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29 June 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 10-07-2014

Sts.Peter and Paul

Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned. It is not certain whether Nero, who had plans for developing a part of the city, actually caused destruction by fire but it was strongly suspected that he did and to divert suspicion he put the blame on the Christians.  During the persecution of Christians under Nero both Peter and Paul were martyred. Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded, Peter was crucified.  These were normal methods of execution.

To emphasise the charge against Christians Nero invented novel ones.  Some of those condemned, for instance, were covered in pitch, raised on standards and set alight to illuminate an avenue by night. Barbarism - but that, of course, was 2000 years ago. What is happening in this civilised 21st century of ours?

“My name is Nabeel. I am from Syria and have had to leave my country for lack of security. My brother, who was a priest, was kidnapped for two months. They asked for a ransom of 120.000 dollars in exchange for his life.  Christians have become currency in this tragedy. With great effort my family managed to raise the money in time and delivered it to the kidnappers who promised to set him free the next day. But hours later my brother was killed and his body cut up. They sent part of him to me in a box - his wrist tattooed with a cross.”                                                                                                       Christians in their thousands have crossed into Jordan after attacks by Muslim extremists.  One mother arrived there with her children after fanatics kidnapped her husband and sent his head back to the family.

The group called ISIS, which we have heard of recently in Iraq, is among the most extreme. They have occupied Mosul, once the main centre pf Christianity in Iraq. The Christians have moved out looking for shelter in nearby Christian villages. It will only be a short respite before ISIS arrives there.  They will have then to look for a refuge among the Kurds. Imagine yourself, even if you had a car and had withdrawn the maximum allowed from a cash machine, arriving in a place like Cockerham or Glasson Dock looking for shelter. What can we do to help?  We can give to Cafod or Aid to the Church in Need, but first we can pray.  That sounds a bit limp.  Remember where you are. Remember the importance at Mass of the bread being broken.  Remember St Paul quoted last Sunday: “The bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ”.  The Christians in Iraq are members of that body as we are. Christ is the link. Through him we are in communion with them. Prayer activates the link. What makes prayer effective?  There is no magic in words. Our Lord himself warned against babble. The only currency God recognises is love and love is genuine when it includes sacrifice. So, in the first place, when you pray, you give up time. You are invited this afternoon to give up an hour of your time. You are invited here not to pray as an individual but as a body in the presence of Christ, its head.  I will supply a few pointers to assist our prayer but it won’t matter if you fall asleep or you mind wanders because God will be aware of your presence as the sign of your good will, your love, towards the suffering members of the Body to which we belong.

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