India: Faith Grows Among Persecuted Christians in Orissa

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We have been faced lately with the defection of a number of highly-placed American Christians on serious matters of faith. 

In particular, there has been a large retreat among political and intellectual Christian leadership on the question of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They are either tossing marriage out the door altogether, or they are, as I was once counseled concerning abortion, urging the rest of us to leave our beliefs at home or inside our houses of worship. 

I’m not talking about one, specific, runner. I’m talking about a whole group of people who have grown fat off denouncing other people for not supporting the very values they are now running from themselves. Excuse me please if I won’t go along with their self-serving patter. 

But I’m not going to. 

I think they’re self-serving phonies. 

I also think that they should consider persecuted Christians around the world who are holding fast to the cross in the face of horrific suffering. 

A case in point is the persecuted Christian population of Orissa, India. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa, eastern India) says,

“Faith in Orissa is growing because of the persecution. This mission, in the face of violent persecutions, has become the focus of religious and priestly vocations.”

Consider, for a moment, what sincere Christians face in India. According to Archbishop Barwa, 

… the district of Kandhamal, where the majority of Catholics of the Archdiocese live, has faced untold persecution”. The highest point were the pogroms of 2008: “During the persecutions, there was an ethnic cleansing of all Christians in 400 villages, more than 6,000 houses, 340 churches and chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed. Thousands of believers were injured, several women and girls, including a nun, were raped and about 60,000 men, women and children were left homeless”. The Bishop recalled that 75 Christians (22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 5 of independent churches) and 8 non-tribal Christians were brutally murdered.

The text continues: “Five years after the persecutions, visiting the affected communities, the faithful say to the Bishop: the persecutors burned our houses, property, and killed our loved ones, but they did not manage to destroy our faith and cannot separate us from the love of Jesus Christ .We are proud to be Christians and proud of our faith”. Words and actions of this kind “are clear signs of growth in faith. They may be poor and illiterate, but rich people of faith”, he comments.
The Archbishop explains that still there is no guarantee that persecution will not be repeated: “We live trusting in God and making every effort, as individuals and communities, to build peace in Kandhamal, but we surrender to God and say: Let there be your will”.

He goes on to describe what I believe is beginning to happen here in the “Christian” West when he says, “Each growth is a process that requires pruning, trials and suffering.”

The devil is collecting the low-hanging fruit with the runners who are running away from traditional marriage in America today. These folks don’t need persecution to make them tuck tail and skeedaddle. If you stop and think about it, they’ve never really talked about following Jesus. Their focus for decades has been on denouncing other people. They haven’t urged us to live by our faith or even to bring people to Christ. Their entire focus has been on manipulating us into believing that being a Christian was summarized by how we vote.

The purpose of all this wasn’t our souls or the conversion of our culture. It was their power.

All they needed to switch horses on these issues they were pushing in lieu of actual Christianity was for the manipulations to stop delivering enough votes to give them the power. They are switching — and trying to get us to switch along with them — on 2,000 years of Christian teachings because denouncing people over those teachings has stopped being profitable. The minute they see the money is leaving the fight, they leave the fight right behind it. 

Christianity is growing in India because the Christians there are following Christ. 

Cowardice and Christianity don’t mix. Opportunism and political manipulations don’t mix with Christianity, either.

They never have.

Christianity was so ascendent here in the West that its popularity covered for the manipulators and cowards in our midst. But things are changing. Faithfully following Jesus is beginning to be a career breaker, rather than a career maker. 

We shouldn’t be surprised when people who were only pretending to follow Jesus in the first place fall away under these circumstances. It is inevitable. 

I am humbled by the persecuted Christians in our world today, those in Orissa among them. I know that God holds them close, because I know that none of us has the courage to stand toe to toe with satan incarnate and not run unless the Holy Spirit is empowering them. 

We need to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can, including by praying for them every single day. I hope they in turn will pray for us.

Because their prayers avail much. 

Because they walk with God. 

 

The link to this article is courtesy of reader Fabio. 

The Heresy of Little g gods and Running Runners Who Run Away

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Don’t be alarmed by defecting Christians.

It’s just the Holy Spirit, pruning the dead wood. 

Christianity in America suffers from a blight that is choking out the Word and covering up the Light of Christ. 

