March 2017

Pope's Prayer Intention

Support for Persecuted Christians: That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.

Urgent Prayer Intention

“I ask, please, for your prayers for me and my collaborators, who until Friday (3/10) will be on retreat.”

Every year Pope Francis asks us to join him in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters. This year’s month of prayer for them falls during Lent, a good time to include fasting and alms-giving for them.

In his April 12, 2016 homily he said that Christians face two kinds of persecution. One is bloody. It began right after the birth of Jesus when King Herod killed babies as he sought to eliminate Christ. “From that time until today there have been martyrs in the Church—men and women persecuted simply for confessing and for saying that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Persecution “is the daily bread of the Church: after all, Jesus said so.”

The history of this “clear, explicit type of persecution” can be seen in Rome where “we go to the Colosseum and think of the martyrs killed there by lions.” And it is seen in countries like Pakistan where, last Easter, Christians were “martyred just for celebrating the Risen Christ.” He added that “the Church is the community of believers, the community of confessors, of those who profess that Jesus is Christ. Indeed, the Church is the community of martyrs.”

What is the second kind of persecution? It is “not often spoken about.” It is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress: it is a kind of—I would say somewhat ironically — polite persecution.” It happens “when someone is persecuted not for confessing Christ’s name, but for wanting to demonstrate the values of the Son of God.”

This persecution is being institutionalized in the laws of nations that have historically been Christian. In this way “we see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path, and a nation that does not follow this modern collection of laws, or at least that does not want to have them in its legislation, is accused, is politely persecuted.” This is a “persecution that takes away man’s freedom” and the right to “conscientious objection.” “This is the persecution of the world when the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator.”

In both ways, the Church today is walking the Way of the Cross.

Scripture and Reflection

How does prayer for my enemies help me?

John 15: 18-27 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.”

For Reflection:

Pope Francis’ Morning Meditation of April 16, 2016: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/cotidie/2016/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20160412_two-kinds-of-persecution.html

Pope Francis’ Angelus Message of December 26, 2016: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2016/documents/papa-francesco_angelus_20161226.html

Pope Francis’ Morning Meditation of January 30, 2017: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/cotidie/2017/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20170130_when-martyrs-dont-make-the-news.html

Aid to the Church in Need: www.churchinneed.org

 

February 2017

Pope's Prayer Intention

Comfort for the Afflicted: That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.

Urgent Prayer Intention

Sacredness of Life: We pray for the children who are in danger of the interruption of pregnancy, as well as for persons who are at the end of life — every life is sacred! — so that no one is left alone and that love may defend the meaning of life. 

When Pope Francis celebrated the Way of the Cross during World Youth Day last summer in Krakow he asked questions that naturally arise when we encounter human suffering: “Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit?”

He answered: “‘God is in them’. Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, ‘one body’. Jesus himself chose to identify with these our brothers and sisters enduring pain and anguish by agreeing to tread the ‘way of sorrows’ that led to Calvary. By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times.”

When we welcome those who suffer into our communities we welcome Jesus. Pope Francis went on to say: “We are called to serve the crucified Jesus in all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh in those who are disadvantaged, in those who hunger and thirst, in the naked and imprisoned, the sick and unemployed, in those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord. Jesus himself told us this when he explained the criterion on which we will be judged: whenever we do these things to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do them to him (Mt 25: 31-46).”

Elaborating on these words, Pope Francis said that if we ignore those who suffer we ignore, even deny, Jesus himself: “In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.”

We pray that we, as individuals and communities, may never deny Jesus.

Scripture and Reflection

Matthew 25: 31-46 Neither group saw Jesus in the hungry, sick, and strangers, but one group had a heart like Jesus that was moved by suffering. The other group had hard hearts and Jesus said that there was no room in his heavenly kingdom for those with hard hearts. By their “sins of omission” they ended up “omitted.” How am I challenged to reject sins of omission?

1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 The Body of Christ consists of Jesus, the Head, and all the baptized, parts who are joined to him. Thus, “if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” How do I find myself suffering when I see suffering in the world?

For Reflection:

Pope Francis’ Daily Meditation of September 13, 2016 on Overcoming the Culture of Indifference with a Culture of Encounter: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/cotidie/2016/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20160913_for-a-culture-of-encounter.html

Pope Francis’ Address during the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/july/documents/papa-francesco_20160729_polonia-via-crucis.html

Pope Francis’ Message for the 2017 World Day of the Sick: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/sick/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_giornata-malato.html