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You will be hated by all for my name’s sake


Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

This famous verse is taken from Matthew chapter 10 which utterly reveals that being a disciple of Jesus also means being persecuted for his name.

The full context of verse 22 is this: “Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:17-22).

In his Angelus address on the Feast of St Stephen, Protomartyr, on 26 December 2014, Pope Francis pointed out that martyrdom of the blood is the final and decisive victory of God’s goodness over evil.

“The Gospel on this feast day recounts part of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples at the time that He sends them on mission. He says, among other things: ‘you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mt 10:22). These words of the Lord do not disturb the celebration of Christmas, but remove that artificial sugary coating which does not appertain to it. They enable us to understand that in the trials accepted as the result of faith, violence is conquered by love, death by life. And to truly welcome Jesus into our life and to prolong the joy of the Holy Night, the path is the very one indicated by this Gospel, that is, to bear witness to Jesus in humility, in silent service, without fear of going against the current and of paying in the first person”.

A close look at the provisional list compiled every year by Agenzia Fides, the Vatican news agency that is part of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, clearly manifests the notable rise of Christian pastoral workers killed globally throughout the past year. In fact, one notices that Christians killed in 2015 appartain to four continents. The pastoral care workers whose lives were ended violently in 2015 are: 13 priests, 4 religious sisters, 5 lay people. In America: 8 pastoral care workers were killed (7 priests, one religious sister); in Africa 5 pastoral care workers were killed (3 priests, 1 religious sister); in Asia 7 pastoral care workers were killed (1 priest, 2 religious sisters, 4 lay people); in Europe two priests were killed.

Obviously these figures do not actually represent the total number of worlwide persecutions against Christians which, as the Letter of Diognetus rightly says, “love all men, but all men persecute them”. As the report of Fides puts it: “Isis, Boko Haram, discrimination in various countries where religion is an affair of State, make being a Christian difficult and heroic, subject to attacks and massacres. It is necessary that Christ is in agony until the end of the world, when there will be the Kingdom of justice and peace”. Later on the Agency’s report added that with such information it “aims to bring to light these dramas of humanity, in order to arouse the conscience of all people of good will to build a more just and supportive society”.

As the week of prayer for Christian Unity is fastly approaching let us remind ourselves that martyrdom of the blood is the most powerful and persuasive way of proclaiming the mighty acts of the Lord (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

Finally, as Pope Francis said on his return flight from Turkey on December 1 2014: “Our martyrs are crying out: we are one. This is what ecumenism of the blood is. We must follow this path courageously and carry on moving forward”.

How strong the cause of Christian Unity becomes when it is soaked in the blood of Christian martyrs!

 

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