CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 27, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: It’s easy to dress things up. We all have skills to pretend we are things which we know we’re not, and we even have skills to pretend we are things which we think we are but God knows we’re not. Jesus here applies this knowledge to the works of religious leaders. The subtle theme here reminds us of a theme we saw yesterday. Even if we are not to prejudge, we are to be attentive to the facts we observe on the ground. If we see people who promise they represent the gospel but their lives don’t produce the outcomes of gospel values, Jesus tells us to use our common sense. Jesus loves the real, and he invites us to do the same, using caution and prudence to assess the evidence before our eyes. As St. John tells us, “Test every spirit.”

Saint of the day: Today is the memorial of the martyrs of the eastern Church killed by the Communist regimes. The Ukrainian Church is the largest of the eastern rite Churches in union with the western Church. It has five million faithful. The Ukrainian Catholics, religious and lay, suffered intense persecution from the Russian communists, especially under the cruel dictator Joseph Stalin and his savage enforcer, the “Butcher of Ukraine,” Lazar Moses Kaganovich, chairman of the Soviet Presidium. Stalin’s collectivization of the people’s farms and confiscation of their grain from 1932 to 1933, led to the forced starvation of ten million Ukrainians. This was done as a punishment for the rise in Ukrainian patriotism and the emergence of a powerful nationalist movement that arose about a decade after the Bolsheviks took over. Kaganovich, who had already spearheaded the murderous purges in Russia, posted armed guards at all the grainaries to prevent the Ukrainian people from access to their own harvest and when starving people tried to reach the border in search of food they were gunned down. The West ignored the crisis, preferring to believe the USSR propaganda that there was a famine. Only one pro-Soviet American reporter, Walter Duranty of the New York Times, was allowed into Ukraine at the time. In that paper he denied the genocide calling it “partial crop failures.” Sometime after receiving the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, he later admitted, according to British Diplomatic Reports, that “as many as ten million” may have perished.

Reasonable estimates put the percentage of murdered Ukrainians in that two-year period at a quarter of the population, roughly ten million. Most of the victims were poor children. When the granaries were re-opened in 1934, the people were reeling in shock and despair. Before the genocide, the Catholic Church was flourishing in Ukraine, or at least it appeared to be. There were many vocations to the religious life, especially in Lviv, Ukraine’s cultural center, where seminaries and monasteries thrived. After and during the horrific two-year ordeal many lost faith in God, but others accepted the chastisement as a purification and the seminaries and convents began to rebound. The suffering under the yoke of Communism was not over, it would last for another sixty-four years (except for the Nazi occupation from 1941-1944), until the nation achieved its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Genocide wasn’t enough, Stalin still wanted absolute control over all of Ukraine. In 1939, he sent his Red Army into western Ukraine; prior to this it was the eastern part of the country that took the brunt of his sadistic brutality. There was now only one major force in his way, the Catholic Church. Half of the Catholics in Ukraine had been deported and dozens of priests executed. The Orthodox Church, under the Moscow Patriarchate, cooperated with the Communist Party and kept its worship private. The Catholic Church (i.e., the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) continued its mission as mandated by Christ to teach, preach, administer the sacraments wherever needed, and evangelize. In 1939, the order came down from Stalin to intensify the persecution of the Catholic Church in western Ukraine and liquidate it by terror if its leaders could not be bought outright. Everything the Church owned was confiscated — convents, schools, hospitals, the Catholic press, and many Catholic churches were burnt to the ground. It was during the height of the persecution, in 1941, that the Nazis drove the Communists out of Ukraine. With Germany’s defeat in World War II, the Communists re-consolidated their hold in Ukraine, half the Catholic clergy were sent to prison, and one-fifth were exiled; the Orthodox took over all the Catholic churches and all Church properties were seized by the atheistic state. In recognition of this vast cloud of witnesses who died for the faith in this period, 28 martyrs were beatified in the Ukraine on June 27, 2001.

Spiritual reading: Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them. (Mother Teresa)

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