Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Mk 8,35)

If anybody thinks that the age of martyrs is over, s/he must in the first instance ignore the entire twentieth century, which produced perhaps more martyrs than the early centuries of the Church, when Christians were persecuted by the empire, and the beginning of this century. In other words, s/he would be someone who pays no attention to what goes on in the world. A very few of the martyrs of the last century were mentioned in a post from last Saturday, which called attention to Franz Jägerstätter being recognized as a blessed in light of his martyrdom.

Again, in the twenty-first century there are martyrs, thus showing that the cost of discipleship remains the same as when our Lord himself said: "those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it (Mk 8,35). We know of Hrant Dink and Fr. Andrea Santoro. As Sandro Magister, writing in Rome, relates, there is now the thirty-five year-old Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean Catholic priest and martyr who was killed in Mosul, "together with three of his subdeacons. In a tormented Iraq, he was a man and a Christian of limpid and courageous faith." What follows Magister's brief introduction is an article, a word portrait, "written by someone who knew him well." The names of the subdeacons must also be written and known: Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed.

"Christ", Fr. Ragheed would say, according to the author of the portrait, "challenges evil with his infinite love, he keeps us united and through the Eucharist he gifts us life, which the terrorists are trying to take away."

He lived out these words, giving his life as witness to the One he serves, testifying to the Truth and to the truth about the Truth- "that love hurts," but also witnessing to the hope that love ultimately prevails and conquers all. This faithful servant of Jesus Christ was "massacred by blind violence" on his way home from Church, "where his people, despite their decreasing numbers, bowed by fear and desperation, continued to come." Let us pray to Fr. Ragheed on behalf of his beloved flock in Mosul. May they continue to be a light shining in the darkness, in the chaos, in the violence of Iraq. Because Fr. Ragheed, by the grace of God, did not fear "those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Mk 10,28),he lives to intercede for those he left behind.

Fr. Ragheed Ganni, too, joins the white-robed multitude, which no one can count, "from every nation, race, people, and tongue, worshipping God" as they stand "before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands." According one of the elders of this multitude, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7,9.14). Let us all pray for an end to the time of great distress in Iraq, for those of our sisters and brothers who, despite unimaginable distress, continue to make Christ present in a place where the reign of the Prince of Peace needs so badly to be established.

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