In his statement concerning the current situation in Egypt, Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac (the counter part of our President of the USCCB) said:
“With pain, but also with hope, the Catholic Church in Egypt is following what our country is experiencing: terrorist attacks, killings and the burning of churches, schools and state institutions. Therefore, out of love for our country and in solidarity with all lovers of Egypt, Christians and Muslims, we are trying to do our best to communicate with friendly organizations around the world to clarify for them the reality of events taking place in our country. … We address the international conscious and all national leaders that they understand and believe that what is happening in Egypt now is not a political struggle between different factions, but a war against terrorism.”
Christian brothers and sisters are not only being routed and killed in Egypt simply because of the fact that they are Christians, there is a growing and systemic lack of respect for humanity—respect for the human person. Pope Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria have urged an end to the violence.
The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, recently told the French edition of Vatican Radio that Egypt’s revival must “take place in respect of the human person, in the mutual respect of all religions, in respect for religious freedom. The destruction of Christian churches is unacceptable. Religion cannot be used to justify violence.”
Pope Francis seemed to underscore that sentiment in his Angelus message last Sunday. “Faith,” he said, “is not decorating your life with a bit of religion … “
“Following Jesus means renouncing evil [and] selfishness, and choosing goodness, truth and justice even when that requires sacrifice and renouncing our own interests.”
“Living a truly Christian life can lead to division, even within families,” the pope said. “But, attention: It’s not Jesus who divides. He sets out the criteria: Live for oneself or for God and others, ask to be served or serve; obey one’s ego or obey God — it is in this sense that Jesus is a ‘sign of contradiction.'”
“When Jesus told his disciples he had come to ‘set the world on fire,’” the pope said, “he was not authorizing the use of force to spread the faith. Rather, it is the exact opposite: The true force of the Christian is the force of truth and love, which means renouncing the use of violence.”
As we reflect upon the message of the Gospel, the message of the Vicar of Christ, and the cries of the world in search for mercy and justice, it seems to me that, here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we might want to make a genuine effort to get to Sunday Mass. Yes, we are free to sleep in late on Sundays, have special brunches on Sundays, go fishing, go to the mall, and do all sorts of otherreally fun things on Sundays. Don’t you think, however, that we might do well to have a little solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan? Remember that so many Egyptians are being maltreated, abused, made homeless, or killed because people have put God outside of their lives and decided to act like gods themselves?
I’m sure in Egypt they like to go to brunch, sleep in, or go to the mall on Sundays too; but, I’m willing to bet that many more would rather be left in peace to go to their churches, where they can be received and loved unconditionally by God. It would be good for us to keep them in mind here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we respect human freedom and value its endurance as part of our national patrimony. Our treasured freedom of religion not only keeps our church doors open, but also helps us to keep our minds and hearts open so that we can be bearers of the Gospel to others by our words and actions.
So, you know, I’ll look forward to seeing you at Sunday Mass.