“Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has left household or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive back a hundredfold now in this present age – households and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” So, according to St Mark, Jesus answered the plea of Peter, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” The answer is striking because in the mix of this-worldly promises – just where we might feel uneasy that our Lord is preaching a kind of prosperity gospel – we are assured that there will be persecutions to boot: a thoroughly this-worldly promise.
The persecutions, however, are not just an add-on, another item in the list: it is not households and brothers and sisters… and persecutions, but all these things with persecutions. The common theme uniting the items of the list is family, the most immediate and intimate community of which we find ourselves a part. Even fields, the land a family-owned, formed an essential part of the family unit in the worldview of ancient Israel: land could never really leave the possession of the family that owned it, although it might be sold away for a time – and in that case, it should ideally be given over to another family member. The natural family, this tightknit, even sacred unit of society, is what the followers of Jesus must be prepared to leave behind – not to become individuals, solitary wanderers, but part of a greater family.
That new family is the Church, the family of the Lord’s disciples, who do the will of his Father and so become as brothers, sisters and mothers to him. And one of the surest bonds of that family in this world is precisely persecution – very often persecution at the hands of those who have been left behind. We sometimes hear it said, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, for future generations. It might as well be said that it is the cement of the Church in every present generation. In part, this is a sociological phenomenon: groups form their identity by distinction from other groups, and the experience of persecution even in mild forms can contribute to that self-differentiation from outsiders. More powerfully, the martyrs bear an eschatological witness: they testify that this age does not have the last say, and that there is indeed an age to come and in it the promise of eternal life. The martyr cries out with the Psalmist, “In righteousness I shall behold Your face; I shall take my fill when I awake of the vision of You.-Ps 17:15” By reminding us all of that common desire, the martyrs draw the Church into that unity of heart and soul which is a keynote of Acts – a unity of heart and soul which in those earliest times found external expression in the sharing of possessions and livelihood, making of the Church a single great household.
The martyrs are blessed not just because they go to behold the vision of God, but because they, like Christ, lay down their lives for their friends. Like all the beatitudes, this one speaks to us of a transformation that, by drawing us each closer to Christ, draws us closer into communion with one another also. ‘Blessed are they’: the promise is something we share, and we must learn to see the sharing as part of the gift. ‘
Love, pray for me,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity… I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistences and absurdities of the Protestant theory.” (St. John Henry Newman, “Duties of Catholics Towards the Protestant View,” Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England), "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom