71 Central St. Stoneham, MA 02180

Browsing Pastor's Notes

02/20/24 - Traveling the road of Lent together

From the PastorDear Friends in Christ,

On February 15th the Roman Martyrology (the book that contains the names of the saints who are commemorated on each day of the Church’s year) commemorates twenty-one men who were martyred on February 15th, 2015. All of them were migrants who were working in Libya. (An icon of them is pictured on the front of today’s bulletin.)

They were kidnapped and brought to a beach where they were videotaped kneeling in the sand. Their captors instructed them to renounce their Christian Faith. When the men refused, they were beheaded.

Twenty of the men were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One of the men, however, remains a bit of a mystery. Matthew Ayariga was not a native Copt. He is believed to have been from Ghana or Chad. It is unknown whether he was even a Christian. What is known is that he was with these other men that day on the beach. And, he was with them when they were all kidnapped.

I sometimes think about Matthew. How did he meet these others? Why did he stay with them? I tend to think that Matthew saw something in this band of brothers. He saw the way that they lived their lives. He saw their love for one another and their virtue. He was attracted to stay with them.

Matthew saw these men being slaughtered one by one. When the terrorists reached Matthew, they asked him what Faith he was. Matthew’s response is very moving to me. He said, “Their God is my God.” Matthew was then executed. From now until the end of time, the Church will honor and seek the intercession of Matthew and his twenty brothers. They died for the Faith.

As we live Lent, it is good for us to remember Matthew and his twenty brothers. They remind us of the power that comes from following Christ. Those twenty men lived in a way that attracted Matthew to stay with them. It attracted Matthew in such a powerful way that he chose to stay with them even until death.

Lent is not about us being isolated in our own private penances. It is a time for us to live more closely together on the road of discipleship. It is a time for us to become more convincing witnesses of our Christian Faith. This Faith is lived in communion with each other. Faith is lived in friendship. It is lived in mutual support, mutual prayer, and mutual charity. Each Sunday at Mass when we pray the Creed, each of us says, “I believe . . . .” The Faith is personal. And yet, we all say those words together.

Traveling the road of Lent together, we ask that the Lord might deepen our communion with Him and with one another. Our penances, prayers, and almsgiving are intended to purify each of us and to purify all of us. We all need this purification.

My prayer this Lent is that each of us will be purified so much and our communion deepened so much that others will be attracted to our life together. I pray that they will see us and be compelled to say, “Their God is my God.”

Your Brother in Christ,

Fr. David Barnes