That blight is the heresy of conflating Christ the Lord with partisan politics. This has gone on so long and become so endemic that a lot of people actually think that they are following Christ by how they register to vote. 

Even worse, people who confuse Jesus with the R and the D always seem to end up lopping off parts of Jesus in order to make Him fit into the partisan box. If you’re an R, this has historically meant that the Sermon on the Mount is just jesus (little j) blather that comes from the First Century and doesn’t mean much. I’ve had the experience of using the phrase “If you’ve done it to the least of these, if you’ve done it to Me,” in debate and seeing the bored, patronizing expressions cross those Republican faces. 

They don’t want to hear it. 

Likewise, anyone who has ever gone into a Democratic Party what-not with the idea that gay marriage or abortion or any trendy social sin is not a “human right” is going to learn what the word “cut” means in the Victorian sense. They will cut you dead. And that’s if they’re in a good mood. 

My point, which I’ve made over and over again, and which I’ll keep on making until it’s no longer pertinent, is that the R and the D aren’t Jesus. Party platforms aren’t the Gospels. 

We are now living with the inevitable consequences of this decades-long heresy of political jesus. People are increasingly sick and tired of the heresy. They find — quite rightly — that it is a sham and a flam and that partisan politics jesus is a bogus god not worth their time. 

Many outspoken Christian leaders have maintained so loudly and for so long that this perversion of the Gospels that they’ve been preaching is, in fact, the true Gospels of Christ, that they’ve managed to convince not only their besotted followers, but the larger population, as well.

A lot of people believe that political jesus; political party apologist jesus, mean and heartless django jesus, is actually Our Lord.

Why do they think this?

Because Christian religious leaders and their followers have been telling them so for decades.

This group of disenchanted, disaffected-with-Christianity reactors to political django jesus, has grown to the point that they are now able to affect the outcome of national elections. Which means that they are now players.

That also means that the same political parties who’ve used and abused the name of Christ for so long are now trying to get shed of Him. The stampede for the exit ramps among politicians and professional Christians of every stripe has become such a crowded field that it is a parody of itself. 

STAMPEDE

The National Review published a whimsical essay today titled “A Form Letter for Defecting Conservatives.” This humorous article is an accurate representation of what is happening and the flabby, flimsy lies these runners are using to explain themselves. 

What interested me the most, however, is that the National Review’s title underscores the heresy I’m talking about. The “issues” these running rabbits are dumping are the same issues that traditional Christians have fought for these past decades. They are the issues that put the Rs in the winner’s circle. Hence, the use of the word “conservative” to describe these folks. 

However, what they are, are sham Christians who’ve used a faked fealty to Christ to win elections or build big careers in publishing, think-tanking or some other moneyed and powered endeavor. As anyone who isn’t wearing a mental blindfold can tell just by looking around, they haven’t done much good. But they have certainly done well. 

The reason they are hitting the door on these “issues” now is because they never believed them in the first place. I’m not saying that people can’t experience a change of heart, that they can’t be converted. But this mass stampede of political opportunists for the higher ground of a different take on traditional Christian teaching has nothing to do with conversion. It is pragmatic people being pragmatic and taking care of themselves. 

Runrabit

They never believed it in the first place, and whatever they tell you now, they don’t believe that, either. 

The heresy here is that none of this — none of it — has anything to do with Jesus. By conflating politics with the Gospels, we have corrupted politics and defamed the Gospels. These aren’t “defecting conservatives. ” The reason they aren’t is that issues like the sanctity of human life and marriage are not issues. They are truths. The sanctity of human life and marriage are not “conservative” values. “If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me,” is not liberal spin. 

These are the law and the prophets of God Almighty. They are the teachings of Christ the Lord. 

We are beginning to reap the whirlwind that we have sown by lying about the nature of God for political gain. 

My advice is don’t be alarmed or dismayed by all these recanting Christians and born-again nihilists. 

Let them go their way and don’t worry. 

The Holy Spirit is pruning the tree of life so that it can bloom anew. 

 

Here, from Monty Python, is an anthem for the runners.

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Pope Francis: Following Jesus Requires Sacrifice

As we move into the post Christian world, we are going back to a time when the Way was indeed “narrow” and “few were chosen.”

