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November 2001

You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. (Luke 21:17-18)

Luke wrote his Gospel when persecutions against the first Christians had already begun. But like every word of God, this word is addressed to Christians of all times and to their daily lives. It contains both a warning and a promise. The warning has more to do with our present life, the promise more with the next. Both regularly come true in the history of the Church and in the personal circumstances of those who seek to be faithful disciples of Christ.

For those who follow him, it is normal to be hated. This is the lot of every authentic Christian in this world. There is no point in deceiving ourselves and Paul reminds us of this: "All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim. 3:12)

Jesus explains why: "If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world - therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19)

There will always be a contrast between the Christian lifestyle and that of a society which rejects Gospel values. It is a contrast that can lead to a persecution which is more or less masked or to an indifference which is also painful.

You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish.

So, we have been warned! When, in exchange for the love we have tried to give, we receive hatred in a way that seems incomprehensible, illogical and against any kind of common sense, we should not be disorientated, shocked or alarmed. It is nothing more than a manifestation of the opposition between egotistical men and women and God. But this hatred is also the guarantee that we are on the right path, the same path trodden by the Master. So it is a time when we should exult and rejoice.

That is what Jesus wants: "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you ... on my account. Rejoice and be glad." (Matt. 5:11-12)

Yes, what must be uppermost in our hearts at that time is joy, that joy which is the particular characteristic, the uniform of true Christians in every situation. And also because - and we shouldn't forget this - we have many friends, among our brothers and sisters in the faith, and their love is a source of consolation and strength.

You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish.

But there is also Jesus' promise: "Not a hair of your head will perish." What do these words mean? Jesus takes a proverb from the Book of Samuel (cf. 1 Sam. 14:45) and he applies it to the final destiny of his disciples. He wants to assure us that, despite the real sufferings and genuine difficulties caused by persecution, we must feel that we are completely in the hands of God who is our Father, who knows us through and through and who will never abandon us.

If he says that not a hair on our head will perish, he wants us to be certain that he himself will look after each of our worries, even the smallest ones, about our lives, those dear to us or anything that we have in our hearts. How many martyrs, known or unknown, have drawn on Jesus' words for the strength and the courage to face the loss of their rights, separation, marginalisation, scorn, sometimes to the point of violent death, sure that the love of God allows all things for the good of his children!

You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish.

If we feel dogged by hatred or violence, a victim of bullying, we know already the attitude Jesus showed us: we must love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who mistreat us.

We must counterattack and conquer evil with love.

How?

By being the first to love. And by being careful not to 'hate' anybody, not even in a hidden or subtle way. For, at root, this world that rejects God, needs him and his love and is able to respond to his call.

To sum up, how can we live this Word of Life?

By being glad to find ourselves worthy of the world's hatred, which is the guarantee of following Jesus more closely, and by putting love, in plain and practical ways, into the very source of the hatred.

Chiara Lubich

 

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