Friday, July 8, 2005
Fear and Faithfulness: The Example of the Martyrs In Defense of the Catholic Faith

We have seen it a few times and heard about it even more - people are persecuted for their beliefs. In the early days of Rome, the followers of Christ were persecuted so intensely by the Romans; all of the apostles except John died for the Faith. St. Peter, the first pope, who at one point denied Christ three times, willingly went to his own Cross for Christ but was crucified upside because he said he was unworthy to die as his savior did.

In the Gospel Our Lord says to St. Peter: "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, 'Follow me.'" After Peter died, St. Linus became pope and later died of decapitation. And the next 30 popes also all died for the Holy Faith.

The Gospel tells us:
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
But do not be afraid of these trials or tribulations. Jesus Christ, Our Lord, was also called to suffer although He was innocent and suffered willingly to take away the sins of the world. Rejoice today, on Friday, as we recall his bitter passion but realizing his amazing love for us: as He died for us while we still sinners and accepted death so that we may avoid eternal death.

"In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Listen to Our Lord speaking through scripture: He has already destroyed the things of ,the world because "For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Romans 8:13). Rejoice for the debt of sin is paid and the Father's Arms of love opened for us on the Cross. The world will pass away but the Son will remain. I once heard this: If the Son shall set you free then indeed you truly shall be free.

The Example of Martyrs:

The martyrs have given witness to Christ through the centuries. St. Justin (c. 100 - 165), martyr, who gave up his life for Jesus Christ. St. Justin lived the first 30 years of his life as a pagan philosopher. As he began to read the Sacred Scriptures, he began to believe in Jesus Christ and the Church. However, what converted him more than anything else was the example of Christians. Remember, at this time Christians were murdered because of their faith. And, they went off proudly to die for Jesus Christ. St. Justin was so moved by their example that he began to believe.

St. Justin remarked that Socrates was a brilliant man with many followers but not one of them died for Socrates. It was the example of others that lead to St. Justin's conversion. And more than that - it leads him to his own martyrdom. St. Justin was one of the first great apologetics (defenders of the faith).

Not just St. Justin but also St. Charles Lwanga, Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, St. Stephen the First Martyr, St. Paul Miki, St. Lawrence, and countless others.

The Church has been persecuted against:

It has been persecuted since the time of St. Peter. Over 30 of the first popes died for the faith. The Church was persecuted during the time of King Henry V of England and Queen Elizabeth I. It was persecuted against in Mexico where Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro was murdered. It was persecuted against in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. During that civil war, at least 6,832 priests and religious were martyred, including 13 bishops. And they are still murdered in our day too.

Men and women will not lay down their lives and accept death for a lie!!!

But the Church has survived every persecution thrown at it. It brings to mind the Acts of the Apostles: "And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught; But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38b-39a)

2 comment(s):

del_button July 8, 2005 at 4:48 PM
Matthew said...

I can only think of the Crusades, which John Paul ll apologized for several years ago. I understand people are persecuted, but my post was saying that Christians must not fear persecution because God is with us in our undertakings.

del_button July 10, 2005 at 1:12 PM
Matthew said...

God is Great!

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