On March 4th, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a priest who is a member of the Salesian order, was kidnapped by Islamic radicals in Yemen. The Franciscan Sisters of Siessen, based in South Africa, warned on Facebook of the priest’s imminent demise, stating that the priest is being tortured and that he will be crucified on Good Friday. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Salesians, speaking in Bangladesh, India, stated that the order has no information. “These are all rumors. When no has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, how do we know other details,” he stated.
The purpose of this blog post is not to attempt to debate the validity of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessans statement of information they say they have received. The purpose is to once again draw attention to a statement of Jesus found in Matthew 16:24. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
In another blog, “The Danger of ‘Spiritualizing,'” I discuss why I think that the common application of this particular statement of Jesus is very far from what Jesus was actually saying, so I will not rehash it here.
What I will say here is that, if the report of the intended crucifixion of Father Uzhunnalil is true and Father Uzhunnalil remains true to his declaration of Jesus as Lord and is therefore crucified Friday, then he will be a modern day example of Jesus’ very strong statement from Matthew 16:24. He is willing to take up that cross and actually deny himself the ability to breath.
And all this got me to thinking; if all this does occur, how many followers of Jesus, if in Father Uzhunnalil’s place, would make the same decision? How many would choose to lose actual life (verse 25 uses the Greek word for “soul” by which was meant actual physical life, not quality of life)? How many would do whatever it took to continue breathing, even if it meant denouncing Christ?
It’s impossible to say for sure until one is actually in that position, but the question is a “gut check.” It is a question that should cause each follower to examine the depth and strength of his/her commitment and true belief
For the only true commitment and belief is that upon which we act and respond.