Paul and Barnabas really give us an excellent example of the contemporary church from the very early church. The levels of persecution the first Christians experienced, and that 1st entry is similar to what we're experiencing in today's world. More so, we are finding that Christian denominations are the most persecuted people on planet Earth, and Catholics are dealing with some of my most Grievous sins that we can imagine.
What can we learn from what Paul and Barnabas teach us in the first reading today? When they say that they are to be the light for the Gentiles, and instrument of salvation to the ends of the Earth, they're saying the Christian mission statement. The religious leaders of the time even reject their teaching, so much so, that they start to lead a physical revolt against those early Christians in Antioch.
Today in regions like Syria Iran Iraq Northern Africa Morocco Algiers and too many other countries to name the presence of Christians has been nearly eradicated. There are sections of Islam that are declaring a Jihad on Christians. Their interpretation of their Prophet Muhammad's commands is that they down the path of extreme violence and persecution upon people not of their faith AKA infidels.
In China, all religions are being persecuted. There is great Terror for anyone of Faith No Matter what faith it might be they practice. The Chinese government is honestly putting all people of faith and concentration camps and demanding their loyalty only to the Chinese State and denying that there even is a God that created all things.
The victory that we can look at is that there are still people declaring the truth that God is alive! That God is real! Jesus still has power and purpose in this world. What we can do as people who have religious liberty continues to practice our faith with a renewed sense of joy. It's a joy that stems from an appreciation of our freedoms, it's a delight that we can do exactly as Jesus asks of us and not inflict any harm on another person, and we get to be our most authentic selves without fear of severe consequence in following the Catholic Christian tradition.
Action around abuse
Just this Thursday, Pope Francis issued His official command to the hierarchy of the church how to deal with accusations of sexual abuse. Take a look at what he has to say here.
It is good that we've been transparent about our efforts to fix the damage this church has done to so many people over Generations. It's essential for us to understand that we have the Light of Christ to heal the wounds that were inflicted upon ill-willed Shepherds. And on this Good Shepherd Sunday as the Sheep of His flock, we have a responsibility to surround our good Shepherds to give them hope and strength.
During this week I think it would be a good challenge for each of us to show our appreciation for the good pastors that we have in our parishes. I think it's a good idea for us to consider how fortunate we are if we have a good priest serving our community. There are far more good priests than there are ones who have done this terrible damage to the Catholic Church.
I have been fortunate enough to work for great priests in all of the communities that I have served. These good Shepherds have given me a foundation of real face the help and guide me through this crazy world. Take a look at the priests you've known in your life, and how have they helped you? Do they know that? I'm not sure that the guys I've worked to understand how much they've helped me. So I'm taking my own challenge to heart this week. It is my goal to think each of them for being a good influence on my life of faith. It is crucial for me to recognize that there care helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus.
If my relationship with Jesus has grown that means that I'm having a regular encounter with the Living God. And thankfully, I get to encounter him every day. So please look around and find him where you are each day. Take a deep breath and know that the Holy Spirit enters you and passes through you to do the good work of being the light of salvation to the ends of the Earth.
Hopefully, your relationship is growing too!