Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Daniel 5:1-6.13-14.16-17.23-28; Luke 21:12-19)
Franz Jägerstätter was an Austrian conscientious objector during World War II. Taking cues from his Catholic faith, he refused to fight for the Nazis. Indeed, he wanted nothing to do with the Third Reich. In a plebiscite calling for Austrian unification with Germany, Jägerstätter was the only person in his village to vote against the resolution. He was finally tried and summarily executed for his stand. Not too many years ago Pope Benedict XVI declared him a martyr of the Church. How can his story be understood in the light of today’s gospel?
Jesus tells the people that when they are persecuted, he will give them words to refute their detractors. He is descriptive enough to say that “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” Taken at face value, his words seem betrayed by the stories of martyrs throughout the centuries. But the life that he promises to secure is not natural life but eternal life. The indestructible hair eluded to must be body parts that will be enhanced not diminished as a saint is inducted into glory.
This may sound surreal. Persecution and death are no small matters to be marginalized by anticipating future gain. They necessitate a deep commitment to the truth which is Christ. He opens us to God’s love which alone can make a hero of any of us.