A buddy of mine who fought over in Iraq tells me of visiting a Catholic Church there. He said you’d hardly notice the church but on Sundays a number of Catholics would bravely arrive at Mass, knowing that their mere attendance could be a death sentence.
It affected him greatly. It made him think how he took for granted the ease with which he could attend Mass back in America with his wife and children. And I’ll admit that just hearing him speak of it, affected me. Not many Sundays go by without me thinking of those brave Christians who proclaim their love of Jesus at the risk of their own lives.
I know that growing up I always heard or read of the martyrs being put to death for their faith and at the time I was just so stupidly thankful that the world had moved beyond lions eating Christians in togas. But, of course, as I grew up I realized that the world hadn’t moved beyond that. It just got better at it. More efficient. Instead of lions, it’s bombs. Jesus is still the most reviled figure in history. Two thousand years later, His followers are still put to death all around the world.
Yesterday’s news of a series of bombings that included one outside a Catholic Church following Christmas Mass that killed at least 35 people in Nigeria is a horrific reminder of that. It is a horror. My heart breaks for the families of the victims. I am horrified that the celebration of the birth of Christ still inspires violence just as it did in Herod all those years ago.