2cornucopias

Martyrdoms

In 13 Today's Church on 2014/11/15 at 12:00 AM

 

  • Just outside the city walls of Rome, not terribly far from St. John Lateran, is the Basilica of St. Lawrence, which is one of oldest and most architecturally significant churches in Rome.
  • It is there that good St. Lawrence, along with the martyrs St. Stephen and St. Justin are buried together in one large sarcophagus. As you all know, we have a beautiful statue of St. Lawrence here in our church.
  • You’ll notice that our statue of St. Lawrence depicts him holding a gridiron, which was the instrument of his martyrdom. In what had to be one of the most horrifying martyrdoms of all time, good St. Lawrence was roasted to death.
  • It is reputed that while he was being roasted alive, St. Lawrence jokingly said to his torturers: “you can turn me over; I’m done on this side.” It is for this reason that St. Lawrence is the patron saint of both cooks and comedians.
  • Incidentally, the gridiron upon which St. Lawrence was roasted has been preserved and can be seen in another church bearing his name right in the heart of Rome.
  • While I have a love for all of the saints, I must confess that I do have a particular love and respect for the Church’s martyrs, for they are the saints who conformed themselves to Christ not only by their lives, but also by their deaths.
  • Certainly Holy Mother Church, too, extols the martyrs in a very esteemed way, for in the lives and deaths of the martyrs we, the Faithful, can find encouragement to endure whatever sufferings may come into our lives.
  • In our 1st reading the prophet Isaiah captures the spirit of the martyrs with his bold statements of his willingness to suffer for God’s sake. But I think what’s most important in Isaiah’s words is not his willingness to suffer but rather his confident trust in God’s power to save.
  • Isaiah says: “The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who holds my right hand. . . . See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?”
  • This overwhelming faith in God and His goodness and mercy is really the stuff that martyrs are made of more so than their capacity for heroic suffering.
  • While the stories of the martyrs’ sufferings impress us, we must always remember that they were able to suffer as they did because of their unshakeable faith in God.
  • In our Gospel we hear one of the very first professions of faith in Jesus, and it is made by St. Peter. Jesus and His disciples are traveling together to Caesarea Philippi, and as they do Jesus asks them: “Who do people say that I am?”
  • And after they give the usual answers: John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets, Jesus asks another question to test their faith: “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter passes the test by replying: “You are the Christ.”
  • St. Peter’s confession of faith is important, for it reminds us of Who Jesus Is. It reminds us that Jesus isn’t just a nice guy or even simply a miracle worker. He is our Savior and Redeemer. He is God! And as His followers, we are called to have faith in that fact.
  • Of course coming to this faithful belief that Jesus is Lord puts some demands on us. Namely, if Jesus is Lord, then His teachings must be true and are, therefore, not to be dismissed. That’s why I spoke about the importance of obedience a couple of weeks ago.
  • Indeed, the truest measure of a man is how well he conforms his life to this truth about Jesus. Truly, the greatest men and women the world has ever known have been those who have conformed themselves most closely to God’s holy truth.
  • The saints whose lovely images adorn our church are but a sampling of these greatest of men and women!
  • These saints remind us that being Catholic requires more than just conforming our minds to the truths enshrined within our Catholic teaching. They remind us that it’s not enough simply to believe. We must live our faith as well!
  • In our second reading St. James reminds us that our faith is not a private matter, but rather that it’s meant to be lived in a public way. People should know that we are Christians by the way we conduct ourselves in the world.
  • In particular, St. James highlights for us the virtue of charity in living our faith. Truly, the greatest hallmark we should possess as Christians is a generous love that reaches out to all people, especially to those in need.
  • James speaks of the importance of providing for the needs of others less fortunate than oneself, and to be sure, charity of this type is not optional for Christians, but essential.
  • But just as essential as serving the poor is the requirement that we be charitable to those with whom we live, work, and associate on a regular basis.
  • As we consider this past week’s violence in the Muslim world, for example, it’s easy to see that there’s an overabundance of hate and lack of respect for the inherent human dignity of others in our world today. And these things threaten man’s survival.
  • As I pray and reflect on the state of our world today, I am absolutely convinced that the only way to change our world is for those of us who are believers to practice a radical charity, the same type of charity Christ showed us on the cross. And it begins with those we know.
  • Are there people in your life whom you routinely ignore because you don’t like them? Are you curt or rude to others, or do you make judgments about others? Do you gossip or commit the sins of detraction or calumny? These are all good questions to ask oneself.
  • Jesus says to us today that: “Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” While most Christians do not die a martyr’s death, we are all called to die to self.
  • This means that our faith in God must be so strong that we will be willing to suffer for the sake of God and His Church. This means that we must value the honor of God and the truth of our Catholic teachings more than we value our own comfort and reputation.
  • But dying to oneself and living a life of radical charity means that we must love others even when we don’t like them. It means that we must put their needs above our desires, that we be willing to overlook their faults and failings when necessary, and that we do all we can to lead them to salvation.
  • My brothers and sisters, the world has more than enough hate, lack of respect for others, and faithlessness. Let us not add to these sins. But rather, let us prove that we are truly people of great faith by living lives of radical charity.
  • By our Lady’s intercession and the intercession of St. Lawrence and all the martyrs, may we become martyrs of charity by dying to ourselves and by placing all of our trust in our Lord’s power to save!

16 September 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

 

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