I BELIEVE it is a Christian fact of life that if we have to be consistently Christian, then we have to be prepared to suffer martyrdom, one way or another. It may not be a dramatic and bloody martyrdom like the case of the Holy Innocents whose feast we celebrate on December 28, but certainly a certain kind of martyrdom will always be involved.
That’s because the Christian way of life cannot avoid being contradicted even by our own sinful flesh, not to mention, the many allurements of the world that can serve as some kind of honeytrap to us and, of course, the devil, that most subtle and deceptive enemy of God.
Christ already warned us amply about this condition in our life. “In this world you will have trouble,” he said. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33) And more directly, he said, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16,24-26)
We need to see to it that we live this indication of Christ daily. It should be a normal thing for us to do if we want to be truly Christian. We need to die at least a little everyday so that the life of Christ can truly take root and grow in our life. We should never forget that to be Christian is to assume the very identity and life of Christ, and not just going through certain practices for us to appear like Christ.
We should not be afraid to suffer and die. If we believe in Christ and follow what he has taught and shown us, we will realize that there is nothing to be afraid of suffering and death, and all the other negative things that can mark our life.
He bore them himself and converted them into our way for our own salvation. Yes, even death which is the ultimate evil that can befall us, an evil that is humanly insoluble. With Christ’s death, the curse of death has been removed. “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15,54-55)
So, we just have to be sport and cool about the whole reality of suffering and death. What we need to do is to follow Christ in his attitude toward them. For Christ, embracing suffering and ultimately death, is the expression of his greatest love for us. We have to enter into the dynamic of this divine logic and wisdom so we can lose that fear of suffering and death.
Thus, we have to understand this very well. Unless we love the cross, we can never say that we are loving enough. Of course, we have to qualify that assertion. It’s when we love the cross the way God wills it—the way Christ loves it—that we can really say that we are loving as we should, or loving with the fullness of love.
We have to realize more deeply that loving the cross the way Christ loved it is the ultimate love. It is the love that is completely deprived of selfishness. It is total self-giving, full of self-abnegation. May the cross be an indispensable part of our day! It is our instrument for our daily martyrdom. By Fr. Roy Cimagala (EV Mail Dec. 26, 2022-Jan. 1, 2023 issue)