Saturday, October 21, 2017
[Jesus said to his disciples:] “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8-9
One of the greatest examples of those who acknowledge Jesus before others is that of the martyrs. One martyr after another throughout history gave witness to their love of God by holding firm to their faith despite persecution and death. One such martyr was St. Ignatius of Antioch. Below is an excerpt from a famous letter St. Ignatius wrote to his followers once he was arrested and headed for martyrdom by being fed to the lions. He wrote:
I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
This statement is inspiring and powerful, but here is an important insight that could easily be missed in reading it. The insight is that it’s easy for us to read it, be in awe of his courage, talk about him to others, believe in his witness, etc…but not take one step closer to making this same faith and courage our own. It’s easy to talk about the great saints and to be inspired by them. But it’s very difficult to actually imitate them.
Think about your own life in the light of the Gospel passage from today. Do you freely, openly and fully acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and God before others? You do not have to go around being an “in-your-face” sort of Christian. But you do have to easily, freely, transparently and completely allow your faith and love of God shine forth, especially when it’s uncomfortable and difficult. Do you hesitate in doing this? Most likely you do. Most likely all Christians do. For that reason, St. Ignatius and the other martyrs are great examples for us. But if they only remain examples, then their example is not enough. We must live their witness and become the next St. Ignatius in the witness God calls us to live.
Reflect, today, upon whether you are only inspired by the martyrs or if you actually imitate them. If it’s the former, pray that their inspiring witness effects a powerful change in your life.
Lord, thank You for the witness of the great saints, especially the martyrs. May their witness enable me to live a life of holy faith in imitation of each one of them. I choose You, dear Lord, and acknowledge You, this day, before the world and above all else. Give me the grace to live this witness with courage. Jesus, I trust in You.