his heart, but he chose to let himself be seduced. The question of the choice is important and we always need to make a choice, to renew our choice, to maintain the choice or to renounce it.
Holding on one’s choice despite trial and persecution is then a grace, the grace of a total donation of one’s life as a living and holy sacrifice, pleasant to God as Saint Paul said in the second reading.
So many things can deter us from our choice, so many concerns can prevent us from being good Christians. Jesus’ words in the gospel are very strong if you want to follow me deny yourself.
The self-denial recommended by Jesus is the submission of one’s will to God’s, it is loving God with all one’s heart, soul and strength. More importantly, Jesus wants us to understand that all those concerns which are ours and which we more often envision as necessary, even vital to our happiness, are not vital as we think. True happiness is in seeking first the will of God for, what will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give in exchange of his life?
In other words, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you ( Mt 6:33)