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

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4

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 4 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. Today, let’s meditate on the cowardly politician. 

Pontius Pilate was not a coward in what we normally consider the manly sense. He was a soldier, and I would imagine a brave one. He certainly had no fear of putting people — even innocent ones — to death. Not too long before he was faced with the early-morning trial of this carpenter turned itinerate miracle worker and preacher from Nazareth, he had ordered the slaughter of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices.” 

Only God knew how many people Pilate had killed. I’m sure that Pilate had lost count long before he was forced to deal with the demands of the corrupt priests that he put yet another man to death. He knew the priests were corrupt because he was their corruptor. Rome left the Levitical priesthood in place when they conquered this land, but they did what governments always try to do: They tamed this priesthood with money and special favors; with the power of speaking for the larger populace to the ruling powers.

The uneasy population underneath this layer of Roman-Levitical governance gave the priests a certain power in dealing with Pilate. If Pilate had been an absolute ruler, or if Judea had been an unimportant area, this wouldn’t have been true.

But Pilate merely governed in the name of the Emperor in Rome. His head was as easily forfeit as that of any of the people he governed. Judea, for all its backward ways, was an important piece of real estate. It sat strategically along the trade routes between Rome and the breadbaskets of Egypt and the East. War here hurt commerce everywhere.  And Rome, like all empires, cared far more for commerce than human life, including the life of its governors. 

Pilate’s job was to keep things peaceable and those trade routes running. Uprisings and military clashes cost Rome money and endangered its privileged way of life. They weren’t to be tolerated.

The priest’s job in all this was to work with Pilate to keep the people down. Which meant that they had Pilate by the throat. Pilate, on the other hand, could certainly squeeze and punish them harshly if they cost him too much trouble, which meant he had them by the throat, also.

So, it was a gathering of political friends and allies that morning, come to haggle over what should have been a small thing to this Roman governor: The death of a single man. 

But there must have been something in Pilate, some honest thing or longing that only God saw. Because He dealt differently with Pilate than He did Herod, or even the priests.

He warned Pilate with a dream to his wife. Have nothing to do with that innocent man, she told her husband. For I have suffered greatly because of him in a dream last night. 

Jesus talked to Pilate, answering Him as directly as He ever did anyone. My kingdom is not of this world … I come to testify to the truth. 

Pilate responded with the answer of nihilists from then to now: What is truth? 

And yet, he tried. He tried hard to comply with his wife’s warning and what sounds like a cacophony of inner warnings in his own mind and step aside from killing this one man. He sent Jesus to Herod and tried to pass the problem off on him. He had Jesus scourged and displayed His wrecked and bleeding person to the priests with the words See the man! 

See how I have punished Him for you, he implies. See the blood and brokenness of Him. See the man! Isn’t this enough for you?

He even tried to use their own religious laws to free Jesus because of the Passover. 

But nothing worked, because they wouldn’t have it. And in the end, Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair declaiming that the blood of this man is on you to the priests and ordering Jesus murdered by means of crucifixion. 

It is fascinating that even though Jesus came for the purpose of redeeming all of humanity on Calvary, God still gave Pontius Pilate every opportunity to avoid his participation in this great crime. The point here is that God does not entrap us into sin, even if our sin plays a part in the on-going history of His Kingdom. 

We choose. 

The cowardly politician and the corrupt priests who murdered Our Lord did not have to know that they were dealing with God Incarnate to see that what they were doing was wrong. Their own laws told them that. The innate natural law that is inborn in each of us told them that.

You do not murder innocent people. Killing people to preserve your political career or your place in society or your special privileges is wrong. There is no qualifier to the wrongness of it. 

But the priests convinced themselves, as people do, that what they were doing was a political necessity to “save” the nation, and Pilate convinced himself that by killing this man he could avoid the uprising that might get him recalled. They convinced themselves and that is the key. It is the key to their evil that day and to most of ours today. 

We can convince ourselves of anything. 

That is what is at work in the political and religious justifications for the violent persecution of Christians around the world today. And for these persecutors now, just as it was for Our Lord’s murderers 2,000 years ago, there is no qualifier to the evil wrongness of what they are doing. 

The innate, inborn natural law that tells us every one that the murder of innocents is wrong condemns every person on this earth who breaks it. There is no confabulation or dissimulation or propaganda that we can use to convince ourselves otherwise that will wash away the stain of blood guilt for those who kill innocent people.

Those who kill Christians because they are Christians commit the almost unfathomable sin of crucifying Christ again in the persons of His followers. 

