The suffering church

“When they beat me I prayed to Mary to save me. As soon as I was provided with an opportunity I ran away” – Anup, a 25 yr old Christian student in Bangladesh.

“How could I close the house of God”? – Fr. Ragheed Ganni, replying to gunmen who had told him to close his church in Iraq. After he said this the gunmen killed him.

“Every day I got up early to pray, and every time they saw me they began to insult and mock me because of my Christian faith. I lived through this experience praying and having faith in God.” – Norma, a Phillippino maid, harassed by her colleagues and employers in Saudi Arabia.

There was a question in the Gospel today: “Who do YOU say I am?”

Jesus asks that of each one of us. Some of us don’t even hear the question, or couldn’t be bothered to answer. Some let their faith ebb away: they don’t bother to go to church any more. Others pay lip service by taking their bodies to church on Sunday to “tick the box” but during the week regress into the Godless ways of the world: consumerism, casual sex without commitment, putting “me” at the centre of their lives: there is no depth, no meaning no value to their faith.

At the other extreme people hear the question, answer it and consider what it means for them that Jesus is the Messiah. They then live out their answer. For those in many countries, living out their answer means accepting persecution and, for some, death. 

“We feel very encouraged when we know that we are not alone, when we see that there is somebody behind us, helping us, praying for us.”  – Archbishop Joseph Coutts, Karachi, Pakistan.

Persecuted people often feel great hope and support  just knowing that others are aware of and care about their suffering. We can support our persecuted brothers and sisters, firstly by finding out about them, secondly by praying for them and finally by considering what we might do to help them.

Jesus asks me:  Who do YOU say I am? How is my answer reflected in my life?

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