If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you may follow in his footsteps.
We can be impressed by the enthusiastic preaching of Peter and the other Apostles after they were fortified by the power of the Holy Spirit. They were bold and forceful in their proclamation that God made Jesus Lord and Christ. As we know from the readings of Acts this bold preaching got them into lots of trouble with the authorities who had them whipped and driven from the temple. Hostility and anger could not silence the good news they had to tell anyone who would listen. In the scripture reading for last Tuesday’s Mass we heard how Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, stood up to the hostility of the religious leaders and was stoned to death for proclaiming Jesus, “Look I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
The Acts of the Apostles tell of the beginnings of the church and the sufferings of those who followed Christ. In his different letters to the early Christian communities Paul tells of the suffering he and others endured while they preached the good news of Christ crucified and risen.
As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever; If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. All through the long history of the church we have example of men and women who did what was right and suffered for it, sometimes within the Church itself. In our own time we have the example of Archbishop Romero, murdered while celebrating Mass. He did what was right by demanding justice for the people of El Salvador and suffered for it.
Martin Luther King is another example of a man of God who did what was right and suffered for it. We have priests and sisters and lay people in different countries of the world who are doing what is right as they work for human rights and social justice, and suffer for it. In China there are hundreds of thousands of men and women suffering for their faith in Christ. In Muslim countries such as Egypt and Iraq good people are doing what is right, being faithful to Christ and suffering for it.
There can be times and occasions when each one of us can be challenged to do what is right and suffer for it. It may be in a work situation or a social situation when we may be offered the opportunity to do what is right. In the course of a conversation we may do what is right when we object to a racist or a sexist remark. We can do what is right when we refuse to participate in conversations that belittle and demean people of faiths, cultures and lifestyles different from our own. We do what is right and may suffer for it when we stand up for the dignity of any person and all persons, when we do what little we can to support social programs for the poor and homeless in our community.
We do what is right and may suffer for it when in a family situation we remind someone of the values by which they were raised and the faith in which they were raised.
As long as try to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus there will always be occasions when we will be called to do what is right even if we have to suffer for it.
In today’s gospel Jesus uses the example of shepherd and sheep. We know he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He did what was right and suffered for it.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that in our daily efforts to be faithful followers of Christ who was crucified and is risen we will always try to do what is right even if we have to suffer for it.