Everyday Martyrs

A mother stays up all night caring for a sick child.  A pastor serves his flock as father, teacher, counselor, sage and business manager—and can’t find enough hours in the day.  A family gathers from across the country to keep vigil at a deathbed.  A religious sister leaves her family to give herself entirely to Christ and His Church in the mission fields.  A husband works overtime at a job he doesn’t particularly enjoy so that his family can know a better life.  When we think of martyrdom sometimes our definition can be rather narrow.  We remember those earliest Christians killed for their faith during the persecutions of the Roman Empire.  But martyrs are all around us, in our day-to-day world as well.
Whenever we give ourselves away in love and sacrifice for another, we taste martyrdom.  Christ calls us to pour out our own lives in love as He poured His life out for us on the Cross.  Catholicism has a language of faith that speaks to this daily, voluntary self-sacrifice.  We use words like penance and reparation, mortification, fasting, pilgrimage and alms-giving.  The idea of sacrificing ourselves is uniquely Catholic.  Jesus shows us why and how.  It’s why in every Catholic church you’ll see a prominent crucifix near the altar, as a reminder of His sacrifice for us.  We know who we are as Christians because of His sacrifice.  Jesus’ human life was a self-giving sacrifice and the core of our faith is His Eucharist—the same source of love that gave strength to those first martyrs of the Church.  At every Mass since the Last Supper, we worship Him by placing our own lives on His altar.  The Mass is a celebration of our love for God, but at its’ heart the Mass is a sacrifice.  In the Eucharist, Christ is presented to the Father in praise and thanksgiving.  Christ is our eternal priest Who offers Himself up as the Lamb of God.  He is the victim once and for all and the Mass is a participation in this one heavenly offering.  The risen Christ becomes present on the altar in His Body and Blood and offers Himself to the Father as a living sacrifice.
Our everyday sacrifices of love and self-giving allow us to become martyrs in our own small ways.  “In most cases, faithfulness to Christ will not lead to bloody martyrdom, although that possibility cannot be dismissed.  More often, fidelityi is shown in the silent and heroic witness of so many Christians who live the Gospel without compromise.”  Pope Benedict went on to say that living a sacrificial life “is a peaceful battle of love that every Christian, like St. Paul must wage tirelessly.  It is the race to spread the Gospel to which we are committed even unto death” (October 28, 2007).  These words by our Pope seem particularly poignant as his faithful stand for life and human dignity often make him the easy target for media attacks against the Church.  Being a Christian means participating in the suffering of Christ, whether you’re the Pope or a farmer, a mom or a truck driver.  This “peaceful battle of love” is living every day in service to others, putting other people before ourselves, giving ourselves away.  When we pour out our lives as Jesus calls us to do, we reflect the selfless and life-sustaining love of the Blessed Trinity.  Our everyday martyrdom becomes a foretaste of Heaven itself.
“My distractions are great, but it is in Communion that I recollect myself. I have temptations many times a day; by daily Communion I get the strength to overcome them.” —St. Thomas More (1477-1535) executed for his faith by King Henry VIII

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