The saints have always known that the power of good is something incalculable.
Today the Church draws our attention to the lives of 18th-century Korean martyrs: ordinary people–scholars, farmers, court officials, wives, and merchants. They were martyred for believing in and living out the Gospel of Christ in an anti-christ society. The Church regularly venerates the lives of Martyrs and Saints, for they are our people; they have gone before us into the worship of eternity. They are in communion with us in our suffering and worship; they stand as witnesses and interceders, cheering us on as we strive to live as saints-in-the-making in our corner of the world.
As the faithful on this side of eternity, we don’t know what we don’t know, but the Saints and Martyrs know what we don’t know. We have much to learn from them.
The Saints and Martyrs knew who they were–the beloved of God; created to enjoy him forever, to live their lives in living sacrifice to and worship of the Name above all names. Their eyes were fixed on heaven, and now in Eternity they know the fulfillment of our chief end; they are glorifying God and enjoying him forever. That makes my brain sweat, but in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we get a glimpse of this as the curtain is drawn back, and there we saints-in-the-making join those who lived and died glorifying God in worship.
The Saints and Martyrs knew how to live–in essence, their martyrdom didn’t begin with the last death blow for they were already crucified with Christ. They died daily to sin and death with every choice they made to be transformed into the image of Christ in them. Nothing, nothing could take their eyes off this purpose. Earthy pursuits as well as earthly concerns didn’t hold sway over them for they knew their life was in Christ. To die physically was to live in the fulness of God! Something comes to mind that St. Paul wrote to the persecuted Church in Rome, that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit in our corner of the world so when we suffer with Christ we may also glorify him before others. That is what we are about!
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him…I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us…If God is for us, who is against us? “
The Saints and Martyrs knew where they were going–in essence, their martyrdom did not begin with the last death-blow, because they were already crucified with Christ. They died daily to sin and death with every choice they made to be transformed into the image of Christ in them. Nothing, nothing could take their eyes off this purpose. Earthly pursuits, as well as earthly concerns, didn’t hold sway over them for they knew their life was in Christ. To die physically was to live in the fulness of God! Something comes to mind that St. Paul wrote to the persecuted Church in Rome, that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit in our corner of the world so when we suffering to Christ, we complete what was lacking in Christ’s affliction on the Cross.
May we never forget that Christ bore his sufferings for our salvation; why would we expect anything less. St. Paul reminds the persecuted Church in Rome that we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.
How do we present our bodies as living sacrifices? Well, by choosing not to go along with the tide of the culture that would remove us from the very One who created us and gave his life for us! We die to ourselves each time we say “no,” to any attitude, action, pursuit, or pressure that would drive us further from who we are created to be!
How is it with you today, fellow saint-in-the-making? Do the frustrations or sufferings of your life consume you so much that you forget who you are, what you’re about, and where you are going?
Do you feel isolated as you live your life with your eyes fixed on Jesus? Or perhaps, you find your eyes have been distracted by the shiny things you pursue? Perhaps fear of others and their empty power over you has gotten the best of you? Run to Christ, run to God in the Sacrifice of the Mass where we join the Saints and Martyrs who have struggled in some way as we do. Take heart. Don’t forget to remember who you are and that you are not alone.
As I close I would like to pray with you a paraphrased pray from the Letter to the Hebrews.
“Fellow saint-in-the-making, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.“
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen