These lands, situated in the centre of the great African continent, have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the east of the country, suffers from armed clashes and exploitation. South Sudan, wracked by years of war, longs for an end to the constant violence that forces many people to be displaced and to live in conditions of great hardship. In South Sudan, I will arrive together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Together, as brothers, we will make an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, to entreat God and men to bring an end to the hostilities and for reconciliation.
I ask everyone, please, to accompany this Journey with their prayers.
And I wish everyone a good Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and arrivederci!
John the Baptist is naturally despondent in today’s Gospel reading. He’s in prison and unable to pursue his vocation of prophet, reminding people that being God’s chosen nation means living as if they really believed it, calling them to repent and offering them the dramatic sign of baptism – full immersion, not just a sprinkling! But now John needs reassurance and turns to the one man who can provide it.
Look what’s happening, replies Jesus. People are being helped and healed, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
Today the Good News still has to be proclaimed to the poor, and we still need to hear the call to repentance, to take a new direction. Baptised we may have been, but we still need healing. Ponder this extract from an article about the Church in South Sudan, a Church scarred by decades of war and hunger. Fr Michael Heap MAfr goes on to challenge his British readers:
All of us need to be reminded from time to time
that our Baptism, our taking on the name “Christian”,
means much more than just living like everyone else,
apart from some prayers and Sunday Mass.
We have taken on a new direction in life.
We don’t go looking for suffering and rejection,
but if it comes because of our commitment to Jesus Christ,
we accept it without fear.
This is so in South Sudan.
It is so in UK.
It is true in each of our lives.
To live as baptised followers of Jesus
means changing our outlook on everything,
no matter how small.
Sisters have helped the Church in Africa flourish. They are teachers, doctors, nurses, community leaders and much more. Some have been killed for their faith.The Christian Church will always have martyrs, but not all of them will be known about, except very locally to their place of work. Gail DeGeorge, editor of the Global Sisters Report website, tells how GSR are committed to honouring these martyrs. She gives the example of two sisters from South Sudan, shot down a year ago. (Click the link above for the full story.)
Members of the Archdiocese of Juba, South Sudan, attend the Aug. 20, 2021, burial of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Roba, Sisters of the Sacred Heart who were killed when their bus was attacked Aug. 16. (Courtesy of Christy John)
The brutal killing of Srs. Mary Daniel Abut and Regina Luate Roba in South Sudan on Aug. 16, 2021, shook me and so many others. It was an act so blatantly evil it was hard to comprehend.
They had travelled with other Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Loa, where the congregation was founded. As they travelled home the next day, their van was ambushed by armed men who threatened the passengers. Some of the sisters and the male passengers left the van, hoping to divert the assailants and spare other passengers. Abut and Roba were hunted down, shot and killed, along with three other passengers.
Abut was the head teacher of a primary school and Roba, a tutor and administrator at the Catholic Health Training Institute. Both lived out their faith by working to improve the lives of others in the young and troubled nation of South Sudan. No one has been arrested in their killings.
Today we remember Saint Josephine Bakhita, a woman who found the strength in God’s love to overcome painful memories of cruelty and injustice in her past experience of slavery. Forgiveness can be a long process of letting go for so many of us, and we too need the help of God’s grace.
Once upon a time, I was caught up with a past hurt. When I was much younger, somebody told me that I was ugly and wasn’t worth anything. I went home and wept, looking in the mirror to see if I was really ugly. The next day, I walked up to the person and announced to her that I was not ugly. I became really angry and disassociated myself from her. Our parents intervened in the situation but it didn’t make any difference. We became enemies for years.
One day, I went to Mass and the Gospel teaching of forgiving seventy times seven times was read. It dawned on me that there is no limit to how many times we can forgive one another. When I got home, I gave her a call and she could not believe I did that. Tears ran down from my eyes and I felt a huge relief. I discovered I was holding myself in bondage all those years.
Sometimes we do things, thinking we want to hurt others and in real sense it is ourselves we are hurting. From that experience, I realised that it is only in letting go that I am able to forgive myself and others. It doesn’t matter how many times I have to do this. As Saint Josephine said, ‘”The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone, we must be compassionate.”’