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Sunday Scripture Readings, Aug. 25, 2013

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Isaiah 66:18-21

Psalm 117:1, 2

2) Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

A group of young teenagers stood in the front pews of Beijing's St. Joseph Cathedral last spring and recited the creed during a special liturgy. I don't know which creed because I don't speak Chinese. But as I listened and looked around me at the several generations of Catholics, I was humbled, realizing the commitment to faith in Christ that had led to such a moment.

For nearly two decades, beginning in the late 1950s, the Catholic Church was suppressed in China -- a period that spanned the better part of these teens' parents' and grandparents' formative years. Yet the cathedral was full. The faith had been passed down and was alive.

After I returned from my visit to China, that scene in the church stayed with me as I wondered how the people, at enormous personal risk, not only maintained their Catholic faith but also passed it on to their children during that time.

I've since read about how Chinese Catholics, lay and religious, were imprisoned or endured years of hard labor in "re-education" camps.

Bishop Paul Pei Junmin recalled that as a child he learned the faith through his parents and an older cousin who was the only preacher and catechist in his village. Despite suffering numerous beatings and once being nearly burned to death because of his Catholic faith, his cousin continued to preach.

This weekend's Gospel describes the pathway to God's kingdom as a "narrow gate" that many choose not to take because it is too difficult. If the daily suffering the Chinese faithful endured was not a narrow gate, I don't know what is.

They continued to pray in fervent faith and proclaimed the Gospel although they could have avoided much ridicule and pain simply by staying quiet and following their government's rules. The Letter to the Hebrews explains their dedication: "At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

Many of those faithful Chinese have lived to see religious practice permitted once again in their country although it remains under government authority.

In the Beijing cathedral when I witnessed a new generation publicly professing their faith in Christ, I witnessed the peaceful fruit of a courageous righteousness that blesses the entire body of Christ.


When have you been faced with having to choose a difficult action because of your Christian faith? What was the result of that experience?


"Strive to enter through the narrow gate." -- Luke 13:24


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