Martyrs of Iraq | Faith Friday
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Jesus' words in today's Gospel should always convict us (though they may make some feel self-righteous), but today that conviction leaves a hollow pit in the stomach. As we hear about the countless Christians in Iraq who are being forced from their homelands by the militant terrorist group, ISIS, all our meager attempts to deny ourselves - to lose our lives - can seem false. Very few of us have ever come close to undergoing the kind of persecution and oppression Iraqi Christians (as well as other ethnic and religious groups targeted by ISIS) are experiencing now.
As all of these people - Christians in the truest sense of the word - carry their crosses, deny themselves, figuratively (and, as we have so often seen now, literally) lose their lives, let their witness convict us. These past weeks we have seen the words of today's Gospel lived boldly by the faithful Christians of Iraq. All around the world this type of witness takes place even when media attention does not dwell on it.
Our faith requires us to lose our lives in order to gain eternal life - our faith demands martyrdom (spiritual or physical). The persecuted Christians in Iraq are suffering spiritual and physical martyrdom. Could we suffer the same in the name of the cross? Could we lose our lives and follow Jesus?
Let's take this opportunity for a Faith Reset:
- Are we really losing our lives for the sake of the cross?
- Are we able to soften our hearts so that we can be convicted by the witness of Iraqi Christians (and all persecuted Christians)?
We won't all be faced with martyrdom in our lifetimes - very few of us will. Occasionally, though, we should let the witness of others break into our hearts, convict us, and humble us.
God bless you.