Saturday, January 20, 2007

The blood of martyrs

Fr John Boyle had a post listing the Martyrs for 2006 – those who died at the Service of the Gospel last year. It made a powerful impact on me. These modern-day martyrs are the seeds of today's Church. I recently did a set of school assemblies titled "what's the point of being a Christian?" (yes, my plagiarism of other people's book titles is completely shameless).

What is the point? Is it just a nice thing to do? A psychological comfort blanket for those who can't cope without faith? Is it something that's ok for you to believe in if you want to, so long as you don't claim it's universally true? At the end of the day it comes down to one question: was Jesus Christ a nice guy with some interesting ethical teachings, or was he God who came down to live among us? I wouldn't be standing here in front of you if I didn't believe that's exactly what he was, if I hadn't been transformed by a profound personal encounter with Him.

Ok, you might say, but what evidence do you have for this? How can we know that it's true? I think one of the most powerful pieces of evidence comes from the Apostles. You've all heard the account of them sitting together in the Upper Room after Jesus' death. They're in a state of shock, of fear and panic. And Jesus comes and transforms them. That's real. They go from fear to confidence – confidence in the risen Jesus who they've met and touched. Their transformation is so complete that they're willing to die for Him. And the list of people who've given themselves so completely to the God who became man to save us doesn't stop there. In every age of the Church's history men and women have died for their faith – and for your faith – so that you might be given the gift of that faith as well.

I went on to show pictures and talk about St Margaret Clitherow, the monks of Tibhirine and a priest who died last year. I could tell from the attention I got from the students (and indeed from comments afterwards) that this approach really grabbed their attention. There are people today, in 2007, who are willing to die for their faith. It made some of them think twice about their own faith.

1 comment:

Fr John Boyle said...

Well done. I preached today on the feast of St Sebastian on divine madness, Jesus' relatives in the Gospel considering he had lost his mind because he would put his divine work before eating. Sebastian was "mad" in the eyes of the world, leaving peaceful Milan to go to Rome where Christians were suffering (according to Ambrose).