The cheap grace of following the world in Jesus’ name is not grace at all. It is a lie we tell ourselves to keep from having to “chose this day whom” we “will serve.”

Sadly, it is also a delusion. Trendy jesus, pragmatic jesus and all the other false messiahs these theological snake-oil salesmen are selling having nothing to do with the real Jesus Christ Who was crucified on Calvary and calls each succeeding generation of Christians to “pick up your cross and follow Me.”

Following the real Jesus exacts a price. As the Light is smothered by the ever-encroaching darkness of humanity’s fealty to its own passions rather than the living God, the price for those who do not accede to the darkness goes up exponentially.

We may be willing to be friends with those who serve other gods, but they will not be friends with us. We may find our careers truncated, our friendships forfeit, our lives troubled in many ways when we follow Christ. He told us this would happen. If the world hates you, remember that it first hated me, He said.

The anger directed at us is just a side-blow, a glancing near miss of the object of the real hatred, which is satan’s hatred for the Savior of Humankind. Those who attack people for following Christ, even if they only do it with rudeness and exclusion, are the unwitting pawns of this evil.

Our task is always to be the witting servants of the good. God has no use and no desire for “unwitting pawns.” We can blunder into following satan, but we always chose to follow Christ.

Life in Christ is an intentional, moment by moment, living out of the faith. It can only be done through grace, and that grace does not come from us. There is no intelligence, courage or intuition we possess in and of ourselves that can equip us for following Jesus in a post Christian world.

The capacity to follow Him is a free gift of divine grace. He equips us to run the race that is before us if we ask Him daily and trust Him constantly. When we fail, all we have to do is reach out to Him and ask for forgiveness. That’s all there is to life in Christ: Just say “yes” to Him, and keep saying “yes” as each new challenge arises.

This is the Living Lord Who stood before Pilate, endured the blows and humiliations, hung from the cross and died. He understands everything He is asking of us because He has already endured all of it and far worse for us. He can help us on the Way as someone who has walked it Himself.

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Want to See Pope Francis? Here’s How.

First, you’ve got to go to Rome.

Here’s what to do next if you want to be part of one of Pope Francis’ General Audiences while you’re there.

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 8

St Michael

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 8 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

For today’s meditation, let’s think about the onlookers at Calvary.  

Every year on the Sunday before Easter, we re-enact the Gospel of Mark. In my parish, it’s the custom for the priest to take the role of Jesus and the parishioners to take the role of the condemning crowd that yelled “Crucify Him!”

But the actual crowd of that day when they crucified Our Lord was more mixed. The onlookers ranged from the holiness of Our Lady and the faithful women, to the taunting cruelty of the priests. 

These priests were not satisfied with what they had wrought. They followed Jesus to Golgotha and stood at the foot of the cross to taunt Him. 

“If He is the messiah,” they said, “let Him come down from the cross. He saved others. Let Him save Himself.”

This taunting mockery tells us two things. It demonstrates how completely these fallen priests were in the grip of satan, and it also shows how afraid they were of Jesus. 

This Jesus they were murdering had raised three people that we know of from the dead, but the one that upset the priests the most was Lazarus. In fact, it was the resurrection of Lazarus that pushed them into moving forward with their murderous plot. Now, they stood at the cross where Jesus hung, helpless and in agony, and mocked Him. He saved others. Let Him save himself, they said, as if to reassure themselves. 

But the priests were not the only ones who mocked Him. All along the way to the cross, the road had been full of gawkers, mockers and a smattering of genuine mourners. Most of these people probably left once the show of watching this desperately injured Man attempt to drag his cross up the hill was over. After he’d been nailed to the torturous device and, as He foretold, “lifted up,” there was nothing left to see but the slow dying of a totally humiliated human being. 

Most of them probably left, because they got bored. 

There were two groups to whom this whole affair was so deeply personal that they shared in His agony with Him. The first, oddly enough, was a group of people who were, by their own choosing, not there. The disciples who had followed Him, lived with Him, been taught and loved by Him, had run away from Him in His hour. 

