“You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” – Mark 13:13
There is a story told of a prisoner during Hitler’s Germany, who was arrested because he stood for freedom. He was imprisoned and faced torture without complaining, and with great fortitude. Finally, he was released, with his spirit intact. He came to know that the informant that sent him to prison was in fact his own son. After which, he committed suicide. The betrayal of his own family was the worst torture, and he could not endure that (Barclay, Mark, p.313).
Jesus’ speaking of children rising up against parents, and parents turning in their children was nothing new to his listener; Old Testament texts tell of it. And, as individuals in the first century chose to become part of The Way, believing in Jesus as the Messiah, they knew full well that their choice would often oppose their family’s wishes. The tension of following Jesus was a reality that we can only hear of in stories. They knew that their choice to become a Christian was a choosing to take up a hard way of life. They knew they would be hated by some who just the day before were their friends and family.
It is in this context Saint Paul writes about needing endurance to run the race. To choose Christ, to live for Christ, is not a quick race; it is a marathon that takes place over the whole course of our lives. This may not be a race of outright hatred known to the early Christians; it is more likely to be opposition that is more subtle. But one, when we live for Him alone, we will feel the pinch. It is the willingness to take up our Cross daily and follow after Jesus.
Our Cross? Each of us bear the burden in different ways. For some, it is waking each morning and picking up the cross of depression and choosing life when it is all too easy to desire to ‘end it all’. Perhaps it is the cross of watching a family member self-destruct because of addiction, and loving that person is a daily sacrifice united with Jesus on the Altar at Mass. Is the cross unemployment? Chronic illness? Wayward children? Or, as for one young woman I know, who courageously fights for the unborn and has her heart broken by the coldness of the legislature to not even acknowledge the need for children born alive from failed abortions, left without care to die of cold and starvation.
We must pick up our Cross and carry it daily, uniting it with our Lord, because of love, which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
May God Bless you.