Ordinary Time continues with a direct challenge for us to take the Reign of God seriously. Jesus asks us to follow the way of loving the Gospel above all things – including our own lives – and to give ourselves in service, sacrifice and simplicity in order to proclaim the message of God’s Reign through our lives, and to bring God’s grace and love to the world. If we are not completely devoted to God’s Reign, loving it more than all else, we will be incapable of loving others as they need,
or as God requires. But, if we embrace the way of Jesus in this radical way, we will find ourselves in conflict with the power-that-be, and we will experience persecution.
This is why Paul speaks about us dying to sin and rising with Christ – it is only as we die to the self-protective life of power-games, pleasure seeking, and excessive accumulation of wealth that we can embrace the abundant life of simplicity, service and sacrifice that Jesus offers. The Psalm echoes the pain of being persecuted for our commitment to God’s ways, and are comforting and encouraging in the way they reflect our experiences of suffering for the Gospel’s sake.
Finally, in the Old Testament readings we encounter two faithful people who were persecuted through no fault of their own. Hagar, who was cast away because of Sarah’s jealousy, but who was nevertheless cared for by God, and whose son was blessed. While it seems like the call to sacrifice and self-giving is the opposite of abundant life, the Scriptures are consistent in their call for us to believe in this counter-intuitive truth, and to have the courage and faith to give our lives for the sake of God’s Reign, while trusting in God to sustain us through whatever struggles we may face.