Anyone who doubts the veracity of the Gospels should consider the raw and unflattering way these men described themselves. John Mark was in such a panic that when one of the soldiers who arrested Jesus grabbed his garment, he jerked free of both it and the soldier and ran away into the night naked. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying and cursing Jesus while Jesus looked at Him. The others fled like bunny rabbits into the darkness. 

They all went into hiding. They left Him to His fate. 

The other group stayed with Him throughout the ordeal. They stood at the foot of the cross, they buried Him in the tomb, and they came back a few days later to anoint his body for burial. 

This group was led by His Mother and included the women who followed Him, plus one disciple. John ran away with the others on the night He was taken. 

But He came back.

And he stood there with the women all that day long. 

Let’s consider what these faithful followers witnessed. The crucifixion of Our Lord did not resemble the prettied up presentations we see in the art that hangs on our church walls. 

It was ugly.

It was meant to be ugly. This kind of death was not meted out to Roman citizens, because Roman citizens were exempt from being reduced to the level that crucifixion took people. 

The cross was a protracted, humiliating death in which the person died alone, naked, in terror and in agony. 

The cross was then, and it is now, the full and complete message of how much God loves us. It was also then and is now a scandal and an embarrassment to those who want to follow a good-times god of prosperity and social acceptance. 

Those onlookers who gawked, mocked, ran away from and stood faithful before the cross can teach us a lot. It is not so much a question of which one of them would we have been back then as it is which one of them are we today. 

Christians are dying for Christ all over the globe. They suffer persecution, discrimination and terror on a daily basis. They are carrying their cross. 

But what of us? 

There is a large group of people who deny the fact of Christian persecution. They mock and jeer if the topic comes up.

There is another group who shrugs and says, What can we do? “What can we do?” is a fair question, if it is a question. “What can we do?” can easily be re-phrased to mean “How can I help?”

Put like that, as a beginning of a search for what we can, in fact, do, the question is both honorable and positive. 

But if it’s a dismissal, as in “What can we do,” said with a shrug and a turning away, then it is both dishonorable and deplorable. 

We are the onlookers as Christ is being crucified in our persecuted brothers and sisters today. 

Our first task is to pray. We need to pray for them, and for God’s guidance about what we can do for them. Our second task is to tell their story. Lift them up as the true martyrs for the faith that they are. Give them the respect they deserve by respecting their sacrifice for Our Lord. 

Never shrug and turn away from Christ crucified right in front of you. 

Pray and speak for them. Pray and witness to their witness. Pray and refuse to be silenced by the sneers and jeers of satan, speaking through the mouths of those who support this murder of innocence with their demands that we say nothing and do nothing for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Christ is crucified in the world today. We are the onlookers.

Mocker, gawker, run-away or faithful: Which one are you? 

 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 8. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 7
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 6
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Professional Christians, Pragmatic Jesus and Finishing the Race

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So some guy named Joseph Bottum wrote a flabby-blabby essay for Commonweal about how he’s a born-again gay marriage supporter.

In certain Catholic circles Mr Bottum’s decision to change political horses, is BIG NEWS.

I’m barely Catholic so far as the intellectual Catholic culture is concerned, which means that all this carrying-on and hand-wringing went right over my little Okie head. Everybody else seemed all worked up about it, so I googled the guy.

It appears he’s a former editor of a conservative Catholic publication called First Things and the author of several books. He basically sounds like a man who’s been making his living off being a Faithful Catholic bringing The Truth according to him to the uninformed masses. 

Based on what little I’ve read of First Things, it is a big sea change for its former editor to kick the real Jesus to the curb and recommend that we all follow politically pragmatic Jesus and “accept” gay marriage. In fact, such a thing would have been unthinkable — career suicide, if nothing else — for someone with Mr Bottum’s resume even a few months ago. 

But with respect to Bob Dylan, the times they are achangin’ and lots of Professional Christians are going to find that their bread is buttered on the opposite side of what it once was.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re going to see a lot of this. Successful people follow the money. That’s what they do. It’s how they got to be successful people. For a long time now, the easy money on the Catholic side of the street has been to try to out-faithful the faithful, at least in public. John Corapi road off on his Harley as a millionaire.

I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum’s finances. In fact, other than a quick read of his execrable essay and an even quicker google search, I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum.

I’m not writing this about him. I’m writing it about us.

