The Challenge: Martyrdom

During vacation I have been trying to read Fr. Larry Richards' book, Be a Man!, and while I haven't finished it (yet) I am a few chapters in and the major theme that has hit me is that of martyrdom.  "So the power we get from the Spirit of God is to die to ourselves by bearing witness to Christ... The question then is, are you willing to die every day to witness to Christ?  Will you lay down your life for your wife and for your children?" [page 75]  This is the ultimate challenge, and one that has existed since God first created man.

Genesis 2:15 - "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.""

Notice the words "work" and "keep".  This doesn't just indicate that Adam was supposed to be a gardener, it also means that he was in charge of protecting and preserving creation.  Here's the deal - Adam was expressly given the mission (the challenge) by God to protect creation - and he didn't.  Where was Adam when Eve is tempted by the serpent?  Genesis 3:6 - "she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate."  Adam was standing next to Eve during the temptation and he says nothing; he fails to protect creation.  God gave Adam this seemingly simple mission and he didn't do it.

This is the same mission we have today - do God's will.  Pretty simple right? (wrong!)  God's sense of humor is evident here - Adam and Eve fell to the temptation to "be like God" because they were prideful and thought they could do whatever they wanted.  Well, now our God-given challenge is exactly that: "be like God".  Of course, this isn't in the selfish way that Adam and Eve envisioned it.  Being like God means picking up our cross and following Jesus Christ up Calvary.  It means death to self and total giving of our lives to God, and thus, others.  Being like God has nothing to do with selfishness - because God isn't selfish; God is love, and love means sacrifice.

So, God has laid down the ultimate challenge for all men: "Come follow me".  There is no way to do this without grace.  There is no way to be that loving, that self-less, that totally available to God without His help.  The challenge is supremely daunting - can you give up everything, to follow Jesus Christ?  Can you love God above everything else (power, money, fame, friends, etc.)?  Writing this post has gotten me thinking about just how far away I am from living this way.

Often I would think that martyrdom, being killed for the faith, would be so much easier - you know, profess the faith, get caught, and a few days later you are a saint...  Obviously, the thing I forgot about was the huge amount of faith these people must have had to get to the point where they gave their life for Christ.  They were dying for Christ everyday, in everything they were doing.  It wasn't just a one time thing, it was their entire lives.

St. Boniface, who's feast day was yesterday, said in one of his letters (found in the Office of Readings for yesterday): "Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us.  What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ.  For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Wait a second, you say, hasn't this whole post been about the challenge of following Christ?  That doesn't sound very "easy" or "light" to me.  Here's the thing: the only way to totally follow Christ (even to martyrdom - like St. Boniface did), is by relying on Him.  We, especially Americans, don't like relying on people.  We want to do it ourselves and have that rugged individualism.  But, this challenge, of totally following Christ, is absolutely impossible if we don't do it His way, if we don't do it with Him.  Adam and Eve tried to do there own thing, they tried to be like God their own way, and look where that got them?  Notice that Jesus says "my yoke", not "your yoke".  Following Him is only possible, and even easy, if we do it His way, not our own.

Well, that's all for now.  Of course there is so much more to this topic, but we are trying to pack everything up and get checked out of the cabin this morning, so I should get going...  Have a good day folks!

Martyrdom of St. Boniface