By Fr. James Manjackal M.S.F.S.
I know that many Christians all over the world, are really sad and upset over the present persecution of Christianity everywhere, especially in the Middle East, by the ISIS and in Africa by the Boko Haram. These two groups – with the support of many other Islamic terrorist groups – have proclaimed a “Jihad” (holy war) against Christianity and its followers. Christians are beheaded, shot, crucified, buried, burned alive and mutilated. Women and children are raped and abused. Thousands of Christians have fled their homes and their homeland, and they are now forced to live in various refugee camps in alien countries. In the hostage beheading & burning videos, we see the terrorists along with their onlookers singing songs and worshipping their god (Allah) in Arabic language as in the times of persecution of the early church by Nero, Constantine, Diocletian, etc. under the Roman Empire. In those times when Christians were thrown before wild animals like lions, tigers, leopards etc. or burned alive and crucified, the pagans were clapping hands and singing songs to their god!
The other day a man
asked me with much anger in his heart towards the present Christian persecution,
“why don’t we go with weapons of mass destruction – like nuclear bombs
and destroy these murderers?”
THE REASONS OF PERSECUTION.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must know that Jesus our Lord had foretold that a day would come when His followers would be persecuted and killed by the enemies and that they would think that they would be worshipping God by doing so, “They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God” (Jn 16: 2). In the following words He had also explained the reason for this persecution and killings, “They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me” (Jn 16: 3). While on earth Jesus had told His followers, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you did not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15: 18-21).
Hence the reasons of persecution are clear; it is because we Christians belong to Christ and to His Father, it is because we are chosen by Christ through His Spirit, it is because our aim in life is the Kingdom of heaven, it is because we try to live a holy life according to the commandments of God and the Church, “In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Tim 3: 12)
After the second Vatican
Council, through various renewal movements, especially through the Catholic
Charismatic Renewal, Christians all over the world were awakened to God’s
call for a holy life; many indeed have committed themselves to Christ as
authentic witnesses of His love. Through prayers, Sacramental life, and
prayer groups Christianity is being renewed and strengthened. Surely Satan,
the enemy, is enraged at the renewal and growth of Christianity and he
is trying to use men and women from all religions to fight against Christians.
He is sifting the church with his cunning plans and tactics (Eph 6: 10-18,
1 Pt 5:8).
WHAT MUST WE DO AT THIS MOMENT?
Jesus had already told
that we are in the world like sheep amidst wolves and He had warned us
not to be afraid of those who kill the body but to be afraid only of those
who kill the soul and body in hell (Mt 10: 16, 26-27). It is not a time
to be sad and depressed or to nurture a spirit of retaliation in the heart
towards the enemies of Christianity. It is a time to rejoice and to be
glad because the Lord is blessing all Christians through these sufferings.
Every suffering in the Name of Jesus brings an abundance of blessings either
for the individual or the society. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said
that Christian suffering is blessedness, “Blessed
are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute
you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice
and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt
5:10: 12). Also we see similar teaching by the first Pope Peter,
do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if
something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that
you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the Name of Christ,
blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I
Pet 4:12: 14). We know that those who are persecuted and killed are really
saints and martyrs in heaven. It is about them that Jesus says, “
These are the ones who have survived the times of great distress, they
have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For
this reason they stand before God’s throne, and worship Him day and night
in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them” (
FORGIVE AND PRAY FOR THEM.
As authentic followers of Christ, at this moment, we Christians should be able to forgive our persecutors and murderers as our master, Jesus Himself, has taught us. We must put on the mind of Christ who forgave and prayed for His persecutors and murderers, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23: 34). We must pray that the Holy Spirit may open their hearts to know and to believe in Christ Jesus the only savior of the world and through Him, His and our Father in heaven.
Jesus has told us thus, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5: 44). St. Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse” (Rom 12: 14). Also he said not to retaliate or to take revenge, but go the extent of helping and feeding the enemy (Rom 12: 19-21).
I know that all over
the world Christians are praying to the Lord for an ending of this persecution
by the recital of rosaries, the way of the cross, the chaplet of the Divine
Mercy, as well as offering Holy Masses along with fasting and penance.
I heard that Christians in Kerala, although only a few in number are offering
one hundred million way of the cross, rosaries and fasting for this purpose!!!
Let us continue loving our enemies and praying for them so that one day
the persecutors themselves may become God’s children and our brothers and
sisters. Of course we need the power of the Holy Spirit to do this; but
we must know that the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts through
prayers and sacraments in the church (Rom 5:5).
CHRISTIANS SHOULD READ THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES!
“Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord” (Eph 5: 15-17). Why does Jesus allow such a persecution on those who follow Him? I think Jesus is giving us a chance to examine our consciences to see if we are really living an authentic Christian life. Is it not true that many Christians have left their faith in Christ and His church and are living as pagans, atheists, communists and a few even have become antichrists denying Jesus and His Father and are working against Christianity (I Jn 2: 22)? It is sad that there are baptized Christians amidst the ISIS and the Boko Haram! What is said in the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah are true of them, “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters. They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water” (Jer 2: 13). “… the Lord speaks: sons have I raised a reared, but they have disowned me! An ox knows its owner, and an ass its master’s manger, but my people do not know me or understand me” (Is 1: 2-3).
Perhaps it is true that the power of Satan, who is a murderer and destroyer is more at work in the world today because of the involvement of Christians themselves in Satanism, freemasonry, esoteric and new age. The Christians who once called upon the name of Jesus, are calling on Satan now in temples, lodges and places dedicated to Satan! Is it not Christians who brought the culture of death to this world in the present days by promoting abortion and euthanasia? It is deplorable that many Christian countries have legalized them!!! It was prophesied by late pope Paul VI that if free license is given to kill the children in the mother’s womb, oneday man will kill each other without law nor license. Yes this is happening now!!! Do we, who grieve over the murderers of thousands of Christians by Boko Haram and ISIS, grieve and mourn over the millions and millions massacred in the mother’s wombs by the weapons of the doctors!!! It is a shame that Christians are breaking the law and values of morality by promoting free sex, homosexuality, pornography, divorce, etc. Jesus our Master, taught us ways and rules to live an upright life, but we who boast of the law dishonour God by breaking the law. Because of us the name of the Lord is reviled among the gentiles (Rom 2: 23-24). Indeed we are re-crucifying the Son of God and holding Him to contempt (Heb 6:6). The book of wisdom says, “A man is punished by the very things through which he sins” (Wis 11: 16).
St Peter said, “But
let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evil
doer or as an intriguer” (I Pet 4: 15). I think that reading
the signs of the times in the light of the Word of God in the bible and
the teachings of the church, Christians should repent of their own sins
and failures and return to the Lord by a decision to follow the commandments
of the Lord and the church. The Lord says, “Return
to me and I will return to you” (Zac 1: 3). “We
are being collapsed through our own sins, let us turn to the Lord and say,
‘forgive all iniquity’” (Hos 14: 2-3). Christians should
live their identity; they are a people chosen by God – as Gods own people,
as royal priests and a holy nation to bear witness to His love (I Pet 2
:9). St. Peter says, “For it is the will of
God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people”
Pet 2: 15).
A WORD OF WISDOM TO THE ENEMIES OF CHRISTIANITY!
Let the enemies of the church know that Christianity is fire and if anyone blows the fire it will spread far and wide burning out all that is bad. The Roman Empire that tried to exterminate the maiden Christianity later became a Christian empire and even today Rome is the center of Christianity. Those who crucified Jesus the Son of God, as a criminal, thought that the story of this man who did signs and wonders ended with the crucifixion, but He became the superstar that attracted billions and billions all over the world. The whole world is divided into His followers and others. Christians don’t just believe in an institution called the church or its dogmas, but they are following a person who is Jesus Himself, the second person of the Holy Trinity who came to this world to conquer the world by love.
The power of the Risen Lord is radiating on every human being on earth, even on those who are his enemies. To every persecutor of Christianity Jesus is telling the same words He spoke to Saul, Paul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the church by entering Christian houses and dragging out men and women to be persecuted and killed, “Why are you persecuting me. It is hard for you to kick against the goad” (Acts 8:3, 26: 14). Jesus Christ whose name is Emmanuel – God with us, promised His followers His living presence and protection saying, “I will be with you until the end of the world” (Mt 28: 20). Christians will conquer the evil force of today by the power of the Blood of Christ and by the word of their testimony, the dragon of persecution will be crushed down and the power of the Risen Christ will be manifested by the conversions of the persecutors and murderers themselves like in the case of St. Paul (Rev 12: 11). The Christians will fight with the Lamb, who is Christ, and He will conquer the enemy, for He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and those with Him are called chosen and faithful (Rev 17: 14).
The church will rise again as powerful from the present crisis with the power of the Risen Lord in unity and sanctity. Christ is the center and focus of humanity and He will shine upon everyone and He will reign here on earth, and in His own time He will gather them to His kingdom in eternity (Rev 5: 10, 7: 17).
Jesus is Risen indeed, Hallelujah, He lives for ever and ever!!!!
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