Part of our discussion at the last adult Lent group focused on the Communion of Saints again. A comment came back to me this week. It was about how the suffering of members of the Body of Christ effects us. This statement came back to me when listening to a report on the situation in Nigeria. Christians in the country are being targeted by an extremist group and many are fleeing. One man was so traumatised he could hardly string a sentence together and what he did say was interrupted by sobbing. It seems he lost many members of his family. It was harrowing to hear.
Our faith in Britain, while sometimes being tricky is not dangerous. We do not have to hide and our lives are not at risk every time we go to church. From this safe place, how do we respond to the suffering of the rest of the Body of Christ? If we are truly part of the Communion of Saints shouldn’t we take care of this who are suffering now.
Two charities seek to support Christian Communities in countries where there is persecution. The Catholic ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ has both information that can feed into prayer and ways to take practical help. Christian Solidarity Worldwide also provide good and up-to-date information on many different situations where Christians are suffering. One page on the Aid to the Church in Need website talks about deepening our own faith through support and prayers for the Suffering Church. If we are aware in Mass of being joined by the Angels and Saints in heaven, what would it feel like to be aware that some of the Church Militant were saying Mass with us, in secret at great risk to their own lives? When Christ broke bread and passed round the Cup at the Last Supper it was because he was facing death because of who his is. Many today receive the body and blood of Christ knowing that they and their families face death for following Jesus Christ. When they receive Christ and in return offer themselves to Him in love, it is with the awareness that they maybe called to face martyrdom. What if we take part in Mass being aware of the meaning for others, if we take part in ‘The Watch’ on Maundy Thursday being aware that for some Christians today arrest, torture and death are a real possibility. Can we offer ourselves to God in a whole-hearted way with this in mind? Are we prepared to support those who suffer for their faith in prayer and in practical ways? Paul often appealed in his letters to support fellow believers who were suffering. Through doing this we can begin to appreciate the reality of being part of the Body of Christ.