“Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” This bit of wisdom from St. Paul to Timothy can be the seed of fruitful meditation for us on our Lenten journey. It is an exhortation to acknowledge and accept the sufferings we have not chosen in our lives, and it puts these hardships in the context of our common goal of building up the Church of God. We are all called to evangelize—to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to others. Suffering some hardship is a part of this calling.
Much of the witness we give in our daily lives is the result of the joy and strength we draw from Christ. When people see us enduring false accusations, slander, or persecution and doing so with joy, they see Christ at work in us. Often times it is our very persecutors who are moved by our strength. Each time someone asks: “How do you do that? How do you endure that? How can you smile at a time like this?” or other similar questions, we are given the opportunity to give witness to Christ Jesus. It is precisely when people see my earthly strength fail that I am most likely to convince them of God’s presence by continuing to endure. We live in a time that desperately needs the grace of God that we have been given. The gifts we have were given to us specifically for this purpose!
When people see you give alms even though they know your financial struggles, Jesus is glorified. When they see you stop to pray in public, especially in times of great hardship, Jesus is glorified. When they see you fasting even though they know you would love to partake of some earthly delight, Jesus is glorified. These Lenten practices are our heavy artillery in the war against this world’s complacency toward Christ. When we use our God-given talents and resources to serve the Church and those most in need, God is glorified. When we do so courageously and joyfully, the results are miraculous.
The people in your daily life are not able to see Christ transfigured on the mountaintop, but they are able to see you! You make Jesus present by your words and actions. When you act with courage and joy in the face of earthly hardships, it is then that He most clearly shines through you. May God grant us the strength and joy to be faithful and fruitful witnesses to Him.