We officially entered post Christian America with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage last summer. A lot of Christians haven’t gotten the memo yet, but that doesn’t change the situation. As we move deeper into this new reality, the smart money types among us are going to betray Christ. 

They will try at first to broker themselves as negotiators for the other side of this culture war, as Mr Bottum has done in his essay. He’s being hailed as a hero in certain high-profile circles, but that won’t be true of the stragglers who switch further down the road. Professional Christian deserters lose their cachet when there’s a glut of them. 

Mr Bottum’s argument to other Catholics as to why they should abandon Church teaching on marriage is just about the crudest argument anyone can make. 

We’re gonna lose anyway, he contends, so let’s give this one to the culture and concentrate on areas where we can win. 

That, and he had a casual friend who is gay that he sees once in a while who won’t talk to him anymore, which proves that people hate the Church for its support of traditional marriage, which proves … I dunno … that Jesus was right when He said,

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 

Mr Bottum’s viewpoint doesn’t exactly track with the Jesus who said that. In fact, it is so mind-bogglingly anti-Christian that it takes a moment for a Christian to grok it. Who told Mr Bottum that Christians are called to win, and if they don’t win, to walk off the field? For that matter, who told him that following Jesus wouldn’t cost him the loss of friends?

Not Jesus, that’s for sure. 

People are suffering and dying all over the world because they won’t turn their backs on Jesus. They aren’t being pragmatic. They are being faithful. 

More and more of the professional Christians who’ve been living high off the religious fat are going to cut and run. Christianity has been on the ascendant in Western society for so long that a lot of people have built lucrative careers and garnered our respect and trust by posing as super Christians while they were ripping it off the whole time. Now that we live in a post-Christian culture, they’re going to begin, as gay people say, to “come out.”

I don’t know if Mr Bottum is one of these. What I know is that he’s done well by being a professional conservative Catholic and now he’s backing up on an issue that conservative Catholics have long deemed “non-negotiable.”

My point is that we’re going to see more of this and we shouldn’t let it bother us. We certainly shouldn’t follow these guys. 

We need to keep close to God in prayer and through the sacraments and, as St Paul would say, finish the race. 


For more on this story see Why I Am Catholic, Feast of Eden and Catholic and Enjoying It

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 6

Michael archangel

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 6 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Today, let’s meditate on the soldiers who carried out the orders to crucify Our Lord.

Corrupt priests used their influence with the Roman governor of Judea to push him into consenting to the crucifixion of Jesus. This roman governor, whose name was Pontius Pilate, tried to avoid committing this murder, but in the end, he yielded to the pressure from the priests and ordered it.

Who carried out the order?

Roman soldiers.

Roman soldiers scourged Jesus until He was so weakened, probably from loss of blood, that He fell repeatedly on His way to Golgotha. Roman soldiers put a purple robe around his shoulders and a crown of thorns on His head and beat Him and mocked Him. Roman soldiers impressed Simon of Cyrene into forced service to help Jesus carry His cross.

They drove the nails, pulled the cross upright and cast lots for His robe. It was a Roman soldier who thrust his lance into Jesus’ side after His death and was drenched in the blood and water that flowed from it.

What of these men who were just following orders? How, other than as pawns on the stage of history, do they play in this drama?

These were hard men; harder than we can comprehend. First century warfare was man to man; hand to hand. Roman might was based on an infantry formation called the Roman Phalanx. This phalanx required steel nerves and total dependence on the man next to you to hold his place.

Roman soldiers fought as units who depended on one another for their lives. They also, as the Roman peacekeepers in this dusty outpost of Judea, were charged with the bloody business of putting down uprisings among the civilian population. When Pilate ordered the death of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices,” it was Roman soldiers who did the killing.

They were probably sick of the Jews and their uprisings and God-talk.

The Passover season was almost certainly a dreaded, disgusting time for them, with its crowds, high tensions and boring religious practices. When these men thought of “religion” they associated it with temple prostitutes and wild high drama. Fun stuff.

These religion-besotted Jews with their shalt nots and insistence on taking a day off every week didn’t even follow an entertaining God.

Roman soldiers, as soldiers everywhere, were probably early risers. But the ruckus these hoity-toity Jewish priests raised about the nondescript miracle worker from Nazareth not only disrupted their morning, it most likely got them out of bed early. It cheated them of the slower convivial start to their day.

