Cardinal Pell, though not considering his ordeal in the prison was the worst, said it was difficult. Then he told us that it is his faith that helped him endure his 13 months of lock up. There are many martyrs and near martyrs who endured terrible persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. One such inspiration is the determination and perseverance of Fr Benedict, a Keralite. In 1966 he was convicted of murdering a poor widow, Mariakutty. Though he maintained his innocence, he could never prove it in the court. If only he divulged a confession secret, he could convince the court of his innocence. But his trust in Jesus Christ and his love of the Church steeled his mind to endure the persecution rather than disown his faith. The police interrogations prior to conviction were very cruel. Then came a full term of imprisonment for murder. All people, including his close friends and family, were led to believe that he was a criminal. But he was resolute in his faith life. It took thirty four years before the world knew of the holiness and of his faith commitment. In 2000 the family of the actual murderer owned up to the crime and confessed how Fr Benedict was set up. By then Fr Benedict was a sickly 73 year old man. One would consider this as a very late admission that deprived Fr Benedict of real life all this time and for ever. But in spite of the bad reputation Fr Benedict had to unjustly endure all this time, he was a serene man without any thought of revenge for anyone. How could he do it?
His faith and trust in his saviour Jesus Christ was such that, even when he faced all the torture and ill reputation, he knew his real life will be rewarded by God with eternal joy and peace. He trusted in the Gospel words, “Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered.” This Gospel truth was realised in Benedict’s life. Our Lord said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Mt 10:26, 28). Inspired by many martyrs like Fr Benedict, every Christian is able to profess trust in Jesus in the face of the challenges presented by the world today. Loss of faith in Jesus makes you sinful, which you don’t want.
Out of our frail human nature, we all fail in our love for one another and for God. Sometimes we even might do evil things. That makes us, all of us, sinners. God forgives sinners. But when you turn your back to God, show no trust and faith in Jesus, you become sinful. Even God cannot forgive sinfulness. Such outright rejection of the love of God will end up in eternal damnation. May the love of God help you to face any challenges the world might throw at you, even persecutions and lead you to the fruits of the Kingdom of God, peace, joy and fellowship. Your faith is your strength.