Today, the Dominicans celebrated the feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the Japanese martyrs. During Mass, I spent a lot of time reflecting upon martyrdom. I'd like to share some of those reflections here:
The Apostles were some of the first martyrs and those who were closest to Jesus. But, Jesus died.
If that was it, if that was how the story really ended and their was no resurrection, why would they die for this man? People die, or sacrifice themselves, for others who are living. The man who pushes the lady out of the way of the oncoming car, only to take the fall himself. The person who takes the bullet for somebody else. These people are giving up their lives for actually living people. Hmmm...any insight into the reality and power of the Resurrection?
Now, people will also give up their lives for a truth or (political) ideals. We see our troops doing this all around the world - sacrificing themselves for the good of our freedom as a country. They sacrifice their lives for something greater than themselves. Again, this point provides some insight into why the martyrs did what they did. They died for God, for Truth bigger than themselves.
I'm also confident that the Apostles weren't crazy or mentally ill. They knew what they were doing, spoke well, reasoned well, led the Church in her infancy, and dealt reasonably with all the issues that come with infancy!
People may fight or play a sports game in honor of a dead/dying person. Still, one fights or plays to win. Fighting to die doesn't make sense. I was thinking of the end of Braveheart as the men are lined up once again for battle, only this time, William Wallace is already dead. They do not lay down their lives for Wallace. They fight and are willing to lay down their lives for Freedom (which is exactly the belief Wallace laid out for them earlier in the movie).
This martyrdom point seems very curious. I believe it speaks strongly of a Presence - a real, living Presence. A Presence greater than myself - a Truth worth dying for.
How much grace and faith it must take to be a martyr.