I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one (John 17:14-15)

In today’s Gospel Jesus prays for his disciples on the eve of his departure. Having shared an intimate relationship with them he asks God to keep them safe and to protect them from the evil one.

Jesus knows that the disciples are disliked and hated by the world. He has a concern for their life in a world that will exhibit opposition and hostility to their message. Earlier he had warned them to expect suffering:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.  But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.   John 15: 18-21

The world in the Gospel does not refer to the physical environment in which we live. It is used in a technical sense to describe the sinful environment in which we live. An environment characterised by evil, sin and injustice. This world is not receptive to god’s word and opposes his servants.

Why are the disciples disliked? Not because they are morally superior to other people but because of their relationship with God. This relationship brings them into conflict with the world and their societies whose values and morals go against the teaching of Jesus Christ. Whenever we try to live by the standards of Jesus Christ we will experience persecution, rejection and suffering.

Very often witnessing for Christ involves going against the accepted norms and values of the society. To live a truly Christian life is always a challenge because at times it can mean that we have to stand alone. Many of us do not have the courage to stand alone and we give in to the pressures that are placed on us to compromise our beliefs and principles. I believe many of us can testify to the times when people tried to pressure us to change our views, to do the wrong thing, to compromise our values and principles. When we resist the pressure and stand for what we believe to be right we are ostracised, disliked and hated. It so happens that when we take a principled position we are criticised.

The world will hate us but as Christians we have to be prepared for rejection and be courageous to stand alone if we want to be faithful to Christ. We must always remember Jesus’ words to his disciples when he warned to be careful when all men speak well of you. We cannot escape suffering as Christians. In our homes, families, work places, social groups and organisations, the challenge to us is to stand for what we believe to be right, just and truthful. Sometimes, in order to be truthful and honest and so as not to compromise our principles we have to part company with the group, organisation or person as the case may be. Like Peter we must be bold to say we must obey God and not man.

The Gospel makes the point that we are to be different. Different in the sense that our value systems cannot be the same as those are not in a relationship with Christ. It does not mean that we withdraw ourselves from the world; we are to live in the world but be not affected by the world. We are to affect the world and bring about a change.

Today’s Gospel is an appeal for truthfulness in our daily living. In this context truth has two meanings; knowledge of God and integrity. In the first one we are to establish a loving relationship with God. This we can only do when we know God. It is not book knowledge; it is a life of faith and obedience. One can say to know the truth about God is to do God’s will.

The second aspect of truth is integrity; to be men and women of integrity. Truth in this context means, honesty, purity, uprightness, righteousness. To be a truthful person means more than not telling a lie. It means doing what is right.

If we are not strong we can easily give in to the pressure to do what is wrong. Sometimes people will say to us ‘what is your problem, everybody does it’. “Why are you trying to be different?” And so as not to feel left out we go with the tide. The words ‘everybody body is doing it’ are meant to make us feel left out and not part of the group. They aim to make us experience loneliness. Nobody wants to be alone.

When we go against the norms that are at variance with our Christian principles we appear to be strange people. ‘Strange’ people are not welcome. If you refuse to smoke marijuana and use cocaine you are strange; if you do your studies and pay attention to your school work you re strange;  if you refuse to drink and get drunk you are strange; if you are not immodest in your dress you are strange; if you work diligently you are strange; if you refuse to live an immoral life you are strange; if you are faithful to your spouse you are strange; if you are respectful and obedient to your parents you are strange; if you uphold the principles of your profession and do not bend the rules you are strange; if you come to mass and refuse to go to the party monarch or soca on the hill or fun walks or car racing you are strange; if you are mannerly and not rough or crude you are strange; if you are forgiving and not forgiving you are strange; if you do what is right you are strange. Are you strange? At times it is good to be strange.

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