We spend a lot of our time and energy trying to get people to like us. Whether it’s at work, with our neighbors, in our family or even at Church, we want approval from the people around us. From the time, we are children, this need for approval drives many of our actions; we want to be liked. As years go by, it becomes habitual for us to take the popular path because we think that’s the road to acceptance. We watch TV and let the media decide the way we dress, what we eat and how we act. Surely, we think, if we do these things people will like us, we’ll be admired, we’ll be popular!
But popularity is not the message of the Gospel. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that if we belong to the world we will be loved by the world, but that as his followers, as his disciples, we have been chosen out of the world and the world will hate us. Being a disciple of Christ is not an easy lot!
Martyrdom today may not mean that we will be persecuted like the members of the early church, but perhaps instead that we will have to accept being unpopular and rejected. The world may indeed even hate us. But God calls us to do what we know is right, regardless of what others think of our words and actions. Sometimes people will laugh at us, disparage us, tell us we are being foolish! We’ll be told "no one does that, or nobody thinks like that."
But if we listen to what God is asking of us and turn away from what the world asks, then we will hear and answer the call of the Gospel. And we will hear the call to take Jesus’ message of love, justice, and compassion to the world. We are called to be Christ-like in all that we think, say and do – even when it isn’t popular.
Mary Lou Butler is a former staff member and a longtime partner of the Passionists in California.