Out of Iraq: Blood and Forgiveness
Consider what that entails. We are his head, crowned with thorns. We are his hands, stabbed with nails. We are his face, spit upon and slapped. We are his back, bearing a cross, whipped without mercy. We are his heart, pierced and bleeding. We are his voice, crying out to the Father.
We are the body of Christ, shattered by bullets in a cathedral in Iraq.
All this we suffer, in ways large and small, because of his name.
Because we are Christians. We are the Body of Christ.
Last Sunday, one week after the attack at Our Lady of Salvation, the people who worship there went back. But it wasn't like before. And it wasn't like just walking into this church today. They had to walk past police barricades and military trucks. They had to pass a security checkpoint and be frisked for weapons. But, incredibly, they went back. They had to. They walked into a sanctuary pock-marked by bullet holes, with bloodstains on the ceiling, bloody palm prints on the walls. They removed the pews. And they set out candles in the shape of a giant cross.
One of the parishioners put it so simply, and so beautifully. He said that he returned because the week before he hadn't finished his prayers. I need to finish them, he said. A woman with a bandage around her knee told a reporter, "We forgive them. We're not afraid. They gave us blood and we give them forgiveness."
And then there is 28-year-old Helen Amir, a young mother, who did not belong to Our Lady of Salvation, but began going there last week to show solidarity.
Because we are the Body of Christ. We suffer together. We grieve together. We persevere together.
We are the Body of Christ. We get up when we fall. We move forward when we stumble. We forgive when we are wounded.
St. Teresa of Avila once famously said that Christ has no body on earth but yours -- he needs our eyes, hands, and feet to do his work.
We are the Body of Christ. We continue what Christ began.
And as the Body of Christ, we also await a resurrection.
That is our greatest hope.
The people of Our Lady of Salvation understand that. Their prayers and lit candles and continued presence in a place of destruction stand as a testament to that -- a beautiful hope that will not die.
"They will seize you and persecute you," Christ said. "You will be hated because of my name." But he also added: "It will lead to your giving testimony."
It is a testimony that the persecuted people of Iraq give with every moment of their lives -- just by staying together, and praying together, and hoping together.
This Sunday, pray for them. Pray for the families struggling to keep their faith, and finish their prayers.
Pray for all of the members of the Body of Christ around the world who carry the cross of persecution. Their wounds are our wounds, their loss is our loss. Pray that they can persevere and, as Christ said, "secure their lives."
And so we pray to our Blessed Mother . . .
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Our Lady of Salvation, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs . . . Pray for us.
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic Deacon serving the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, and an award-winning journalist. He blogs at The Deacon's Bench.