A young man named Jim seemed to have everything going for him: a very successful business which he had started a few years earlier; a loving wife named Donna; and three wonderful little children. Then the bottom fell out of his world: Jim was diagnosed with lymphoma, and the prognosis was not good. When his doctor broke the news to him, Jim’s immediate concern was for his wife. Donna, he said, was emotionally fragile and very dependent on him, and painfully shy—so shy, in fact, that they had eloped in order to marry, as she couldn’t face having a public ceremony. How would Donna ever cope if he died, and she had to raise the children and run the business all by herself? Over the months which followed, however, as Jim struggled with his declining health and the brutal side effects of chemotherapy, Donna underwent a remarkable change. She took charge, calling doctors and other experts across the country, helping make her husband’s medical decisions; she was Jim’s rock of strength as she learned how to run his business successfully, and she supported and comforted the children. Donna calmly showed great courage, even when it became necessary to arrange for her husband’s funeral.
A few years later Donna met with the doctor for advice on another matter, and then the doctor, out of curiosity, asked her if, when she became aware of Jim’s prognosis, she knew she’d be able to do everything she ended up having to do. Donna answered no, and explained that as a girl everyone had called her shy, and so no one ever challenged her, and she never challenged herself. When she finally had to take charge during her husband’s illness, however, she found to her great surprise that courage and strength were actually an unused but very natural part of her character. Donna said, “Doctor, I was so shy that it took courage for me to say hello to someone, it took courage to go to the supermarket and to the cleaners, and it felt like a risk every time I answered the phone. It took a lot of courage just to live, to do the things that other people do without thinking every day. I guess over the years my courage just grew from being used all the time like that. And when the time came that Jim needed me so badly, when I could no longer be shy, but had to be courageous—well, I guess I was ready” (Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom, pp. 106-108). In the same way, if we put our faith into practice each and every day, we will be ready for whatever challenges the future may hold.
The apostles must have been badly shaken when Jesus announced that the Temple in Jerusalem would one day be destroyed; for devout Jews, that horrible possibility was not only distressing, but even unthinkable. Jesus didn’t stop there; He also spoke of coming wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues, along with family divisions, betrayal by loved ones, religious persecution, and even martyrdom, while warning that His followers would be hated by the world. In spite of all this, however, Our Lord promised that by persevering we would secure our lives—that is, eternal life in His Kingdom. This echoes God’s promise through the prophet Malachi (3:19-20): “For you who fear My Name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” God blesses and protects those who trust in Him—and the only true way to prepare ourselves for the trials and challenges of life is by valuing and strengthening our relationship with the Lord.
When Jesus spoke (Lk 21:5-19) of wars and insurrections, nation rising against nation, natural disasters, societal discord, and other terrible events and occurrences, was He referring to our own age? Certainly a strong argument can be made that our country is going to be held accountable for her many and ongoing sins, particularly abortion, widespread sexual immorality, and homosexual marriage; no society can reject God and rebel against His commandments without eventually paying a heavy price, and perhaps even sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Most of us over the age of fifty would probably agree that America is now a different nation than the one in which we grew up, and that many of the changes we’ve seen in our lifetimes are not for the better. Nevertheless, as Christians we are called to put our hope in God above our earthly fears, whether these fears involve the state of the world around us, or the worries and problems of our own individual lives.
Jesus says, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives,” which means not only our eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, but also our peace of mind here on earth. What does it mean to persevere in this manner? First of all, it involves making our faith a priority, and forming good habits that will see us through difficult times—particularly the habits of coming to Mass even when we don’t feel like it, going to Confession on a regular basis, worthily receiving Holy Communion every weekend, praying—at least for a few minutes—each and every day, and automatically asking for God’s assistance whenever we have important decisions to make or challenges to face. Secondly, it means always trying to do the morally right thing by being faithful to God’s commandments and the Church’s teachings, even when this means going against the crowd. Forming this habit helps ensure we’ll have the courage and strength we may need in the future to remain true to Jesus even when there’s a heavy price to be paid. Thirdly, having the perseverance Jesus speaks of means learning to trust in Him in all things and at all times, instead of giving into to worry or discouragement. Regularly praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, coming to Eucharistic Adoration whenever possible, and developing or strengthening our devotion to our favorite saints and, above all, the Virgin Mary, will help us grow in inner peace and reassure us that Our Lord loves us and will never abandon us—especially when life becomes difficult, confusing, or frightening.
A shy, emotionally fragile woman named Donna discovered that she actually had the inner resources needed to cope in very painful and disturbing circumstances; in effect, she became a hero to her family and to those who knew her. Jesus is asking us to become heroes in a spiritually threatening and dangerous age—not by relying on our own strength, but on His. Doing our best to live as His disciples will indeed prepare us for anything the future may hold, and He promises that we will never be forsaken or abandoned as long as we choose to place all our trust in Him.