My Beloved the Benevolent
Grace and Peace wishing you a blessed fast and a joyous Apostles feast
While we celebrate the Feast of the Apostles this month – the feast of the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul – we remember the martyrs of the church across the ages, especially the events in recent times. St. Peter and St. Paul were crowned with the crown of martyrdom during the reign of Nero, both apostles were arrested and St. Paul was beheaded, and St. Peter was crucified upside down.
Some would ask why martyrdom is linked to Christianity and why does the church and her children live in continuous persecution? The church may have some periods of peace, but why is it short-lived and new kinds of persecution appear? Why doesn’t God protect His children and those who believe in Him from evil persecution? So many questions! Especially following the most recent events of martyrdom such as that of St. Peter’s church, St. Mark’s in Alexandria, St. George in Tanta and the terrorist attack of El Minya. Martyrdom is not simply a historic event that we read about in the books of the church, or something we hear about when we read the Synaxarium, but they are live events we experience and whose details we are highly aware of. We suffer with those who are suffering and are consoled by the steadfastness of the martyrs in the faith and the consolation of their families despite the pain of separation and the harshness of the trauma; but the question still remains: Why?
If we reviewed what Christ said to His disciples before His crucifixion we find the following:
- That persecution is not an unexpected event, but an expected one. There is a story of one of the martyrs in the El Minya bus shooting, his name is Bishoy. One of the witnesses said that he asked, “Why do you kill us?” One of the terrorists said, “Because you’re infidels.” Bishoy answered, “We are not infidels, but Christians.” So they shot him and he died. Why? The answer is because we are Christians. But why do evil people hate Christians despite our call to love everyone including our enemies? Christ our Lord gave us the answer, “If you were of the world, the world would have loved his own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” [Jn. 15:19] Thus we see that denying the faith by either offering incense to idols in the Roman era, or saying the two testimonies in Islamic era makes a person “of the world”, thus the world will love him and won’t kill him. But he who insists not to be of the world and persists in his Christian faith is hated by the world.
- To be Christ-like. Christ did good for all, for He was going around doing good deeds; but what did the world offer Him? It offered Him the cross, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” [Jn. 15:18] “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours.” [Jn. 15:20-21] One of the historians wrote on the martyrs of the Roman era saying that they were good citizens serving the Roman Empire in good faith and had virtues of love, honesty, and kindness. But they were persecuted simply by virtue of their Christian faith. They deserved no punishment, but their sin to the world is that they are Christians. Thus St. Peter says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, and evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
Let us rejoice with our brethren the martyrs, and rejoice in carrying the cross for the sake of Christ. And let us not be surprised by the hatred of the world towards us, for as St. Peter said, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” [1 Pet. 4: 12.13]
May the Lord grant us joy and continuous peace and give consolation to the families of the martyrs and confessors, and grant the confessors who were hurt in the sectarian events a quick recovery. May the Lord bless your generous offering for the support of Santa Verena Charity programs.