How We Deal With Failure

July 2, 2022

There are times when, despite our best efforts, we fail. Even though we know that our ministry is desperately needed, we are sometimes rejected.

How does a Christian deal with failure? As Christ told us, we shake the dust from our feet and move on. We are bearers of the Good News, and every person is free to embrace or reject God’s grace. Christ Himself could not convince everyone to follow Him, should we expect anything different?

Most of us are familiar with Saint Sebastian through the various works of art that show him riddled with arrows. It is understandable to assume he died from these arrow wounds but that was not the case.

Sebastian was a Christian soldier serving in the Roman army late in the third century. He was denounced as a Christian and condemned to death by arrows. A dispatch of soldiers shot him full of arrows and left him for dead.

But he still lived. He was found by a Roman noblewoman, also a Christian, who nursed him back to health. As soon as he was strong again, she encouraged him to escape into the countryside.

But instead, St Sebastian went back into the imperial palace and took up his old guard post. As the Emperor passed him by, the saint once again encouraged him to abandon his idolatry and believe in Christ. The enraged Emperor ordered the other soldiers to club him to death immediately.

It was apparent failures like these that ended up converting the entire Roman Empire to Christianity. In fact, the whole history of the Church has followed a similar pattern: cross, then resurrection. So we shouldn't be surprised when we find ourselves on the same path.

In many ways our culture today is just as hostile to Christ and the Christian way of life as it was under the time of the Great Persecution. When we try to live out Christ's teachings, defend our faith, and build up the Church, we often run into resistance, mockery, and humiliation.

Jesus knew we would; but still He calls us to be His ambassadors, spreading the Good News in spite of the rejection we encounter. If we fail, think of each failure as a drop of water hitting a rock of resistance. Over time, and many drops of water, the rock breaks down.

One of the greatest threats against us is discouragement. It is easy to feel we did something wrong, or we are not up to the task. If we let these thoughts settle into our hearts they stifle us and make us content to accept less. 

The truth is that discouragement is just disappointment over unfulfilled expectations. But Christ reminds us of what our expectations should be. We will face obstacles, be rejected and persecuted. If we know this then we need not be discouraged. We can be humble, trust in Christ, wipe the dust from our feet, and move on.

Pax Vobiscum
14th sunday in Ordinary Time


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