Be inspired

By

3 Mar 2024

In his prayer intention for March, Pope Francis asks us to pray for those who risk their lives for the Gospel in various parts of the world.

In the Catholic Church the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. He is also called, however, to care for all local Churches: to note the energy of the Church in some areas and the weariness in others. He must have an eye out especially for the people often in small and struggling Churches who suffer and are sometimes killed because of their faith.

That concern underlies his prayer this month. He does not ask us to pray for them in their suffering, though we should. He recognises, however, that their suffering is a gift for the whole Church. This leads him to pray that their generosity and courage will be infectious and will encourage those who live in societies where it is less dangerous to believe in Christ to live our faith boldly.

CENTRAL TO MISSION
In his prayer he echoes the importance that the early Christians gave to the martyrs in the daily life of the Church. Their suffering was not just something they endured because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was the central part of their mission to all believers in Christ throughout the world. Their suffering made real to other Christians the death of Jesus. Their courage in enduring it and the joy of their community showed that Jesus’ path led through death to a full life full of hope. They lived life in the shadow of the cross made visible by the light of Christ’s rising. Through their endurance they preached the Gospel to the world without need for words.

At a time when we see so many millions of people of many religions, and none, uprooted and suffering as a result of war, famine and displacement in Ukraine, Gaza and Sudan, it is easy to pass over the sufferings of the Christian martyrs of our day.

If we live in a secular society where we can practise our faith freely, too, we may be tempted to pay less attention to them in our desire to honour the suffering of people in other religions. We may see it as parochial and self-centred to concentrate on the needs of our own Church. That attitude is mistaken.

We should grieve with and be galvanised by the sufferings of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world because they inspire us to care for all the people of many religions and none for whom Jesus died.

BE ENCOURAGED
Pope Francis also sees the people who suffer for their faith as inspirers of missionary enthusiasm. They can encourage us to live our faith on the front foot and to acknowledge the gift of our call to follow Jesus as something for which we are grateful and not ashamed. Their life under persecution invites us to see the embarrassments, misunderstandings and inconveniences that we may suffer in our secular society in their true perspective. They are minor annoyances which we should not glorify with the name of persecution

Our persecuted brothers and sisters keep us honest.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is an editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications
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