Who is the woman in the above photo? Well, she was the first person to come to my mind when I read today’s first reading (Jer 20: 10-13) and Gospel ( Mt 10: 26-33).


She is Asia Bibi, a Catholic Christian from Pakistan. But that beautiful smile was not there years ago. In 2009, she drank water from a glass that belonged to her Muslim neighbors. Some of them got angry because they insisted that Christians are not allowed to use the utensils of Muslims.


They reported to authorities that she blasphemed their prophet Mohammad. She was beaten and arrested and later convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. If not for the international media, her story would have been over.


After 10 years she was acquitted but mobs still demanded her death that she was forced to leave her country for her safety and her family.


Why did she suffer physical, emotional, and spiritual torments? All because she is a Christian and never turned her back on her faith in spite of all the injustice done to her.


You see, in our day, there are so many Christians who suffer because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox.


Like the prophet Jeremiah who was also persecuted, the hope and trust of these Christians rest in the Lord’s promise: “Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!”


Some of these Christians escape ultimate punishment and death, but many suffer and die without a trace, without being in the news, largely forgotten. But they are the true witnesses of Jesus in the world today.


The Lord foretold that our faith will be tested, and we will all be asked to give witness to our faith in him. We need to be strong, we need to hold on to him. And the Lord promised: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”


Asia Bibi, who was chained by the neck in her prison, said: “During my detention, I held the hand of Christ. It is thanks to him that I have stayed standing. Do not be afraid.” Today, there is no trace of hatred or bitterness against her enemies. She offered her sufferings to the Lord and the Lord used her to bring love where there was no love and respect for people.


What about us? How do we express our faith and trust in the Lord? We do not know persecution as other Christians do. But daily we too are asked to be the witnesses of Jesus to the world.


Do we live our Christian faith by loving God and following his will? Do we show we are Christ’s disciples as we refuse to be dishonest, greedy, unfaithful, hateful and indifferent to the needs of others? Do we also hold on to the hands of Jesus in every need, and most specially in every test and challenge that we encounter in life?


Today the Lord reminds us that while we live in safety and comfort as Christians, there are many who suffer because of it. Please pray for persecuted Christians. Try to know what is happening to them. If possible, why don’t you extend your help to them?


Let us ask the Lord that we may be faithful to him in the little challenges and the big tempests of life, believing that he is our true salvation and our true joy!


For more information on our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith, visit: https://www.churchinneed.org/


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