Are you ready to die?
That rather shocking question is something all Christians are called to explore, at least at certain times in their lives. Of course, we all face death as life ends, but we are also a church of martyrs. From the apostles in the first century down to modern Christians who have died for their faith in places like Syria and even, if recent reports are true, in Oregon, people face death for following Christ. As the early Christian writer Tertullian (166-222) said, “The blood of martyrs was the seed of the church.”
It takes great commitment, as well as faith, to be a Christian. It can mean little sacrifices of self, such as showing up for Mass on Sunday rather than staying in bed or going golfing. It can be a bit more challenging, as when you choose to speak up at a party if someone makes a mean remark about the pope. Or it can mean losing your job rather than compromise teachings of the faith.
This week’s readings remind us of that call to face what’s hard because we believe. Jesus tells James and John that they will drink the same cup (of rejection, suffering, death and resurrection) he will drink. Have you ever tasted that cup?
The letter to the Hebrews calls on us to “hold fast to our confession.” Have you ever faced that challenge? How did you do?
The first reading from Isaiah comes from the fourth of the Suffering Servant Songs that we understand were lived out by Christ.
The word “martyr” comes from a Latin word meaning “witness.” There’s a well-known phrase that asks: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” What’s your answer?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that, “The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine” (n 2473). In what ways have you suffered for your faith?
Are you a good witness? Listen to the words of the Creed as you pray it at Mass. Do you act on the beliefs you voice? Do you believe in the church? Do you believe in the resurrection of the body? The forgiveness of sins? Do you understand — and live out — what it means to be in “the communion of saints?”
You may not have to die for your beliefs, but could you explain them clearly to someone? Do you teach them, by your example, to your children or other young people around you? Could you — by your witness — convince them so deeply that they, too, would be willing to give their lives for the Gospel?
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of multiple books, including “Making Sense of Saints.”