WASHINGTON — One-hundred percent of Christians in 21 countries around the world experience persecution for their faith in Christ as over 215 million Christians faced “high levels” of persecution in the last year, a leading human rights watchdog group reports. Continue reading “100% of Christians Face Persecution in These 21 Countries | re-blog CP World by Samuel Smith”
Friday of the Second Week of Lent
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who redeemed us by Your death and resurrection – have mercy on us.
+ You went up to Jerusalem to endure the passion and enter into glory; lead Your people into the paschal feast of eternal life.
+ Your heart was pierced with a lance; heal the wounds of our human weakness.
+ You made Your cross the tree of life; share Your victory with all who profess You as Saviour and Lord.
+ You gave eternal life to the repentant thief; pardon all our sins.
Purify us, almighty God, through our whole-hearted endeavour to renew our lives, so that we may approach Easter with single-minded devotion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
A Reading from the Old Testament: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a (NLT)
Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph — a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.
Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem. When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the sheep at Shechem. Get ready, and I will send you to them.”
So Joseph followed his brothers to Dothan and found them there.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.
So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother — our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son; so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. (John 3:16)
A Reading from the Gospels: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 (NLT)
“Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.
“Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’
“But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.
“When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”
The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?
‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’
I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.
When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them — they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me. Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
May the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Sunday after Christmas: Feast of the Holy Family
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Father in heaven, creator of all, You ordered the earth to bring forth life, and crowned its goodness by creating the human family. In history’s moment when all was ready You sent your Son to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world. Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all men that we may share in your life forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
A Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 128:1-5 (NLT)
How joyful are those who fear the Lord — all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.
May the Lord continually bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.
A Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae: Colossians 3:12-21 (NLT)
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.
A Reading from the Gospels: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (NLT)
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
The Holy Family is the name given to the family unit of Jesus: The Divine Son of God Jesus, his mother the Virgin Mary, and his foster-father Joseph…. While the exact details of the day-to-day life of the Holy Family may be unknown, we can still learn a lot from the stories we do have. The Feast is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a “family church,” and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ the center of family and individual life.
Lord Jesus – You willed to pass the greater part of Your life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth. Graciously receive and consecrate my family as I turn to You today. Defend us, guard us, and establish among us Your holy reverence, true peace and concord in Christian love.
Lord Jesus – You understand the dynamics, strains and joys of human family life – hear my prayers:
+ For our devotional life – that we may prioritize daily Bible reading and prayer… and that we may worship together as a family.
+ For mutual respect and submission – that we love, honor and support one another… husbands for wives, wives for husbands, parents for children, and children for parents.
+ For our godliness – that we may better understand God’s love through our relationships with each other… as people set apart to love and serve God; and that we may be quick to forgive one another, as You have forgiven us.
+ For our responsibilities – that men protect, provide and unite their families; that women nurture, sacrifice and be the heart of their families; and that young people grow in wisdom, maturity and stature as productive, contributing, members of their families.
+ For our protection – that we are shielded from the evils of abortion, homosexuality, divorce, spousal abuse and child abuse; and that we might value the sanctity of Christian marriage and every human life.
+ For our prodigal children – that they might return to the fold of Your care; and that we might stay close to them during trying times – loving them – and trusting You to bring them home.
Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost – may You bless my family, for time and eternity, and may this blessing remain forever with us. Amen.
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Peanut Gallery: Special thanks to Agnus Dei for bringing this video to our attention.
Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today. As we pray for the persecuted church, here are nine things you should know about the plight of believers around the globe:
1. Christian churches around the world have set apart the month of November to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).
2. According to the U.S. Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Christ.
3. With the exception of four official state-controlled churches in Pyongyang, Christians in North Korea face the risk of detention in the prison camps, severe torture and, in some cases, execution for practicing their religious beliefs. North Koreans suspected of having contact with South Korean or other foreign missionaries in China, and those caught in possession of a Bible, have been known to be executed.
4. In Syria, Christians are increasingly becoming the target of violent attacks. Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women. A special ‘Vulnerability Assessment of Syria’s Christians’ conducted by the World Watch unit of Open Doors International from June 2013 warned that Syrian Christians are the victims of “disproportionate violence and abuse.” They warned further that Christian women in Syria are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.
5. In August 2013, Egypt faced what has been called the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries: 38 churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished; 6 Christians were killed in the violence and 7 were kidnapped.
6. The bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan’s history occurred in September 2013. Two suicide bombers exploded shrapnel laden vests outside All Saints’ Church in the old city of Peshawar. Choir members and children attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed. The attack left 120 people wounded, with 10 of them in critical condition.
7. During an attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi in September, Islamic terrorists asked people for the name of Muhammad’s mother or to recite a verse from the Quran in order to identify non-Muslims. One of the terrorists announced, “We have come to kill you Christians and Kenyans because you have been killing our women and children in Somalia. Any Muslims can go.”
8. Four Christians in Iran will get 80 lashes each this month for drinking wine during a communion service. Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said that it is common practice for Christians to be punished for violating theocratic laws. In the UN report Shaheed wrote: ‘At least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013. In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported.’
9. An average of 100 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith. (Note: There are several sources that claim the numbers are as high as 100,000+ a year. In the absence of solid evidence for those numbers, though, I chose to go with the more empirically verifiable estimate.)