Instead of enjoying their breakfast with their friends, they had to scourge this Jew.

They were good with the flagellum and whip. They’d scourged lots of people. It took strength, physical endurance and skill to wield the flagellum so that its metal ends dug through the skin and into the muscle below without actually tearing into the vital organs beneath.

Scourging a man almost to death in this fashion was hard, physical labor. This Jesus was to them just an unnecessary piece of work that was forced on them by these impossible people and their insulting religious demands.

Their cruelty with the crown of thorns almost certainly had nothing to do with Jesus directly. He was just a job of work to them. But they were angry. They almost scourged Jesus to death in their anger. Then, they tortured Him with their mockery and cruelty. 

Jesus was not a person to them. He was an addition to their workload and a disgusting annoyance. Truth be told, the devil-driven rage they vented with the whip and later with the crown of thorns was probably aimed more at the priests and the whole Jewish people than at Jesus.

They faced a hard, disgusting task that day. They had to execute two criminals by crucifixion. When Pilate added Jesus’ name to the list, that only increased their workload again. The other two men they were charged with executing were strong enough to carry their crosses. But the soldiers found that they had overdone the beating they gave Jesus.

He had lost so much blood that He couldn’t carry the cross. He fell repeatedly, until finally they had to force an onlooker to help him.

These Roman soldiers were hard men. Callous and cruel men. But they evidently weren’t spiritually dead men, at least not all of them.

Two people converted on that hill that day.

The first was one of the thieves. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom, he asked Our Lord. His reward for this simple act of faith was what we all long to hear; Today you will be with me in paradise. 

The second convert was one of the hardened Roman soldiers.

What was it that caused this soldier to exclaim, Truly, this man is the Son of God? 

How did he hear the Holy Spirit, speaking to him? God’s own Levitical priests and the Roman Governor would not hear this Spirit of God, even when, in the governor’s case, he was warned explicitly.

Why was this hardened soldier who had helped drive the nails the one who listened to that small, still voice?

How many of the soldiers and thugs who go out to torture, attack, rape, kidnap and murder Christians in the world today are turning their backs on the call of the Holy Spirit while they do it?

This Roman soldier was not a thug. He was part of a disciplined military unit of professional soldiers who depended on one another for their lives. But he stepped away from the groupthink of that unit and saw Jesus for Who He was. This same soldier had participated in the torture, degradation and ultimately, the murder of Jesus.

Yet the Holy Spirit gave him eyes to look past the blood and gore and into truth of Who he was dealing with.

He knew.

Those who attack Christians and murder them also know. The things they do are condemned first by the natural law that informs all of us that torture, rape, kidnapping and murder of innocence is wrong. There is no ameliorating explanation that can alter the wrongness of these things. There is no reason or excuse or idea that can ever make them right.

Those who attack Christians because they are Christians are also condemned by the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking inside their consciences, telling them to stop.

It is a simple fact, and an ugly one, that the corrupt priests and cowardly politicians who demand these atrocities send other people to commit them.

Every hand that throws a rock or lights a fuse or lifts a gun against Christians is the hand of the Roman soldiers wielding the whips and driving the nails all over again. Persecuted Christians are Christ crucified, right in front of us. Those who carry out the persecution with their own hands are His executioners.

We need to pray for these executioners of the Body of Christ. Pray that they will put down their weapons and turn away from this blood sin they are committing against the Son of God. Pray that they will tell the corrupt priests and cowardly politicians to go to hell alone.

 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 6. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5

St

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 5 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Our Lord was crucified by a group of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician. Yesterday, we looked at the cowardly politician. Today, let’s meditate on the corrupt priests. 

The Levitical priesthood of Jesus’ day was corrupt. It had become a priesthood that, as Jesus said, does not practice what it preaches. 

This was so widespread that Jesus bluntly warned His followers to beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 

He went on with a warning that nothing that is covered up that will not be known, which was a frightening warning for those with the good sense to heed it that all our pretenses to goodness will be shown for the pretense they are when we stand before God. 

Both Jesus and John the Baptist before Him denounced this corrupt priesthood in unforgettable language. When the priests went to where John the Baptist was baptizing people, he said Brood of vipers! Who told you to flee the coming wrath?

