Grace to you!
There is wisdom in the way the feast days of the saints are ranked in the breviary or missal (the Church’s liturgical book with the prayers and instructions for the Mass). After the feasts that relate to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Father (the Blessed Trinity), the next in the order of priority is the feast of the dedication of the Church, followed by the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the first among the saints; then comes the feast of the apostles. After the apostles is the feast of the martyrs, the common of pastors, doctors of the Church, virgins, men saints, women saints, religious, saints noted for works of mercy and saints for educators, in that order.
Observe that the feast of the martyrs comes right after the feast of the apostles. There is wisdom in the Church's beatification and canonization processes. Also, did you know that no special miracles or “first class” miracle is required to canonize somebody who was a martyr for the faith in Christ? Martyrdom is, in itself, the ultimate act of virtue. This tells us how the Church looks at the sacrifice of martyrdom.
On another note, did you know the worst sin a believer could commit? It is apostasy, which means, renouncing or abandoning one’s faith in God. Often, this is more evident when it is done publicly.
Just like martyrdom is the highest form of witness for which one of the New Testament synonyms for witnessing is martyrdom, so also the lowest point of non-witness to the Christ is apostasy. Thus, nothing is worth falling into the temptation of this low point of spiritual darkness. Nothing!
To publicly reject Jesus or rather to deny him is to shut the door to the way, the truth and the life. It’s to place oneself on the wrong side of the aisle of divine mercy and justice. It’s choosing Sheol, a horrible state to be.
Thus, are there difficulties and trials that are daring our faith, or causing us to reconsider our faith in the Risen Lord? The Lord encourages us to be courageous: "Fear not... so, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10:31-33).
This sounds harsh, yet beneath it lies the true courage of witnessing to Jesus. If a compromising spirit relating to the truth and identity of Jesus Christ is expected, I believe the Lord would have schooled the disciples on the art of diplomacy on how to compromise so as to negotiate better to avoid persecution. But he didn't. In matters of the choice between what is evil and what is good, the Lord doesn’t propose a middle ground.
There is something about the Good News of salvation, which Jesus is and brings to us, that stares us in the face. It's kind of overtly daring. First was the long teaching and showing of Jesus’ identity in the Sermon on the Mount. There the Lord proposes everything other than the conventional. Here again (in Mt 10:26-33), the Lord encourages believers to have the courage of witnessing even when it entails martyrdom, what the Letter to the Hebrews will describe as "up to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb 12:4).
Practically, being on the side of God wasn't easy for Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Actually, it won him more enemies than friends. He was martyred for it too. It wasn't easy for any of the pioneers of the faith, those who ate and dined with Jesus either. How do we expect that ours will be a cozy laurel in a comfy world? To think so is to daydream. Scary?
The Lord is being frank, as well as encouraging us to take the bull by the horn. The kingdom of God isn't semblance with the ways of the world; otherwise it wouldn’t be prepped on the wood of the cross. Instead, it is won because the saving blood dropped from that wood of the cross for many.
Hence, courage. Those ways or things that would dull Christ in our life don’t deserve our affection. If we stand up to them and reflect Christ, though we may not have the opportunity of actual martyrdom, we will share in the glory of the martyrs because in little's things, those small temptations and trials plus the subtle lures against holiness, we fought like spiritual marines. Crown is assured in Christ.
Praying for the grace of courage and endurance in moments of trials. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.