Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Pope John Paul II, who will likely be a saint before long, spent most of his time as Pope speaking the message, “Be not afraid.” This is an important message for the church.
What gives us the ability to stand unafraid in the face of the difficulties of this world? It is our faith in God that gives us this strength. The Second Reading today is the beginning of the great faith chapter in Hebrews. In this chapter, Saint Paul lists the great men and women of our faith and the great contributions they made to our lives due to their willingness to stand on faith and face the world unafraid.
We as Christians in America have lived a rather comfortable life. It amazes me the number of Christians who claim that just because someone disagrees with them, or because they do not want to be forced to accept their faith, that the Christian in question is being persecuted. This is ludicrous! This is not persecution. We do not know true persecution.
In the case of Pope John Paul II, he stood firm against the forces of Communism and fought for the rights of the church despite the threat of imprisonment or death. That is real persecution. By standing without fear in the face of these persecutions, Pope John Paul II helped to end the hold of Communism on his blessed homeland of Poland. Without faith though, he would not have been able to stand without fear.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, one of my namesakes, stood fearless as he stood at the gates of hell: Auschwitz. In fact, he was willing to take the place of another man, who had been chosen to die. This was true persecution and a true witness of St. Kolbe’s faith in Almighty God. Never once did St. Kolbe attack his captors, cry out about the inhuman treatment he received, or lament that he was being wrongly persecuted. No, St. Kolbe, quietly and fearlessly faced his persecution and death with the knowledge that what lay beyond was a great reward for his faithfulness.
This is what it means to be fearless and to have faith in God. It does not mean that we have to stand up and shout a message of the Gospel to others. No, it means that we fearlessly live our faith day in and day out regardless of who notices and regardless of the obstacles we may face.
In doing this, we will ultimately receive a great reward in heaven.