First Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Acha'ia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 34:2-9
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There is much that is beautiful in the Beatitudes, but what I find most alluring is that they speak something new to me each time I read them.
Today, in light of recent world events, what weighs on my heart is this:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account . . . ."
I think of the countless lives who are persecuted for their religious beliefs, and in particular the Christian men, women, and babes who have lost their lives at the hands of radicals in the Middle East.
I truly can't imagine what goes through the minds and hearts of those who are preparing to die. I can't imagine their grief in leaving their families behind. Nor can I imagine the greatness of their faith in saying "yes" to their deaths and in looking forward in hope to the kingdom of heaven.
I truly can't imagine.
Most of us will never be called to a martyr's death, but each of us is called to pray for those who persecute and for those who are persecuted. Just imagine . . . the souls of these martyred Christians joining in the "great cloud of witnesses" to pray for our world and to pray for peace--how precious these souls must be to our Lord, and how graciously He must hear their prayers! Let us remember them, honor them, pray for them, and ask for their prayers.
Set aside five minutes of silence today for those who will be martyred, and for their persecutors.
Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. You can find out more about her here.