Without repentance and the grief that comes with the realization that they have done monstrous things, they are doomed. 

When we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, we need also to pray for their persecutors. 

For while those who are privileged to suffer for Christ are piling up crowns for themselves in heaven, their persecutors are committing sins, that, if they die with them on their souls, will condemn them to an eternity in hell. 


Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 4. 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 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3

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 3 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Meditate today on Our Lord as He prayed and suffered in Gethsemane.

Allow yourself to consider the Alone. By the Alone, I mean the isolation and utter desolation that a person feels when they are at the mercy of satan’s disciples in this world. 

Unlike us, Jesus did not have the luxury of fooling Himself into thinking things would be alright. He knew beyond hope the horrors that were coming.

But just like us, he wanted and needed companionship, and witnesses.

Jesus was human at Gethsemane. He didn’t go away to pray alone. Instead, he took Peter, John and James with Him. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He told them. Stay here and keep watch with me. 

Jesus was human that night. He saw with His God eyes what was coming, the “cup” he would have to drink for us, and He recoiled with human horror. 

He prayed that God would spare Him the agonies ahead. He sweated blood in His distress.

And, His human self longed for the comfort of other people. Keep watch with me, He asked. 

And, like we fail Him when He is crucified again today in His Persecuted Church, the disciples failed Him then. 

Keep watch with me, was all He asked of them. Stay awake. Pray. Be my friends and give me the comfort of your active presence in my agony. 

But every time He paused in His prayers to go to them, He found them asleep. Can you not watch with me for one hour? He asked them. 

The forsaken aloneness of that question echoes down the centuries to us today. Jesus was standing on the edge of the abyss. He was looking forward into that time when He would be at the mercy of satan; completely, utterly and absolutely. Unto death. 

He was looking into the Alone. 

It is a terrible thing to look into another person’s eyes and see satan looking back at you. It is a depth of horror that only those who have been there can understand to be helpless and utterly alone in that moment, to know that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. That is the Alone. And it is what Jesus was facing. 

It was His Passion. 

And it is the Passion of persecuted Christians, everywhere. 

The persecutors of Christians are satan’s disciples in this world. As such, they are capable of descending into ever deeper pits of depravity. There is no bottom for those who have given themselves over to satan, whether they know they have given themselves to satan, or not. 

They are the apostles of the darkness, and like their master, they hate the light of Christ. Like him, they will not stop until the darkness they crave rules this world in an eternal night. 

This is the same satan who tempted Him at Gethsemane. Who came at Him through His wholly human horror of suffering, death, shame and humiliation. This is the same satan Who tried to get Him to turn His back on us and step aside from the oncoming sacrifice at Calvary. 

My heart is sorrowful and troubled … My soul is overwhelmed … to the point of death.

That is our Wholly Human Lord facing His hour of greatest temptation. All He asked of His friends was to bear witness; to watch and pray … with me for one hour.  

But they could not do even that much. 

In the end, He went into the Alone alone. Our Wholly God Lord and Savior allowed Himself to be stripped completely of His Godhead and lead away like a lamb to the slaughter. He endured the deepest pit of taking on our sins so that He could save us from those sins. 

He became Wholly Human to save us from our fallen humanity. May your will be done, he prayed

He was tempted like we are with the recoiling horror of the pit. He was sorrowful and troubled to the point of death. He sweat blood and entreated heaven to spare Him what was coming. 

He was human at Gethsemane. 

And He was alone in His humanness. He battled satan in that garden and faced down the temptation to turn aside from the agonies ahead. 

He is alone again in the hearts of our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the globe. He faces the Alone again with them as they face it. 

The question now, as it was then, is can we watch with him one hour? 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 3. 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 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Christian Persecution: The Worst Place on Earth

I can’t write about Christian persecution this week.

I’ve gone through  a long list of horrific stories from all over the globe. But I can not force myself to write about them. The weight of it is too much for me. I plan to devote prayer time to them, instead.

This is one of those times when the horror of it all is just too much for me. Christians are suffering violent persecution in so much of the world. At the same time, they are being subjected to increasing pressures to deny their faith and go along with the world here in the Christian West.

Much of the Muslim war on Christians is centered on Christian women and girls. Young Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced to convert. This cowardly behavior says a lot about their attackers.

Christianity is attacked and Christians are subjected to persecution in every atheist government on the globe. According to the video below, North Korea is the worst place on Earth to be a Christian. Given the amount of competition for that title, that’s saying a lot.

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