During Holy Week, especially Maundy Thursday, the church often focuses on the last discourses of Jesus to his disciples before his arrest as recorded in the Gospel of John, chapters 14-17. At my parish, if we follow past practice, we will read these during our post-Communion vigil tonight.
In recent years, that focus each Holy Week has become my practice as well. And I am always moved by how these passages reveal the heart of Jesus towards us.
But I must confess I invariably focus more on other passages in these chapters than I do on the following for reasons that will become clear.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:18-20)
Not very pleasant reading, is it? Imagine how the disciples felt hearing it on that night. But if Jesus thought it needful to tell his disciples this on the night of his betrayal and if St. John saw fit to record these words, we best pay attention.
We Christians in the West may be lulled into complacency by the relative freedom we have had for decades and more. But only a glance at the headlines, which this Holy Week include attacks on Freedom of Religion even in the United States and more direct attacks on the lives of Christians in Kenya, shows Jesus’ words are as relevant and true as ever.
For each of the disciples who remained in the Upper Room, following Jesus meant being hated, even with a hate that would persecute, enslave and kill.
Yes, there have been lulls of that Satanic hate in history. But now we must open our eyes and prepare to be hated. For we are in no such lull today. To these also of Jesus’ words that dark night we must pay heed.