Reflections on Christian Martyrdom

crucifixion

If for some reason you haven’t heard, there are many gruesome murders currently occurring in Syria as Muslim Radicals martyr Christian believers.

These murders are hard to accept on many levels–we supposedly live in a civilized world where we have, at the very least, stopped killing people who don’t believe the same things as us.  If there is one good thing about Liberalism and Pluralism, that should be it.  We have seen Christians protect Muslim worshipers, and we have seen Muslims do the same for Christians.  We have seen so many genocides, holocausts, and senseless killing that surely we as humanity as begun to move past causing senseless torture.  But the fallen human condition yet again rears its head.  Things such as this will happen in every generation, because there will always be humans who reject the redemption Christ purchased for them.  The Church will always have Martyrs.

I have always been blessed with a strong virtue of Faith–I have never seriously doubted the existence of God, am usually able to see the good in any situation, and know that “everything works for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  Even my wife will tell you, my motto of “it will always work out” can be quite frustrating at times.  But this is hard for me to accept and work through–as it should be for anyone.  Why does God allow this happen?  Can there truly be meaning and greater good brought from this?  In reflecting on these events, I think its important to remember a few things…

The Beauty of Martyrdom: These senseless, violent, and evil killings are not good.  The people committing these evil acts are as evil as people can be.  I do not wish for people to suffer a slow death.  But Martyrdom is the oldest beauty of the Church.  It is not only the fastest way to the eternal peace and joy of heaven, but it is the fastest way to spread the witness and truth of Christian love, devotion, and courage.  These men and women, and their unborn babies, who are refusing to renounce their faith should be admired for their heroic virtue.  It is easy to pity them for what has happened, but why should we pity those who are in heaven?  We should pray that we should have such courage to live our faith if the need ever arose.

These Muslims are Radicals: Why is it “easy” for a Christian to hate a Muslim?  Because of situations like this–the two religions have been fighting since the 8th Century.  It really is unfortunate, because there is much beauty in the practice of Islam, and the religion is filled with my devoted, kind, and peaceful people.  Just like certain things in Christianity give Christians a bad name (the sexual abuse scandals, the crusades, etc.), so do these killings give Muslims a bad name.  It’s EASY  for us to use these experiences to HATE each other.  The challenge, the Godly, Holy, Peaceful, soul-wrenching, spirit-testing, virtue-building thing to do is to LOVE  Muslims and…wait for it… especially THESE Muslims, who are killing our Brothers and Sisters in Syria.  Pray for them, for their souls, for mercy, for repentance.  This will keep you from hating them–hate is cancer for the soul.

God is Never Absent Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it–how can there be so much evil if God is supposedly loving.  If I had an adequate answer, we would all be Christians. Sometimes there isn’t an adequate answer–one that can satisfy the intellectual and emotional needs of our finite beings.  Sometimes evil done senselessly seems eternally senseless.  Some would argue that it is–there is no meaning behind evil and it is just a consequence of humans being horrible wretches.  I don’t believe that.  There is always some good that comes of any evil that God allows.  The difficult part is that seldom do we see it.  But that’s the challenge of faith isn’t it?  “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen”.  Please, believe.  And if you don’t believe, and least desire to believe–Christian Hope is essential in the fallen world.

 

I have always had a fondness for Compline (Night Prayer) in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office)–it is the perfect blend of penitence, vigilance, and hope.  It embraces suffering. To me, it has a calming effect at the time when I need it the most (bedtime).  It feels, in this situation, particularly apt, for the very last prayer we pray during compline is, in Latin “Noctem quietam, et finem perfectum concedat nobis Dominus omnipotens”, which translates to “May the Almighty God grant us a quiet night and a perfect death”.  Isn’t that fitting for these Martyrs?  Perhaps as an act of solidarity, a prayer for peace, and a reflection on our own faith, for as long as these murders continue, we should all pray night prayer with the specific context of prayer for these victims, that their courage may not fail.

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