By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 27; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11
Theme: “Me I No Go Suffer…”
There is this popular song in Christendom with the title, “Me I no go suffer.” The lyrics read thus: “Me I no go suffer, I no go beg for bread (repeat once). God of miracles, na my papa oh (repeat continuously).” This song has its origin and finds support in the prosperity gospel brand of the Christian message which gives a false sense of entitlement to believers. The theology behind the song – if we can call that a theology at all – is that all Christians, by virtue of their faith in God, are immune from every form of suffering. Thus, suffering of any kind is the lot of unbelievers. The deep implication of such a song is that all believers must be blessed by God for the simple reason of their faith. In fact, it puts God in the debt of believers. This breeds a sense of entitlement where Christians begin to think that God owes them. Yet, the existential Christian reality proves otherwise. Thus, when these Christians do not receive the kind of blessing they have been conditioned to expect, they lose faith in God. Many of the people in the very churches were this pseudo gospel is preached are living in abject poverty while those who preach such falsehood to them often live in stupendous affluence. These merchants of falsehood in the name of pastors then set themselves as the ideal believer who is “blessed” by God for their faith and whose God (or god) their adherents should seek. This song referred to above and the logic behind it collapses when put under the lens of scripture because it is very unbiblical and far from the teachings of Christ Jesus and the apostles. This truth, we find in the readings of today’s Mass, and it shall form the basis of our reflection today.
In the first reading, we read that the apostles, together with the mother of Jesus, after Jesus’ ascension, returned to the upper room “where they were staying”, which according to a hint from Saint John, was “for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19). Why were they afraid of the Jews? The answer is obvious: persecution! Saint Peter says, as we read in the second reading, that believers should rejoice when they suffer on account of their faith in Jesus, stating that they should count it a blessing and a privilege to have to suffer for the sake of the gospel. In his own life and ministry, Peter and some other disciples rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41). In fact, Jesus at certain times, told his followers to expect suffering on account of his name (Mat 5:11; Mk 8:34; Jn 16:33). Suffering therefore, is a necessary part of the Christian life and calling. However, what scriptures reveal to us, especially in the readings of today’s Mass, is the consolation that all who patiently persevere and bear their crosses for Jesus’ sake, will receive consolation and reward from God. We see this in the three readings of today’s Mass.
The first reading describes the community of the disciples after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was in this upper room where they gathered that the Holy Spirit came upon them. Yet, not all the disciples of Jesus who walked with him during his ministry had that rare privilege of witnessing the ascension and receiving the Holy Spirit. It was only those who kept faith with him, endured the pain of his years of itinerant ministry and still believed in him even after he was ignominiously executed who received this glorious reward. Some of his disciples who left him midway (Jn 6:66) and Judas who betrayed him and later hung himself, all missed these glorious experiences. Saint Peter says in our second reading that when we share in Christ’s sufferings, then we may rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. He went on to add that those who are reproached for the sake of Christ are blessed. In the gospel reading, Jesus asked the Father to glorify him because he has accomplished the work he was given to do. As we very well know, that work was not a pleasant one. There were times when he was hungry, there were times when he was threatened with death by stoning, there were times when he was insulted, and there was a time when he was afraid. But he bore all these sufferings patiently, so he could ask the Father to glorify him. Note that none of these promises and expectations of glory and blessedness come from simply having God as our papa; in fact, these rewards are to be expected only when we have persevered and borne our fair share of hard times for God’s sake.
The big message for us today therefore is that we must be prepared as Christians to brace up to the challenges associated with the Christian faith. We must also never lose faith in God because of the hardships and persecutions we bear on account of our faith in God. Today’s liturgy of the word also calls on us to be resolute and persevering, for as Jesus says, “your endurance will win you your lives” (Lk 21:19). We must do well not to carry the “me I no go suffer” mentality, for it is not a correct Christian mentality, else when suffering comes, we may easily fall because we are not mentally and spiritually prepared for them.
As we celebrate the 54th World Communication Sunday today, the Pope’s message, which is dedicated to Story Telling, invites us all to tell stories that are edifying and that build up. Telling the correct story of the Christian message, especially to our children and all who look up to us in the faith, is a Christian duty that we must take seriously. We pray today for all who work in the media industry, especially those who use the media to propagate the true gospel message of Jesus, that the grace of God may grant them joy and fulfillment in their ministry. Amen