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Faith Amidst Peril: Honoring the New Martyrs Courageously Spreading the Good News

This blog is in consonance with Pope Francis prayer intention for this month of March 2024 specifically for what he labeled as the “new martyrs”. The Holy Father offers his prayers to those who risk their lives for the Gospel in various parts of the world inflame the Church with their courage and missionary enthusiasm.

It has been a decade since I became actively involved in evangelization efforts within the Church community, albeit not in my home country but abroad. I vividly recall the years of grappling with the challenges and hurdles in my pursuit to be part of those chosen to spread God’s Word, under the auspices of a catholic school, and at the service of a Diocesan Church community. Despite uncertainties, I held onto hope that I would be accepted. Alas, I got my foot in it! However, I anticipated the challenge of being a newcomer to their midst. My personal and spiritual aspiration then was to focus and center my advocacy on faith, evangelization, and discipleship, marking the beginning of my journey in evangelization efforts, and it was worth it.

While my efforts on this matter were not in vain, it was not comparable to what other people did particularly those who have been assigned to far flung places – on the outskirts of town in certain continents of the world, particularly those who are risking their lives for the Gospel and are currently facing persecution. Their efforts can have a profound impact on individuals and communities, bringing hope, comfort, and spiritual guidance to those who receive their message. I am referring to the missionaries who dedicate their lives to spreading the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, often in regions where Catholic Christianity is not the predominant religion. These individuals may face risks of persecution, hostility from local authorities, or danger from armed conflicts in the areas they serve.

Pope Francis in one of his visits to the Philippines, it will be recalled, encouraged everyone to serve as “outstanding missionaries of the faith” specifically in Asia. The Holy Father stated that we should continue working together for a common goal to achieve a “world of justice, integrity and peace”, starting from the circle of influence in our respective families and communities. As the Pope stated, teaching/spreading the good news is “both a special blessing and a vocation.”

Absolutely, individuals who risk their lives to spread the word of God, often do so out of a deep sense of faith, dedication, courage and conviction. In many parts of the world, spreading the Gospel can be met with severe persecution. This persecution can range from social ostracism to physical violence and even death. Despite these risks, many missionaries and evangelists of other sects continue their work, driven by their belief in the importance of sharing their faith. They believe strongly in the message they are sharing and are willing to endure hardships and danger to bring it to others.

One missionary in these modern times who faced a tragic ending for the sake of propagation of the Gospel was Father Jacques Hamel, a French Catholic priest who was killed in 2016 when two men claiming allegiance to ISIS stormed his church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and slit his throat during morning Mass. The attack shocked the world and highlighted the threat of terrorism faced by religious communities in Western countries. Similarly, St. Lorenzo Ruiz during his time voluntarily suffered death rather than deny his catholic faith. Instead of yielding to the demands of his tormentors, he boldly declared that he was willing to die a thousand times over for his faith. The torture he endured was unimaginably brutal, and in modern times, many of us might consider renouncing our beliefs to save ourselves. Yet, San Lorenzo remained resolute, refusing to utter anything displeasing to God. As a result, he was “hung from a gallows by his feet, his body falling into a pit,” and it took two days for him to succumb to bleeding and suffocation, according to various accounts.

Despite the risks involved, the dedication and bravery of those who risk their lives to spread the Gospel can serve as a source of inspiration to others. Their efforts can have a profound impact on individuals and communities, bringing hope, comfort, and spiritual guidance to those who receive their message. Overall, those who risk their lives to spread the Gospel demonstrate remarkable courage, resilience, and faith in their mission, and their work can have a lasting impact on the lives of those they serve.

These are few examples, but there are countless others who have given their lives in service to their faith, believing that the message they carried was worth any sacrifice. Their bravery and commitment continue to inspire Christians around the world to this day.

Undoubtedly, the task of evangelization is formidable. It demands a steadfast commitment and a renewed dedication of our time, talent, and treasure, with the support of all relevant stakeholders, to ensure that we continue to be authentic instruments of Evangelization. We cannot undertake this mission alone; we rely on guidance from the Holy Spirit and inspiration from the Blessed Mother to sustain us and prevent us from wavering in our Christian responsibilities and our pursuit of holiness. However, the calls for evangelization from the Church hierarchy serve as important reminders of our duties and responsibilities as followers of Christ. They echo the commission given to all believers by our Lord God, as stated in Scripture: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20). Our Lord Jesus desires us to spread the Gospel (starting in our respective families especially those members who have yet to practice the faith) so that all may come to know His presence within us. He, as our Lord and Savior, ensures that salvation is attainable for all, even for those who have sinned but repent and seek redemption.

May our Lady Mary (Mother of Our Lord), and St. Joseph (Foster Father) lead us all in our desire to respond to God’s command to effectively and properly communicate the joy of faith in line with His teachings. Grant us the grace to be able to help in bringing other people to You Lord, especially those who still do not know you and those who have gone astray from their faith. We join the Holy Father in offering prayers for the new martyrs who are currently risking their lives for the sake of spreading the Good News, in every corner of the world. May our Lord God grant them wisdom, courage and strength to face the challenge and overcome them. May they be successful in this spiritual endeavor. In Jesus Mighty Name. Amen.

p.s. Tried my best to sing. Apologies, not perfect, I know! lol. Thanks a lot for your time to read this and listen to the song. 🙂

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