This past week, the Church had us remembering a variety of martyrs – people who literally died for the sake of Christ, usually in quite public and gruesome manners. We know that hagiographies are meant to inspire our own journeys in faith, but the trouble with martyrs is that it’s kind of complicated trying to emulate them. Of course their lives of faith are inspiring, but it is their deaths which have made them notable saints. So, how do we capture that in our still very much living lives? Especially in a culture where the Church is not being persecuted and where it is very unlikely that we will be required to die for our beliefs?
While it might be helpful to ask ourselves what we are willing to die for, I wonder if it might be more helpful to ask ourselves what are the things we live for? Perhaps for some it is our families, friends, careers, reputation… or perhaps our talents and abilities – or even our deepest fears and secrets; the things that we believe make us who we are – for better or for worse. Perhaps it is even our doctrinal beliefs; the things we hold tightly to about the expression of our religion. Then we may ask ourselves, “Would I be willing to sacrifice those things for the sake of Christ?” Is our love for Christ stronger than the things we hold most dear? Stronger, even, than our sense of self, or of our grasp on reality?
Kathleen Norris says, “A martyr is not to be imitated, but a witness, one who testifies to a new reality.” I think she is speaking of the reality that exists beyond what we can see and touch, even what we can define or claim for ourselves. In Christ, we claim and are clothed with a reality that is difficult for the world to understand; difficult even for us to understand at times. It is a reality rooted in the boundless love of God for us, and the love which we as God’s children are asked to emulate… even if it brings us to death – literal or figurative.
It is this radical love that changes the very fabric of the world we exist in. It is this love we are called to, forsaking all else. On this Feast of Pentecost, Ipray that the Holy Spirit might turn our hearts anew, that we may be inspired to martyr all in our own hearts that keeps us from experiencing the radical love of Christ, and from being Christ’s life-changing love in the world.
Download the service booklet here: Liturgy at Home Pentecost 1 Sunday June 5 2022