Luke 21: 12-19 Persecuted!
On November 1st, 2010, All Saints Day, nearly 50 Christians killed in Iraq, including two priests. What was their crime? Attending Mass in a Syriac Catholic Church. Islamic terrorists entered and killed. They want all Christians out. Now!
John Boehmer, the new House Speaker, condemned this latest atrocity towards Christians. He said, “This attack occurred during Sunday Mass, just as the congregation rose to recite, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” As a Catholic, as someone raised to cherish life and defend its sanctity, it is difficult to contemplate the twisting of the human soul required to shatter that peace and commit such a senseless act. It’s even more difficult to summon the restraint required to ease the trembling such hatred provokes. The enemy keeps innocents of all faith in its sights.”
In August, men and women affiliated with a Christian non-government organization working to provide eye care to people in remote and destitute areas of Afghanistan were executed in cold blood by the Taliban. Only their interpreter, who began reciting verses from the Koran, was spared.
Finally, yesterday, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming Mohammed was released from prison following an international outcry that included a specific plea on her behalf from the Holy Father. Bibi, 45, was charged a year ago for blaspheming Mohammad in a conflict with fellow farm workers. She was sentenced to death earlier this month. To be a Christian in Pakistan means to be at risk on a daily basis. All it takes is to be accused of blasphemy. I am sure she will be escorted out of the country before a raging mob get their hands on her.
Has the Lord changed his ways? The Psalmist worries, "This is what causes my grief; that the way of the Most High has changed" (Ps 77: 11). Has his loved vanished? Has his promise come to an end? Are Christians around the world being persecuted because they deserve it? Is the Lord upset with us? Is he upset with me? Why all this persecution? St. Paul laments, "For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered!" (Rm 8:36)
No. The ways of the Lord have not changed. How fitting the words of the Lord, “They will seize you and persecute you” regardless of where you are or what you are doing. We know that there is no other way. “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15:20). We tend to believe that the persecution is over. It’s not. The names of our persecutors may change from Romans to Taliban, but the degree of Christian persecution remains the same in the Middle East as well as in other parts of the world. Why are we being persecuted? To give testimony to the power of God.
Even in our beloved country, hatred, bitterness, resentment, ridicule and scorn are daily realities for many of us. In the work place, I know of a few that feel the heat whenever there is a discussion around Catholicism and the Holy Father in particular. You can get a taste of some of it from the comments that are left in some MSN articles.
As Christians we are taught to imitate our Lord; to love our enemies. We are also taught to give reasons for our faith. All this persecution can serve the Lord because it can lead us to give testimony for our God.
Today, I will give testimony for my faith. While I am reading some article, I will leave a comment in defense of the Holy Father, in defense of my Catholic faith and in defense of my King and Savior. I will not let a comment go unchallenged. The Lord does not necessarily want us to be prepared, but to pray beforehand, “for I [the Lord] shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute."