Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Body of Christ

Father John J. Lombardi

We're Mystical Body of Christ here in the U.S. of A. and I fear we're neglecting other Christians and missing "part of the picture": there are Catholics suffering who are not getting our attention!

Item: Father Ragheed Ganni of Mosul, Iraq, was killed when coming home after offering Mass for his devout dire congregation. He knew before that "his mission "was dangerous-after receiving many threats of kidnapping and acts of intimidation. He said he was still going anyway because his people need the Church and life of Jesus Christ offered thru the sacraments. He said: "Christ challenged evil with His infinite love and is now offered through the Eucharist whereby He gifts us life, which the terrorists are trying to take away." Fr. Ragheed is, I believe, a martyr for the Faith, and we should never forget his witness and courage: "It is our duty never to give into despair: God will listen to our prayers for peace in Iraq," Father Ganni said. And, added a news source: "After giving the body and Blood of Jesus to his faithful parishioners, Father gave his own body and blood for his people." (See: Asianews.it). Always remember the martyrs and their costly sacrifices, even today: "The seed of the Church is the blood of the martyrs."

Item: Sunni Muslims endangered and did, and are doing, violence upon Kurdish Catholics in northern Iraq, including some barbers who took care of clients Sunni's believe men should have beards (as the prophet Muhammad did) and thus intimidate others who don't' follow this practice, even killing some barbers.

Item: Palestinian Catholics and Christians are being threatened in Jerusalem and the Land where Jesus walked and lived (Israel) and are moving out in droves, so much so the Christian population is dwindling fast and Holy Shrines there are being neglected.

Item: Pope Benedict has called Muslim lenders and others (President Bush, the United Nations) to help Christians and Catholics to worship freely in Islamic lands.

Item: an Italian priest was killed by his church this past year in Turkey by a young Muslim in an act of terrorism.

Item: In the Philippines there is ongoing struggle by militant Muslims attacking Catholics and churches trying to take over.

Where are we, you in all this? We may "get lost in the political-media sauce" of "suicide bombers" and "surges" of American military tactics and "civil war" and politics about Iraq and Islam, so much so we never hear about, or focus upon those Catholics living in these difficult lands and situations and thereby unwittingly neglect them

There is hardly any news in the mainstream media covering the plight of Christians in Islamic lands. Why? perhaps because of fear of calling out attention to the anti-Christian slant of some Muslims. Perhaps for fear of being labeled "anti-multi-culturalists". Perhaps because leaders not knowledgeable and/or non-caring about the "collateral damage" done to Christians there is neglect. Perhaps because of human rights groups not calling attention to these situations enough. Perhaps because calling attention to these situations and persecutions may label you as "anti-Islamic" and thereby portraying you as "backward" and "intolerant" . Perhaps because of all the above. And perhaps because we are so comfortable and cozy in our worlds we neglect or reject adequate response to those who are suffering. And yet: the persecuted in the Darfur region of Sudan are getting much needed attention. Is there neglect because the persecuted in these situations above are Christians? Perhaps. Archbishop Chaput of Denver, has recently stated, bravely, incisively: "The origins of the United States are so heavily influenced by Christian faith. But we take our freedom for granted. This is unwise."

Remember the "slogan" of Pope Paul VI oft-quoted by progressivists (and is an attractive bumpers sticker): "If you want Peace, work for Justice." Yes, unless there is justice-the right accord and ordering of parts-the peaceful right-of-worship of Christians--then there is no peace possible.

What to do? Pray for and make sacrifices for the Catholics and Christians in these situations (and elsewhere-China, N. Korea, Burma, S. America, Russia) who daily are under siege and threat. Seek news sources that carry pro-Catholic and Christian news and events which update you and help you stay informed upon the "bigger picture" often unseen and un-reported by others. Never get too inordinately comfortable in your own world-be in a "healthy tension" whereby you remember, as you seek peace rightly yours, you are part of a world-wide Body of Christ recalling that Christians are still persecuted today.

Briefly Noted:

Loving detachment: in the Gospel the Lord Jesus calls us to give up unnecessary things-people and situations which compromise us to follow Him and cause us to "put off until tomorrow" --ways we should embrace and extend the Kingdom. Translated: "Stop the hocus pocus, don't' lose your focus". What is your commitment to Jesus Christ and what is getting in the way? What are you overly attached to-inordinately-bad habits, possessions, pride, and how can you lovingly detach from them to follow Jesus more faithfully? Remember Fr Ragheed above and his heroic witness of faith and all he detached from to serve the Lord and His people. And, ask yourself: If not now, when? If not me, who?

Evolution: A big story appeared in a special section of The New York Science Times (June 26) on evolution-we came from lower forms of life like apes-was the "accepted wisdom" in many of the articles-as "unassailable fact". Case closed. No dialogue-or real facts (like "missing links" and so forth). One writer quoted an editorial in the influential magazine Nature, saying: "With all deference to the sensibilities of religious peole, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely put aside." What?! Astounding. This is "scientific agnosticism" to the N'th degree. Smugness. Isn't' this the kind of "automatic divorce" between science and religion that should be avoided when, in fact, all the facts are not totally proven regarding evolution? Immediately cutting out God from creation or "intelligent design" (that there is a special, pre-ordained pattern to the infinitely complex life we witness which is not by chance or "natural selection"), or cutting out any possibility of the supernatural out of the picture of creation and evolution-however it occurs-- is wrong and detrimental to modernity and the coexistence of science and religion. Upshot: beware, and, mainstream science largely controls the dialogue today on evolution and religionists get the wrong end of the science shtick-made to appear as using "sleight of hand" in their theories, when, in fact, scientists immediately discount religionists, "intelligent design" and never really prove their case by empirical facts,, thus displaying their "sleight of hand." . Another situation for humility, I suppose.

Peace Retreat: Here are some reflection questions for upcoming retreatants and you: What are obstacles to my inner peace? How can I overcome them? How can I allow the Prince of Peace-Jesus Christ-- more into my heart and life? How can I make choices and decisions for peace in my life? What are Pathways to Peace in my life-prayer, spiritual disciplines, sacraments (esp Eucharist and Confession)? Instead of reacting in anger or passion to a given difficult situation or person, how can I lovingly respond?

Summer Dress: As you come to Church-and an "audience with Jesus Christ our King," why not dress up for your Lord-and others? Avoid inappropriate dress which attracts attention to yourself and away form Christ. And a little motto might help: The less you show the more you glow. And, also, remember: The eye is the gateway to the soul.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi