Fr. Andrij M. Hlabse, SJ is our contributing author for the March reflection. Fr. Hlabse was recently ordained into the priesthood in the Byzantine Rite at St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Parma, Ohio, and is completing a licentiate in patristic theology from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Previously, Fr. Hlabse has worked at Fe y Alegría in Lima, Peru, taught at Saint Ignatius in Chicago, and has served as director of the choir of the International College of the Gesù in Rome.
In the Church, God gives the gift to the whole human family of the possibility of being close to Jesus Christ. The Church extends in time and space the mission of Jesus while he walked the earth for our salvation, by offering us the chance to hear his words of forgiveness, be anointed with the oil of his Spirit, and to receive his Body and Blood. By being drawn into the life of the Church, especially the Sacraments, we are enabled to feel close to Jesus, to know his loving presence and action in our lives.
Yet, many Christians with whom we share faith in Jesus live in societies in which they are not free to approach the nearness of God in the Church or in which they run great risk for doing so, even their very lives! It may be difficult to understand that martyr Churches still exist today, not only in the Church’s history, especially if we are accustomed to relative freedom in practicing our faith in our own lives. Yet, in many places in the world our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ suffer today and give them-selves up to marginalization, loss, and even death for their faith in the risen Lord.
These communities have special need of our tender support and love. May our own efforts help these communities experience freely the nearness of the Lord in the Church; and until that moment comes through cultural change, may they feel the consoling nearness of God by knowing that we, their family in Christ, labor so that their rights, especially that of religious freedom, are respected.