By Leon Suprenant | May 12, 2008
For the next two weeks, the reading for the weekday Masses will be taken from the Letter of St. James. Today we hear the first eleven verses of the opening chapter. The verse that really stands out for me today as I hear this passage anew is verse 3: “for you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
This verse reminds me of Romans 5, where St. Paul teaches us that our perseverance amidst trials and challenges produces a godly character and ultimately a hope that doesn’t disappoint, because the same Holy Spirit who descended upon the disciples on Pentecost dwells within us.
Perseverance in general means persisting despite obstacles or opposition. As we continue on our earthly pilgrimage, perseverance is the courage to remain faithful to God and trust in His promises precisely when we’re tempted to give up. And when with God’s grace we do persevere, our faith and hope grow that much stronger.
I thought I would share with our readers three recent teachings from Pope Benedict XVI concerning perseverance.
First, in his encyclical Spes Salvi, he comments on Hebrews 10:36 (“You need endurance [or 'perseverance'] to do the will of God and receive what is promised”). He says that “knowing how to wait, while patiently enduring trials, is necessary for the believer to be able to ‘receive what is promised’ (10:36).” He adds that in ancient Judaism this understanding of endurance or perseverance “was used expressly for the expectation of God which was characteristic of Israel, for their persevering faithfulness to God on the basis of the certainty of the Covenant in a world which contradicts God. Thus ['perseverance'] indicates a lived hope, a life based on the certainty of hope.”
Second, in his homily last month at Yankees Stadium, he noted at the outset that Our Lord told His Apostles to put their faith in Him, for He is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). He then gave the faithful in attendance, and indeed all those who were to hear or read his words, the “encouragement to persevere in the faith of Peter.” We don’t persevere alone, but as part of the Family of God, the Church, founded on the faith of the Apostles.
Third, at last week’s Wednesday Audience, Pope Benedict XVI exhorted the English-speaking pilgrims as follows:
“The risen Lord sent the Spirit upon His disciples, and from the day of Pentecost, the Church has constantly implored the Spirit’s gifts, which impel her to proclaim the Gospel before all the world. The presence and activity of the Spirit remind us that Christ never abandons His Church. The Spirit sustains our efforts to overcome division, to persevere in prayer, and to work for Christian unity.” He earlier mentions that our perseverance in prayer is what keeps alive the flames of faith, hope, and charity, which are the building blocks of the Christian life.
Perseverance in prayer, perseverance in the faith of Peter, grounding our lives in the certainty of a hope that does not disappoint.
We’re once again in Ordinary Time, but there is nothing “ordinary” about any of this, as with St. Paul and our Holy Father we keep the faith and press forward toward our heavenly inheritance.