I’m not pretending to be Irish, but there is a saying that goes around on this day — St. Patrick’s Day — that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Most Irish people believe “Everyone is a little Irish on Saint Patrick's Day." Each year, St. Patrick’s life is celebrated on March 17 not only in Ireland, but throughout the world — by Irish and non-Irish alike. Apart from perhaps St. Valentine’s Day, it is one of the most popular celebration for saints worldwide.
My connection to St. Patrick’s Day is by threads. I have an old friend who is Irish whose birthday is on the celebrated day. As such, Michael’s friends are reminded of his heritage (if not his age) on this Irish holiday. My alma mater, Greenway High School in northern Minnesota, has its school colors as kelly green and white. Thus, each year, alumni and present-day students alike are reminded of the “wearin’ o’ the green." If that weren’t enough, Coleraine, the town where my high school resides, has Irish roots. About an hour north and west of Belfast, Ireland there is a town named Coleraine. I’m guessing it was here first because its history stretches back quite a number of years.
Again, I’m not pretending to have any Irish heritage within my own ancestry, but “the wearin’ o’ the green” has always been dear to my heart — mostly due to my school connection. I did not know until recently that there is actually a song called “The Wearin’ o’ the Green." The meaning behind the song gives me an entirely new perspective on what it means to be Irish. Just a quick summary — the song’s legacy dates back to 1798, when the Irish were battling against the British for their independence. The song became a rallying cry for the Irish, speaking out against the persecution Ireland was under at the hands of Great Britain. The “wearin’ o’ the green” actually was accomplished by putting on a shamrock. It symbolizes the struggle for the Irish people to overcome and win their independence in the midst of fierce persecution.
I imagine when we think about persecution, we have different ideas as to what that might mean. Our meanings of persecution can cover a lot of ground, all the way from the persecution of the Jews during World War II to a teenager getting his or her smartphone privileges suspended for two weeks. The latter example certainly pales in comparison to the former, but you get the idea. We have different ideas on what it means to be persecuted.
Jesus of Nazareth also has ideas on the topic of being persecuted. In one of his earliest teachings, he told the people near him that “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Being righteous literally means to be right, walking, talking and taking actions along a right pathway. Christians often talk about being righteous and, in most cases, actually strive to be righteous. In this view, the righteous person not only does the right thing for other people but also follows the laws of their religion. Being persecuted for following what you believe in your heart as the one right way to live isn’t always popular or accepted by everyone — reason being, that some will always have a different view of what the pathway of life should look like.
One of the symbols that Christians embrace as representing their beliefs is the cross. In fact, Jesus challenges his would-be followers to take up their cross and follow him. The “wearin’ o’ the cross” by Jesus followers is a sign that tells a lot about what they believe in. During the season of Lent, persons are called to learn a deeper meaning of taking up their cross and following the righteous pathway set forth by Jesus in the Bible.
I can’t tell you how or if you should wear the cross or what your beliefs about being righteousness or persecution ought to be. Every person needs to determine those things for themselves. I can only tell you what Jesus said about the right pathway: “Take up your cross and follow me." It can be an action that invites persecution, just like the “wearin’ o’ the green." Perhaps I can get by being Irish for one day, but it doesn’t mean that I am. To be Irish is to remember that their proud history includes persecution and overcoming challenges. To be a follower of Jesus is remarkably the same: overcoming persecution and challenges to your faith.
Blessings to each one who has decided to be “wearin’ of the cross” and a very happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who are “wearin’ o’ the green!”
Daren Flinck is pastor at Worthington's First United Methodist Church and Adrian United Methodist Church.