FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
BEING A MARTYR
Feast of St Stephen
December 26, 2016
We are called to be holy warriors. We are evangelizers and missionaries. We are witnesses to Jesus. To be a witness is to be a martyr. The word “martyr” comes from the Greek word μάρτυς, mártys, which means “witness.” To be a committed witness is also to court martyrdom.
Such was the fate, or destiny, of Stephen, the first martyr. He testified to Jesus. He spoke boldly about the hard-heartedness of God’s people. They stoned him to death (Acts 7:58a).
Jesus did warn his apostles about coming persecutions. “But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues.” (Mt 10:17). What then is a holy warrior to do? Cower? Back down? Slink away? No. That is precisely the opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Jesus says “you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.” (Mt 10:18).
Such persecution will not just come from secular authorities that are opposed to the faith. It will also come from the enemy within. “Brother will hand over brother to death” (Mt 10:21a). We see this all the time in community and in the Church, where Judases abound. Well, it was the case with Jesus the Master, so why not with us? In fact, such persecution will come from everyone in the world, everyone who is not a holy warrior. “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22).
How do holy warriors endure and persevere?
First, trust in God and in His saving help. “In you, Lord, I take refuge; …. incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me! Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me.” (Ps 31:2a,3). A holy warrior knows the warrior-God that he serves. “For you are my rock and my fortress” (Ps 31:4a). A holy warrior knows that his battle is the Lord’s battle. “You hate those who serve worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.” (Ps 31:7).
Second, however God acts, we rejoice, knowing that our merciful God has our backs and He works for our good. “I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy, once you have seen my misery, and gotten to know the distress of my soul.” (Ps 31:8). Because we trust our God, we leave our fate in His hands. If He delivers us, great. If He allows us to continue to suffer, and even to suffer death, great too, since He has a better plan. Just know He is there for us. “You will not abandon me into enemy hands, but will set my feet in a free and open space.” (Ps 31:9). Perhaps that free and open space will already be heaven. Indeed, the ultimate salvation is when we make it to heaven. “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your mercy.” (Ps 31:17).
Holy warriors, shout out your battle cries and hymns: “How great is your goodness, Lord, stored up for those who fear you. You display it for those who trust you” (Ps 31:20a). And as you plunge into battle, know who your protector is. “You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from scheming enemies.” (Ps 31:21a).
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