Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 25, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

John 21:15-19

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In this passage Jesus contrasts the difference between life before and after a commitment to him. At the core of the passage is the question Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” It is the question which Jesus asks me today. It is the question which Jesus poses to you today. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks the question knowing that it is the decisive question, the question that goes to the essence of why we are alive. The real answer to the question decides every other issue in our lives: what we do when we get up in the morning, what we read, how we treat one another, our relationship to the needy, what we do before we go to bed at night. In the passage, Jesus contrasts the two kinds of people in the world. There are people who dress themselves and go where they want and there are people whose lives lead them to let someone else dress them and lead them where they do not want to go. In other words, people who do not love Jesus live lives on their own terms, and people who love Jesus follow the radical promptings of the Spirit. I suppose a good many of us are somewhere between those two extremes, and so Jesus continues to ask today, “Do you love me?”

Saint of the day: Today, we celebrate the feast days of 25 Mexican Martyrs who died during the Mexican Cristero War, and were canonized in 2000. The Cristero War (also known as the Cristiada) occurred throughout Mexico between the years of 1926 and 1929, and consisted of an uprising against the Mexican government of the time, set off by religious persecution of Catholics and Catholic religious (the Cristiada is the subject of a major film to be released on June 1). While the rebellion started out peacefully, following increasing fines, restrictions, and persecution and martyrdom of priests, things became more deadly. The rebels began calling themselves Cristeros because they felt they were fighting for Christ himself.

Initially, written into governmental law, specific prohibitions were declared in regards to organized religion. For example, wearing clerical garb in public (i.e., outside Church buildings) earned a fine of 500 pesos (approximately 250 U.S. dollars at the time); a priest who criticized the government could be imprisoned for five years. Some states enacted oppressive measures permitting only a single priest to serve the entire Catholic congregation of the state. Church property was seized, foreign priests were expelled, and all monasteries, convents, and religious schools were closed.

After formal rebellion began, fighting ensued for approximately two years, until diplomatic relations and pressure from outside countries led to an uneasy truce between the Cristeros and the Mexican government. In the years following the establishment of truce, however, the government continued to assassinate religious leaders and suspected members of the rebellion, killing approximately 5,500 individuals over a ten year period. Persecution of Catholics would not cease until approximately 1940, with the election of a Catholic president. The effects of the war on the Church had been profound. Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. Where there were 4,500 priests serving the people before the rebellion, in 1934 there were only 334 priests licensed by the government to serve fifteen million people. The rest had been eliminated by emigration, expulsion and assassination. By 1935, 17 states had no priest at all.

While the 25 canonized martyrs all died during the Cristero War, they did not die together. Rather, their deaths were spread throughout the states of Mexico—all for pledging their allegiance to the Lord, and continuing to live and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Of the martyrs, all were priests, with the exception of three who were laity who served and died alongside their parish priests.

Spiritual reading: Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart . . . With our neighbors go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm, as our Lord was towards all those who drew near to him. (Charles de Foucauld)

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