Small Acts of Martyrdom

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

When did Christ ever try to avoid the torments meted out to Him? When did He ever strike back with the full wrath of His divinity and scorch the people punishing Him? Even as the Lord and Savior of the world was nailed to the Cross to suffer the death for which He was sent into the world, when did He cower and cry and weep and moan about His dilemma? Never. Not once. Why? He had no fear of man. He trusted in the Father. He believed what He preached.

For years the Church has sung the praises of the martyrs, members of that great list of saints who have followed Christ and chosen the will of the Father over their own. Those devout individuals who lived the promises made at baptism and allowed the grace that God granted them to inundate their souls. These holy ones lived in different parts of the world at different times, they were men, women and children. They were royalty and peasants, and as diverse a group of people as could be assembled. And yet they all have one thing in common: they feared no man. It was not a matter of fearing man less than God, but rather a loving of God that overwhelmed any fear they might have had of man. Who cares what the king can do to you? His efforts to cause you pain pale in comparison to God's love. St. Thomas More, whose feast day we celebrate today, said, “I am the king's good servant, but God's first.” The king's response? “Off with his head.” Yet, who's smiling now?

Granted, martyrdom to the death is a vocation to which few are called. But how about those small acts of martyrdom (witness) which we encounter frequently? How often do people neglect to make the sign of the Cross and say grace before meals when at a restaurant, or when guests are over, for “fear” of offending someone? How often do we fail to open our mouths and speak for “fear” of insulting or hurting someone, when it is absolutely the right thing to do? Jesus says, “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

People oftentimes think they will never be in a life-and-death situation because of their belief in Christ. Well, you probably won't have a gun to your head on account of your belief in Christ, but, as Christ reminds us in the Gospel, it is all life and death.

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