(USA) Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin (Optional Memorial)
Many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts.
Do you remember the image of the twenty-one Coptic Christian men in orange jumpsuits? They were lined up on a beach, kneeling and about to be martyred for their faith. It was a stark reminder that the kind of persecution depicted in today’s first reading (1 Maccabees 1:62) is still happening today.
The first Book of Maccabees begins tragically. Some Israelites had decided to go along with a pagan king’s efforts to destroy the Jewish religion and “seduced” other Jews to join them (1:11). As a result, many abandoned the faith—but not all. Some remained “determined and resolved” not to forsake the Lord (1:62). And for their faith, they were put to death.
Most of us don’t face this kind of persecution. We are not forced to choose between God and our communities, our rights, or even life itself. But some of our brothers and sisters do face these kinds of choices:
• Of the 70 million Christians who have been martyred in the course of history, more than half were martyred in the twentieth century.
• 322 Christians are killed for their faith every month.
• 105 churches are destroyed every month.
• 722 forms of violence are committed against Christians every month.
• Christians in more than 60 countries face some form of persecution.
Such widespread violence can make us feel powerless. But we can help! We can support organizations that defend persecuted Christians. And just as important, we can pray. We are connected to our persecuted brothers and sisters by the bonds of Baptism and faith. When they suffer, the whole body of Christ suffers—including us. But if we join our prayers to theirs, Jesus will hear our cries and answer us.
At the same time, we can also pray for the people who are persecuting Christians. God wants everyone to turn to him, even those who have committed the worst atrocities. May they all come to know the saving love and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord!
“Jesus, hear the cries of your people. Convert the hearts of those who are persecuting them.”
Psalm 119:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158
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