Memorial of St. Hilary of Poitiers, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Hebrews 3:7-14; Mark 1:40-45)
In the Western world material comfort distracts many from following Christ. Pastors should urge their congregations to keep their eyes on him whose resurrection from the dead is their hope and promise. In the East the situation is more dire, and the pastoral challenge more daunting. Christians are persecuted regularly and, all too often, with little recourse to justice. In November Muslims massacred sixty Catholics who were worshipping in church, and last month a similar atrocity was inflicted on Coptic Christians in Egypt. Pakistani Christians are also constantly harassed. Lest we think discrimination against Christians is exclusively the work of Muslims, in India the Hindu majority can show prejudice toward to both Christians and Muslims which has erupted into violence.
Throughout the whole world then the admonition of the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews today is relevant. We must hold fast to belief in Christ, as hard as it sometimes is. It is a sure road to personal peace as Jesus provides spiritual companionship that cannot be taken away. More significantly, he is the only way to eternal life. In our liturgy today we remember a model of religious endurance under persecution. St. Hilary was exiled from his native France for defending Christ’s divinity against the compromising assertions of the Arians. In exile he did not stop proclaiming the truth of Christ, and when returned to his diocese of Poitiers, he proclaimed Christ as the eternal God until his death.