The following homily by Coptic Orthodox priest Father Boules George, of St. Mark Church in Cairo, Egypt, is a commentary from Monday of Holy Week on the Palm Sunday bombings on April 9 at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. The terrorist attacks killed at least 24 people and injured more than 100. They followed an attack at a church in December that killed 30. This homily was translated from a video by the blog Coptic Dad and Mom, and is used here with permission.
A message to those who kill us: What will we say to them? The first thing we will say is, “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it. You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.
You gave us to die the same death as Christ — and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified — and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered — and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.
We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.
We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.
Thank you for helping us achieve our goal. You’re helping us, and you don’t even know it. I know you don’t understand, but I’m trying to explain it to you. There are people we visited at home to encourage them to come to church — three, four, five times. Still they won’t come. What you’re doing here, you’re bringing to church the people who never come. Believe me, it’s bringing to church the people who never come!
People who were living in sin and away from God, after the bombing of St. Peter’s Chapel in the Cathedral, they were saying, “You never know when your number’s up. Better take more care [in our spiritual lives].” All these visitations we do — you’re so much more effective. You’re filling up our churches!
Let’s speak plainly here. Usually attendance at the Eve of Monday Pascha is very little. People are usually so tired after a long Palm Sunday Liturgy and the General Funeral, and they don’t come to the Eve of Monday services. When I came in tonight, there were people on chairs outside the sanctuary, there were people in the balcony seating. The church is completely full. There isn’t even one empty nook. Thank you. We are so grateful that you’re helping fill up our churches.
When you do this, you irritate the soul of the person who was lazy before. You wake his conscience and the love of God within him prods him to come to church.
Can you see why we thank you? We’re not being deceptive. A priest holding a microphone can’t lie to you! I say to you: Thank you. Thank you for all you have done for us without even noticing.
The second part of the message we want to send to you is that we love you. And this, unfortunately, you won’t understand at all. Maybe you won’t believe us when we say we’re grateful. But this, you won’t even understand. Why won’t you understand it? Because this too is a teaching of our Christ. I want to explain to you about our Christ. I want to tell you about how wonderful he is.
See what Christ said: If you love those who love you, you have no profit or reward with me. Even thugs and thieves love those who love them. Any gang loves its members. Even the drug dealers all like each other and take care of each other. Right? But I want to tell you that “if you love those who love you, what reward have you … but I say to you, love your enemies” (Matthew 5:46, 44).
We Christians don’t have enemies. We don’t have enemies; others make enmity with us. The Christian doesn’t make enemies because we are commanded to love everyone. And so, we love you because this is the teaching of our God — that I’m to love you — no matter what you do to me.
I love you very much. And I want to say one last thing to you: we’re praying for you. Because the One who told us to love you told us to “bless those who curse you … and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44). So my instructions from my loving God make it my duty to pray for you.
So what do you think? How about we make a commitment to pray for them? Pray that they know the God of love? Pray that they experience the love of God? Because if they knew that God is love and experienced his love, they could not do these things — never, never, never.
They are a wretched lot. And because they are wretched, we must pray for them. But when someone loves God, he won’t know except love.
Pray for them. Take it as a command. Take it as a duty. Take it as the application of Christ’s instructions.
We must all pray for them today that God opens their eyes and open their hearts to his love. Because if they knew Him, they could never do this.
I don’t want to take too long. God comfort us. God give us understanding. God give us joy because Christ’s promise is truth. He said, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22).
I’m embarrassed to say at the beginning of Holy Week that the Church, though she is in pain, rejoices because today – I don’t know what the final count is; they said 40-something (died) and, of course, many people in the hospitals will catch up to them. All of these are crowns. They are rejoicing with God. And they will attend the Resurrection up there. And they are praying for us. The rest is on us.
O, you lucky, lucky, lucky ones! And until it is our turn.
To our God be the glory now and forever. Amen.