Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Terrorism and the Fear of the Lord

He who destroys both body and soul in Gehenna

The Marawi incident is truly an eye opener. It made us realize that terrorism is real and not only does it happen in distant Europe and in the Middle East. It also happens to us. It also opens our eyes to the depth of our own Christianity. The news of how Christians escaped death by wearing Muslim apparel and by memorizing Arabic verses has gone viral. And their creativeness was justified. They had to do it in order to survive.

However, the Word of God today reminds us: “Do not fear those who deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” The readings today are timely inasmuch as we are living in a time when Christian witnessing will be demanded of us. Contrary to the belief that martyrdom is a thing of the past, we are actually living in a time of martyrs. Not only are we required to live out our faith in Jesus. The possibility of dying for him is very much real. Christians are made hostages and killed. Christian women are sold, indoctrinated, and then sent as suicide bombers. Churches are desecrated and burned. These are repeatedly reported every day. The threat of terrorism is real. The prophet Jeremiah speaks well on our behalf: “Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!” Pope John Paul II wrote: “The Church has once again become a Church of martyrs. The persecution of believers – priests, religious, and laity – has caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world…In our own century, the martyrs have returned, many of them nameless, ‘unknown soldiers’ as it were of God’s cause.” (Tertio Millenio Adveniente, 37.)

And yet, Jesus strengthens us for times like this. He reminds us of the limitation of what the enemies can do: they can deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Our fear of God must be greater than our fear of men because God can destroy both body and soul in hell. The Word of God assures us that we are not alone: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting unforgettable confusion.” The true God whom we serve loves us: “Every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.” His love will sustain us through persecution and suffering.

Therefore, let us not allow terrorism to intimidate us. As we have said in the past, the zealous proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus is our response to terror. “What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops.” God is more powerful than terrorists. If we entrust ourselves to him, he will not allow us to fall. Instead, he will send us the Spirit of Truth who will teach us what to say in the face of our persecutors. His Holy Spirit will sustain us and help us give witness to Jesus. Knowing that we are loved, let us not be afraid to give witness to him. Even when faced with the threat of death, let us not hesitate to say, “I am a Christian!” Jesus says: “Whoever acknowledges me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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