The Grittiness of Discipleship
A Reflection for Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
“You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” (Lk 21:12-19)
Growing up, I heard the word grit a lot.
My father usually said the word. “Good things in life take grit” was one of several dad-isms in constant rotation as we drove to school in the morning and sat down for family dinner each night. Grit, along with “everything in moderation” and “doing the right thing is never wrong,” were phrases often sprinkled into our everyday conversation. These little bits of wisdom were adopted from my father’s robust collection of what I like to call “leadership literature”—the kinds of self-help books written by world leaders, former navy seals and high-powered CEOs.
My father, one of the grittiest people I know, first read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance in 2016.He read the book cover to cover, dogeared and annotated, and then gifted a copy to me, his firstborn daughter when I was of the age that held far more interest in young adult fiction than in leadership lit.
I don’t often read self-help. I certainly didn’t at age 16. But the word grit has stuck with me.
Duckworth defines grit as “passion or perseverance towards long-term goals.” Having grit is determined by the thoughts and emotions that cycle through your head when you fail, and how responding to failures—not talent or luck or intelligence—defines your strength of character.
By your grit, you’ll be given eternal life.
The book is targeted towards the corporate bosses of the world who want to dominate their workplace, but I believe the message applies to the disciples in today’s Gospel. Now, the disciples were not high-achieving financiers looking to climb the corporate ladder; they were fishermen or craftsmen who asked countless questions, doubted, faced persecution and, above all, followed Jesus.
In this passage from Luke, Jesus is teaching in the Temple and begins to talk about the end of times, cautioning his disciples about false prophets, wars, natural disasters and persecution that will occur. He advises them to remain faithful amid these trials, assuring them that he will provide wisdom and strength when faced with adversity. But while the disciples want to know when that time will come, Jesus is more concerned with his disciples trusting in him than knowing when the final day will be. Jesus, simply, reminds the disciples to have grit.
We don’t often think of the disciples as “gritty” people, but they were men whose strength of character was defined by how they responded to failures, doubts and difficulties. They watched their leader be crucified, and they watched people turn against them. And yet, through their belief in Christ, they found an enduring sense of purpose, coupled with the resilience to overcome their obstacles and share the Gospel message.
Jesus says that “because of [his] name” people will “seize and persecute” the disciples. He warns them that the bleak reality of following his mission is that people will not only disagree with them, but even the people they hold closest, “parents, brothers, relatives, and friends” will hate them for the beliefs that they hold sacred. Jesus reminds them that even in the face of death, through their “perseverance, you will secure your lives.” By your grit, you’ll be given eternal life.
Grit, the steadfast pursuit of one’s goals, is made manifest in our faith. By believing in Christ, we follow a mission that takes a wholehearted effort of perseverance and loyalty. Today’s Gospel reminds us: The good things in this life—and the next—require grit.