The following is a text of a homily given by Msgr. Henryk Jagodziński at the Pontifical Polish Institute in Rome.
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Even today persecution against those who believe in Christ continues. The annual report of the Pontifical Association of Aid to the Church in Need, published in December of last year, clearly shows that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. Harassment and discrimination against Christ’s followers is increasing. The report shows that religious freedom is threatened in nearly 60 % of the world’s countries. 200 million Christians are brutally persecuted and 350 million suffer various forms of discrimination. Not a day goes by without our hearing about new victims of these persecutions. Yet, we can recognize a peculiar characteristic in the news reports: in the mainstream of the world’s media, when the persecution of Christians is mentioned, the reports only indicate the number of victims, and then go on to explain that this, in fact, is not persecution in the strict sense of religious persecution, but rather motivated by political, social or economic interests.
In this context, let us recall the situation, just a few months ago, in the wake of the attack against the French satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo,” on January 7th. A huge number of articles and words of condemnation were published; and there were even demonstrations with the participation of heads of state and government condemning the attack and defending the so-called freedom of speech represented by that magazine. Yet, what kind of freedom of speech was being defended? Blasphemous jokes about things and matters that are sacred not only to Islam, but also for other religions, including Christianity. This is said, of course, not in an attempt to find some shade for the murderers in extenuating circumstances, but only to highlight a certain mentality prevailing in the world’s media and politics. Let us note that there has never been such mass mobilization in defense of slain Christians or resoluteness concerning the right to religious freedom in countries where this freedom does not exist or is limited. The world has somehow gotten used to this state of affairs, where the binding standards in relation to Christians are different from those applied for the defense of what is priceless in the eyes of the secular world.
In recalling these facts, I wanted to point out that all this is not new. While in the Western world, including the United States and Canada, being a Christian no longer means risking death, nevertheless, we are dealing here with various forms of white glove persecution. We are facing a kind of ideological war with Christianity, with a new type of Kulturkampf.
And what does Jesus say to us about all of this? We heard his words in today’s Gospel (Jn 6:35-40), and they are very clear: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jesus simply calls us to himself, promising to satisfy all our desires. This phrase, in a way, also answers our question about what priesthood is for. It is intended precisely to allow Christ to become bread and, so, to come to those who desire it. Therefore, Christ our Lord needs us; he needs our hands so that, through us, he can come to people. Bread is necessary for life. Man needs Christ in order to live forever. Bread and wine, by means of our hands and words, truly become the flesh and the blood of the Lord. If someone were to ask if that is all, I would answer that is already a lot, because it does not happen through the power of our will, but by the will of Christ. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life (Jn 6:40). The Lord Jesus has invited us, poor people, to accomplish this great work; and He entrusts Himself to us, so that we might bring Him to others. The history of the Church shows us that, wherever the celebration of the Eucharist is on the decline, Christianity too slowly begins to disappear. If the Eucharist is to be celebrated, priests are needed to do just that.
Let us meditate on our friendship with Jesus. St. Josémaria Escriva expressed this friendship with Jesus in a few words; may these words help us to reflect on the state of our friendship with Jesus: “Jesus is your friend. — The Friend. With a human heart, like yours. With loving eyes that wept for Lazarus… — And he loves you as much as he loved Lazarus” (The Way n. 422).