The hate for the faith – Wednesday, the third week in Easter – Acts 8:1-8/ John 6:35-40

Passion is what must truly drive you. Educational qualifications or motivational speeches do not drive passion. When you are passionate you don’t need convincing or cajoling. Everything you do is driven by a strength that comes from a desire to see your passion actualised and even memorialised.

Much of our faith is not driven by passion. It is for this reason that we need to be motivated or even worse, monitored. Obligations weigh heavy and hellfire is thrown in for good measure to get us to fall in line. Catholics who are passionate about the faith are a slim minority and that accounts for the unenthusiastic response to evangelization. You are more likely to forward a sensational post on social media than a sensible one that nourishes life and faith.

The Early Church did not need to be cajoled; they were captivated by the Holy Spirit and Christ who had conquered death. To that end, they were willing to die for a cause and not just meet a tick box at Sunday service.

The text of today seems to be an attempt to capture many events that occurred in a single day. It seems like St Luke, the author, had his mind racing to capture it all when he penned the text. That is what happens when you want to record three notable events and do not want to miss a single detail.  

We are told that (1) A SEVERE persecution breaks out against the Church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles are SCATTERED throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Saul is RAVAGING the Church DRAGGING both men and women to prison. (2) Stephen is BURIED amidst loud LAMENTATION by some men. (3) Philip is making waves in Samaria with crowds listening EAGERLY leading to GREAT JOY in the city.

In one single text, we read of the fear of bodily persecution, yet unabashed and courageous mourning and even more, joyful evangelization. To many this is madness but those who are driven by a passion for the faith, understand these events with clarity.  

The thought of persecution would send most of us scampering for cover. Here a full-blown persecution has begun with the martyrdom of St Stephen. The words used by St Luke and highlighted by me in the text above are an attempt to make the reader not just glance at what we take for granted as an event but rather a reality that could face us today. This was a ‘severe’ persecution that ‘ravaged’ the Church leading to people being ‘dragged’ to prison.

Yet passion for the faith and not the threat of persecution is what drives the response of the Early Church. Stephen is mourned publicly and unabashedly. And while all but the apostles flee Jerusalem the focus is not on the fleeing but rather the fanning of the flame of faith which has not been extinguished but rather the torch is carried by Philip to Samaria. God’s chosen people in Jerusalem may have rejected the Messiah but the Gentiles of Samaria recognize the truth. Passion burns brightly even amid persecution.

The Church in India has always been persecuted both tacitly and openly. While the present dispensation has most evidently gaslighted the hate for the faith, previous dispensations played the anti-conversion card to their convenience. While we in the cities have rarely and randomly been subjected to public attacks, those in rural India have testified with more than just scars on their backs.

Leadership in the Church today does not reflect the stance of the apostles who stood their ground in Jerusalem nor does it reflect the great lamentation for the martyred. Even more, there are no Philips who choose to evangelize in the Samaria’s of India and as a consequence there is no joy in any town. Passion for the faith is frail, if nonexistent and ‘WATERed’ down Church leadership and not the ‘BLOOD’ of the martyrs seems to be the nourishment for the seed of Christianity. The results are obvious on earth, imagine the judgment in heaven.

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