Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 18, 2013

c0e8fb7369d4469bfaf0b29d0edd963d_w400Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Throughout his ministry, Jesus healed anyone who asked him, and he placed no conditions on it. What freely he had received, he gave freely. Jesus explains his reasoning in this gospel passage. The Father loves his enemies and causes good thing to happen to them even if they deny him, battle him, ignore him. If the God blesses, forgives, and heals people who set themselves up in opposition to God, and the essence of the spiritual life is imitation of God, our perfection consists in loving as the Father loves–without condition and with complete abandon to the good of the other.

Saint of the day: Edward Billotet was a Frenchman was born in Villefrancon. He studied at the minor seminary of Luxeuil and later at the major seminary at Besancon. He was ordained a diocesan priest in 1836 and served for about six years as a professor at the minor seminary in Marnay and then as a parish priest at Rioz. At the age of thirty, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Avignon on February 1, 1843 and after his vows in 1845 he was assigned to Lalouvese to give parish missions. Since he had earlier requested to serve in the foreign missions, he was finally assigned to Lebanon and arrived in Beirut on December 27, 1846.

i_jesuitFr Billotet’s first two years in Lebanon were spent teaching French while he studied Arabic. In 1848 he was appointed minister at the Beirut residence and later in 1850 he was made superior of the entire Lebanese-Syrian mission. As superior he increased the number of schools funded by the Propagation of the Faith and in 1853 he started an Arabic press for disseminating Christian literature. He spent a total of eight years as mission superior before he went to the Jesuit residence and church at Zahle in Feb 1859. Because the church had previously received the gift of a vineyard outside the city, the Druses, a fanatical Muslim sect in Lebanon tried to force Fr. Billotet to pay taxes. But because he was a French citizen he was therefore not subject to the sultan’s taxation. As the revenue from the vineyard went to support a Christian school and a Catholic church, the Druses continued to harass Fr. Billotet and tried to force him to leave the country. The Druses then began from June 1860 to massacre Maronite Christians. Within three weeks they killed 7,750 Christians, destroyed 560 churches, burned 360 villages, razed 42 convents and left 28 schools in ruins. Zahle was the worst casualty because of its concentration of Catholics.

On one occasion when the Turkish soldiers broke into the church during the service, they were reproached openly by Fr. Billotet for not observing the hours of prayer as they were obliged to follow. To register their disdain, the intruders dragged Fr. Billotet to prison where he was detained for one night. Since he was continually harassed, Fr. Billotet knew they would not desist until he paid with his life. The mission superior suggested to Fr. Billotet that they should seek safety elsewhere but the latter would not abandon his people. On Sunday, June 17, the day before Zahle fell, Fr. Billotet preached what was to be his last sermon: his theme was the Christian’s need to be prepared to meet God. On the morning of June 18, Zahle was attacked and the city was Rimini195surrounded by the Druses and within a very short time it was captured. The people sought refuge in their church. At the time Fr. Billotet and his people were praying before the Blessed Sacrament. When he heard the commotion Fr .Billotet rushed out to see what was happening. Bro Habib Maksoud who took over at the altar was reading aloud the prayers in preparation for death stopping intermittently to encourage the people. However, he never finished the prayers, for the Druses rushed into the church. One of them struck the tabernacle with a saber and knocked down the consecrated hosts onto the floor while another shot dead the black-robed Br. Maksoud and then proceeded to massacre the faithful within the church.

Fr Billotet together with Brs Ferdinand Bonacina and Elias Younes and four school teachers returned to the church but were unable to get in. They took shelter in a room above the choir with the intention to stay there until dark and leave at night. When the noise subsided, Br. Bonacina left his hiding place and went to look out of the window and saw that several Druses were still guarding the Jesuit residence. One of them spotted him and tried to lure him down with a promise of freedom if he brought money with him. When he told the guard that he had no money he was shot in the left shoulder and ran towards where the others were to seek Fr. Billotet’s absolution, thinking he was going to die.

When the Druses rushed upstairs they forced all seven Catholics onto the terrace. They shot Br. Bonacina again. As Fr. Billotet raised his eyes to heaven and thanked God that he could offer Him this sacrifice, several bullets struck him in the breast. The same happened to Br. Younes. Of the four lay people with the Jesuits, two were shot dead and the other two released. Of the two who died, one was the fifteen-year old Cherfan Habeiche, a postulant. Thus four Jesuits and a postulant died at Zahle on June 18, 1860. The fifth Jesuit martyr of this group died at Dier-el-Qamar. Fr. Edward Billotet and his five Jesuit companions were the martyrs of Lebanon. The canonical investigation of their martyrdom was opened in 1932.

Spiritual reading:

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’:
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down, says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
(“Love” by George Herbert)


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