If you follow Catholic news at all, you’re no doubt aware that Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90 years old and former bishop of Hong Kong, was recently arrested by the Chinese Communist government and charged, in effect, with being a dissident. In truth, Cardinal Zen has been a fearless defender of democracy and religious liberty. Even though the Cardinal was detained for only a short time and then released, there’s little doubt that he will continue to be monitored and bullied by the Communist government. His arrest also highlights the plight of the Catholic Church in China that increasingly is being harassed by government officials.
The persecution of the Church in China is not unique. In many places of the world, religious freedom is being suppressed and the Catholic Church is being attacked, particularly in some regions on the African continent. Some missionaries have made the ultimate sacrifice. The Vatican has reported that last year 22 Catholic missionaries were killed for their faith. The age of the martyrs is not over.
Remembering the real sufferings of other Catholics around the world lends some perspective on our own minor inconveniences and complaints, doesn’t it? Perhaps we’ve become just a little too comfortable, too complacent in the practice of our faith.
Likewise, the heavy burdens and sufferings of other Catholics around the globe should inspire us to be witnesses of our faith, in our own circumstances, as well. And although our witness doesn’t nearly compare with that of today’s martyrs, we do indeed have many opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with others.
Sometimes, our sharing of the faith might be very explicit, for example: when we invite a family member or friend to go to Mass with us on Sundays; or when a co-worker asks a question about something we Catholics believe or do; or if we have the gumption to write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper to defend our Church when it’s under attack.
Other times, our witness to the faith might be more implicit, for example: in our simple kindness and courtesy to others; or by offering up our pain and suffering with quiet patience; or by seeking the forgiveness of someone we’ve hurt.
You see, if people today are to believe in Jesus, it will be up to you and the way you live your life. Being a disciple of Jesus – what a great responsibility, what an awesome privilege!
Something to think about: Do you sometimes find yourself complaining about little things in the Church? What kind of example does that give to others?