“He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” but “he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-9).
By that stark measure of discipleship, Sri Lanka’s slaughtered Christians have amply proved themselves. On Sunday, they filled their churches in Colombo to greet the Risen Jesus only to fall victim to Islamist savagery. The Christians of Sri Lanka lost their lives for the sake of the Lord – simply, beautifully, radically – and even now their wounds are glorified like his.
The question the Sri Lanka massacre, and others like it in places such as Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq, pose to Christians in the West is: what have we sacrificed for the faith lately? What have we suffered for the suffering God?
A friend of mine likes to say that “there are no Styrofoam crosses”. If you’re handed a real cross, you will recognise it by the heavy weight, by the pieces of wood that splinter off and prick your hands as you try to carry it.
The Bible and the saints assure us that any such cross, borne gladly, can be a source of sanctification: the sudden and serious bout of illness, the demands of caring for parents in senescence, the inevitable sacrifices that come with raising children.
We Christians in the developed world must wonder, however, if there are collective crosses that we have so far shirked, especially those of us well placed to proclaim Christ crucified in our re-paganised societies. Islamist violence stalks Western homelands, to be sure, but our insecurity isn’t systematic. We don’t reside in “ungoverned spaces” like our brethren across swathes of Africa do. Nor in lands where the security forces are indifferent to threats to our physical security (Egypt, for example) or too incompetent to fend them off (Sri Lanka, apparently).
Even so, as Matthew Schmitz has written in these pages, the Christian faithful face persecution in Western democracies. It targets our minds and consciences instead of our bodies, the kind of persecution that our Lord said we should most fear (Matthew 10:28).
Read more at Catholic Herald.