Wednesday, July 27, 2016

For The Greater Glory...




I purchased it for one dollar. 


The subtitle caught my eye, 
"What price would you pay for freedom?"  


So I scooped it up and threw in it the cart, piled high with dollar-store tooth brushes and packages of colored construction paper. 
It sat, wedged there between the cans of cheap, smelly kitten food. 

I thought it was a cowboy movie. 
Something mind-numbing to watch. 

Best dollar I've ever spent.

The drama follows a group of impassioned Christian men and women fighting against the Mexican government who is persecuting the Catholic Church, causing a violent civil war.  It chronicles the Cristeros War (1926-1929); a war by the people of Mexico against the atheistic Mexican government. 
It's a gripping tale of the people who rebel 
against the anti-clerical laws. 

To squash the outcry, the Mexican military moves through the countryside, arresting those who will not swear allegiance to the country. Slaughtering priests who still insist on saying Mass.  

A few nights ago, my hubby and I sat with a big bowl of buttery popcorn on our lap, as we watched the true story of the Cristero War, the daring people's revolt that rocked 20th Century America. 

We were glued from the opening scenes. 

A young, troubled teenage boy, Jose, is taunting a priest, Father Christoph, by throwing fruit at his head. 

His consequence for disrespecting a priest? 

The boy is required to spend time at the Church, serving Father. This elderly American priest takes this boy under his wing and does something so simple, so profound, that it changes this young man's life and his eternity: Father Christoph loves him, messiness and all.  Jose's heart starts to melt under this kind of affection. True love has that affect doesn't it? Love like that walks side by side, not to condemn or berate, but to witness. To lift up. Pure love believes the best. Sees the best. And inevitably, this kind of love cracks open heart to surrender to the soul of our One True Lover, Jesus Christ.

Even amidst the persecution, Jose begins to train as an altar boy. Understanding the danger, Jose gives his life to Jesus Christ. 

But his joy is short lived. Militants ride in, searching for the priest. Jose begs Father Christoph to save himself. He finds Father kneeling. His face turned toward the Eucharist. 

"Padre, the military is coming. Please Father, you must hide.
 Come with me. Please."  

Understanding the danger, Father Christoph remains eerily calm. 
He takes the boy's face in his trembling hands. 

"Hide? I'm too old to hide. Will I hide from God? 
This is my home. I am safe here. 
Who are you if you don't stand up for what you believe? 
There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ." 

Father Christoph places his rosary around the boy's neck. 

Embracing and kissing him.  Blessing him. 


He commands Jose to run.

Jose weeps and hides, watching in horror as his beloved mentor is marched outside of the Church and bound in front of a stone wall. Although Jose is hidden from the guards, he looks on the scene from above. The two friends lock eyes. Together, they whisper the rosary as the elderly priest is executed at gunpoint. With the priests words ringing in his heart, Father Christoph's protege will never again be the same. And neither will history.


Jose runs off to join the Cristiada, a renegade group of men who are determined to regain their religious liberty to worship their Catholic faith again.   Led by General Gorostieta, an atheist, civilian military leader, the Cristiada stratigically fight back against the persecution. Gorostieta is mesmerized by Jose's faith. The boy's dedication to the Catholic sacraments makes a tremendous impact on the General who has never believed in God. 

Jose is captured. Tortured. Promised to be released if he will simply denounce his Catholic faith. I had to shield my eyes as this brave 15-year-old boy lay strapped down, feet and hands bound, at the mercy of an evil military officer slowly slicing open the bottom of his feet so that he would turn his back on The Church. 

Still, Jose did not give in. 


Feet dripping with blood, a band of Mexican military mane march Jose to the center of town, stand him next to a shallow grave. 

With his parents looking on, Jose has one more chance to save his life by denouncing the Church. He chooses eternity instead.  

Gorostieta's life is transformed as he witnesses the faithfulness of Catholics in the face of persecution. Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio was declared a martyr by Pope John Paul II and beautified by Pope Benedict XVI in November of 2005. In January, Pope Francis attributed a miracle to him, blessed Jose will become a saint on October 16th of this year. 


"You know what's amazing?" My hubby whispers as the credit rolls. "Is that this could somehow start to happen again, this type of persecution against Christians could happen around our World, during our lifetime." 

I nod my head, too stunned to say anything. 

Certainly this...
THIS type of Christian persecution could not happen in 2016...
I have been praying that very line ever since.  

And this morning, I'm breathing heavy on the treadmill, when my eyes scan over the huge TV screens hung nearby. The headline must be a sick joke. I almost forget to keep running. 
Because there it is, there bold across the screen. 

"Breaking News: ISIS Opens New Front of War on Christians. Is attack on a Catholic French Church, 
slitting the throat on elderly priest the first step in 
fulfilling terrifying barbaric plague?" 

And this afternoon, I read how it happened. 
My eyes blur wet as I scan the account of how this 85-year-old French priest is forced to fall to his knees in front of ISIS. 
How he is executed at the hand of Islamic extremists. 
Killed because of His allegiance to our Holy God and His Church. 

And how the last words Jacques Hamel heard before his throat 
was slit were, "Allahu Akbar". 

"For two years, the black-clad jihadist army has called for attacks on Christians in Rome, throughout Europe and across the world. It has even called for the assassination of Pope Francis. The attack -- which the knife-wielding ISIS killers reportedly videotaped -- in the northern French town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray shows Islamist killers have heeded the call."
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/07/26/murder-french-priest-brings-isis-long-threatened-war-on-christians-to-europe.html
And I'm writing this today as a reminder of truth:
that yes there seem to be shootings everywhere lately, 
and yes ISIS is real, 
and yes there are evil people out there who want to wipe Christians off the face of this Earth...

But do you want to know the real truth? 

WE ARE NOT AFRAID. 

WE BELIEVERS ARE NOT AFRAID.  

Because we trust in the One who has already won the war. 

So these little battles, yes, they break our hearts. 
We weep for the slain priest and the young boy who was murdered because of faith and the men and women who bravely serve their Church in midst of persceution. We continue to fight for our religious liberty and for the Catholic faith. 
We will not hide and we will not run.  

But today, as you see what's happening around the world,
you dare to whisper the doubt you hear down deep...
"Do I REALLY believe in Jesus Christ if I admit I am scared that my faith may lead to persecution? 
Is my walk with God strong enough that if I was faced with the choice to defend my life or lie and save my life, 
I would the One who has already saved my life?"

Yes, my friends. And yes again.

Because even Blessed Jose was scared too. 
He whispered it several times to those around him.
But admitting his fear didn't make him cower. 
It made him a vessel. 

And his fear? 
Yes, it was frightening. 
But it took a backseat to his LOVE FOR CHRIST. 

Because Blessed Jose knew he was redeemed. 
Already saved by the One who gave his life on the Cross to so that he, and we, might have the security of knowing eternal rest. 

So on the days you feel scared to be a Christ follower? 
Take those moments to our Lord. 
Because He promises His perfect love casts out fear.
ALL fear. 

Our fears are diminished in the shadow of the Cross. 

The truth we have been promised by the Creator of the Universe? 

WE WILL OVERCOME,
because we SERVE THE GOD WHO ALREADY HAS.  


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