“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over…” (Lk 21:12).
The followers of Jesus have faced and continue to face persecution. There are estimates that there have been more Christian martyrs in the last century than in the whole history of the Church. Persecution was also true for the prophets before the time of Jesus. By entering Jerusalem, Jesus knew that his own persecution and death was imminent.
Why this animosity to those who spoke for God, Jesus, and his followers? The answer to that question is multifaceted, though one reason is that to live by the will of God is a challenge. When someone does commit their life to do so, they become a mirror to challenge others and that means dying to the false self of the ego.
The more entrenched our ego and the self-centered view is the greater the threat the Gospel is. The more we want to determine our own path and appropriate and rationalize for ourselves our own truth, to define our own morality, and determine who is with us or against us, the more we determine our life apart from the guidance of God, the more of a clash will ensue.
Living the Gospel in our daily lives often comforts the afflicted and afflicts the powerful. Many who promoted the recent Amazon synod of bishops, and those who work for the rights of indigenous peoples and environmental degradation in this region, know that in giving voice to the voiceless and standing up to large and powerful self-interests they are putting their life on the line each day.
There have been over a thousand clergy, religious, leaders, and indigenous peoples killed over the last fifty years. Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said that “The Church of the Amazon carries in its heart the martyrdom of today.”
Those who have given and those willing to give their lives in the Amazon are just one example of many who are and have lived out the Gospel each and every day at great cost. Another is St. Oscar Romero from El Salvador, the picture of his statue that I posted yesterday, who was shot while celebrating Mass. Yesterday was also the 30th anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuits, Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Juan Ramón Moreno, Amando López, Segundo Montes, Joaquín López y Lópezalong with their housekeeper Elba Julia Ramos her daughter Celina Ramos.
How is God is calling us to speak out and stand up for the dignity of those people in our communities and his creation? May the martyrs give us the courage to hear the voice of Jesus, bear witness to the Gospel, and act on his lead, for:“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:10).
Photo: Sr. Dorothy Stang, living in Para, Brazil, who was murdered on February 12, 2005, most likely for speaking out against illegal logging. Sr. Dorothy, pray for us!