Our Lord was no gentler in His condemnation of them. He repeatedly called them Hypocrites … blind guides … snakes … brood of vipers … white washed tombs that on the outside are beautiful but inside are full of corruption. 

The Levitical priesthood was corrupt. It had become a collaborator with the Roman conquerors to keep the people down. It used its power to interpret the Law of Moses to create new and more difficult regulations that it heaped on an impoverished and suffering people. These priests lorded it over the people of God. They used the law to punish and batter them. 

At the same time, the priests themselves lived large on the Roman beneficence. They did not follow the harsh laws they put on the people. Their faith was performance art, not faith. They demanded that the people that God had raised up and led through the desert to this land bow down to them and their pretend holiness.

They were, in Jesus’ words, blind guides.

His description of them to his disciples would fit any fallen priest or clergy today:

… they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

Their priesthood was for themselves, not God and certainly not God’s people.

Jesus condemned them as He condemned no one else. He diagnosed their spiritual poverty in a series of condemnations, beginning each condemning diagnosis with the words Woe to you, teachers of the law and pharisees. 

At the end of this long diagnosis of their fallen priesthood, He cursed them by prophesying:

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

This was God made Man, speaking to His own failed priests. It is sobering beyond sobering how God deals with corrupt priests.

It was also inevitable that they would try to kill him. While the people suffered under Roman rule, the priests had a good deal. They lorded it over the people and lived lives of luxury off the Roman fat. They weren’t doing good. They were doing well.

In one of the most chilling passages in Scripture, they discussed what to do about this Jesus the people were following, how to end this threat to their sovereignty and good times.

It appears that they lied, even to one another. Rather than just say the truth that they hated Jesus for exposing them for what they were and they feared His influence with the people, they made up a fantasy about the necessity of committing murder to “save the people.”

Caiaphas, the chief priest, concluded the discussion by telling the others It is better for one man to die than the whole nation. 

This is how murderers justify murder, by claiming that they are doing something fine and necessary with their killing. But in the end murder is always about one thing: Me. 

Caiaphas took it a step further:

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

In other words, he used his full authority as chief priest, as the religious leader who interceded with God for God’s people, to promulgate this plan to murder Christ the Lord. 

In this he was no different from religious leaders today who stand before crowds or go on television and incite their followers to murder and persecute the Body of Christ in the person of His followers. They, like Caiaphas, are using their power as priests to murder innocence. 

Shakespeare famously said, Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. 

Jesus put it differently when He said, To those whom much is given, much is required. 

Priests and religious leaders have been given much. They are entrusted first with the souls of many other people. They are also entrusted with the understanding of God in this world. 

Their smell when they become corrupt is associated in people’s minds with God Himself. 

These corrupt priests who Jesus said, Shut the door of heaven in people’s faces, had already turned their backs on God when Jesus began His ministry. Their priesthood was all about them, their power and the respect they loved to receive. 

But they entered history and became the manifestation of what a fallen priesthood is when they set themselves the task of procuring the judicial murder of God Himself. 

The Scriptures do not tell us that God warned these priests as He did Pilate. So far as we know, He sent no dreams to tell them what they were doing was wrong. He didn’t have to. They, unlike Pilate, had the law and the prophets. They knew beyond doubt that they were committing murder. 

They denied what they didn’t want to see: That Jesus was divine. They were, as He told them, the spiritual descendants of those earlier corrupt priests who had murdered the prophets. 

It is better for one man to die than the whole nation, Caiaphas said. 

How will you escape being condemned to hell? Jesus asked him. 

He is asking that same question of the religious leaders in various countries around the world who use their power over people to instigate the persecution of Christians. 

It cannot be said too many times that persecuted Christians are Christ crucified in today’s world.

Religious leaders who lead their followers in the almost unfathomable sin of attacking, persecuting and murdering Christ’s followers because they are Christ’s followers are these same Pharisees. The same satan who inspired them then, whispers calls to hate and kill in the ears of their descendants today. 

How will you escape being condemned to hell? Jesus asked. 

The question applies just as much to corrupt and fallen clergy today as it did when He first said it 2,000 years ago. 

 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 5. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1


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