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Sat, 5/16/20: "...It hated me first."

Updated: May 20

The daily Mass Readings can be found: [Here].


In our first reading (Acts 16:1-10), Saint Paul meets the disciple Timothy, who becomes a traveling companion. Since Timothy's father was a Greek, Paul had Timothy circumcised. Presumably, Timothy consented to this as a condition for preaching the Gospel in other places.


It might seem odd that this happens in the aftermath of the Council of Jerusalem, since the matter of circumcision (and other Jewish laws) was addresses at the council. Saint Paul himself championed the understanding that Christians were not required to become Jewish first or to be bound to the Jewish Law. Yet here, we find him encouraging Timothy to be circumcised. Why?


It certainly was not a matter of Timothy's salvation. He was already saved as a Christian. Perhaps it was to avoid scandal. Timothy's circumcision was not for his own sake, but was so that the Jews, to whom they ministered, would not be distracted from the message Paul and Timothy preached.


Even today, disciples of the Lord continue to obey the laws of men, not as a matter of salvation, but rather to avoid scandal. They accommodate human strictures to protect the weak consciences of those to whom they minister. At the moment, I call to mind [Matthew 17:24-27]. Jesus permitted Peter to pay the Temple tax, not because they were obligated to pay tribute to Caesar, but rather in order "not to give offense to them" (cf. verse 27).


It's good to accommodate the sensitivities of others to the degree possible who are sincerely on the journey of salvation, when the matter at hand is morally neutral. It's a gentle accompaniment. However, avoiding scandal cannot be done by committing or consenting to sin. There are times, as the martyrs know, when the world is not looking for an accommodation, but rather for an abandonment or complete denunciation of the faith. If the disciple truly discerns that he or she is in such a situation, then the disciple has no other legitimate option than to embrace the Cross.


In our gospel passage (John 15:18-21), Jesus tells his disciples: "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you."


We ought never forget that we follow a crucified savior. As the Lord says, "'No servant is greater than his master'. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." You can tell a lot about someone by his friends. You can also tell a lot about someone by his enemies. Jesus was hated by certain people. Those same people will hate his followers.



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