In today's Mass reading we heard about the conversion of Saul (St. Paul) in the book of Acts. While it's easy to focus only on the conversion of a man who had been persecuting the early Church, we shouldn't skip over a significant little detail that never gets talked about.
"On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
When Saul was struck blind on the road to Damascus he heard the voice of Jesus saying "Saul, why are you persecuting me?" "Who are you, sir?" Saul asked. Jesus responds "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting."
Jesus doesn't say "Why are you persecuting my Church?" but "Why are you persecuting ME?" He doesn't say "I am Jesus and you are persecuting my Church". Both times he identifies himself as the one being persecuted.
The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Catholic Church is not what he is, but it is who he is. This should be a chilling thought to those who so actively and aggressively persecute the Church or her children. Because it's clear that to persecute the Church, as Saul was doing before his conversion, is to persecute Jesus Christ himself!
Many of those persecutors might say "There's no God anyway, so I'm not afraid!"
To that, I would say this:
What if you're wrong? What if, at the end of your life, you face Jesus Christ, the Just Judge, whom you have spent so much time persecuting? Mercy is real and God's mercy is vast. I'm sure there will be mercy in that encounter and I'm sure Jesus will express more broken-heartedness than anger and rage. But there is sure to be justice as well. So what will you tell him? And what do you expect he'll have to say to you?
Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!