You can often tell that somebody is a Christian by the things they wear around their necks, whether that be a brown scapular, a miraculous medal, or a crucifix. To someone outside the Church observing Christians and Catholics, the concept of wearing or hanging up crucifixes might seem strange. Why would we want to commemorate such a violent and gruesome series of events? Why would we want to be reminded of Jesus’s torture and death? Do Christians have some fascination with death and the macabre?
No. We do not celebrate death, but we realize that the passing from our world is not the end and hopefully, we can be confident that those who passed are now in a better place. That confidence is exactly why we hold martyrs in such high regard.
Josh Raymond welcomed Father Tom Wilson onto The Inner Life to discuss martyrdom, its power over death, and what becoming a martyr means.
Father Tom began by saying that it would not be unfair to say that we live in a culture that is very hostile to Christianity and its ideas about the human person, human dignity, and the truth about God. The word “martyr” comes from the Greek martur, which means “witness”. To give witness to something means to profess one’s beliefs truly and genuinely, regardless of the hostile responses. Because of its immensely difficult nature, those who are killed in cases of blood martyrdom go straight to heaven.
While you are exponentially less likely to be killed for your faith in the United States, there are still people who suffer the consequences of espousing their Christian beliefs and values. Some have lost their jobs or opportunities. Others have lost everything from a reputation to their financial security for daring to witness to the truth.
“It’s important that we recognize that the first call is simply for us to live our faith,” said Father Tom. “And it’s that living of our faith consistently, giving our complete selves totally to Jesus, that will prepare us to give the ultimate testimony to God and His truth, perhaps even giving our life.”
The Church made it very clear from the beginning that this blood martyrdom of dying for Christ is not something that we go looking for. We should not pick fights or put ourselves in a position where it would be easy to die in the name of God. All we are asked to do as Christians is to prepare ourselves faithfully and wholly so that someday, should we be asked to choose between God and our life, we choose to enter into paradise with God.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose.
I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better. Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.” (Philippians 1:21-24)
Here, we see Paul’s recognition that to be with God in heaven is the ultimate goal. But we also see his hesitancy in longing for this because he knows that God has a purpose for Him to fulfill before he will be called home. We cannot push our timelines in an attempt to skip the line to heaven. God has a specific plan in mind for all of us and we only gain access to salvation by embracing that plan.
At the end of the day, martyrdom is just one of the many paths to heaven. It is difficult in the same way the other paths are and not everybody is called to follow it. We are asked to prepare ourselves to face blood martyrdom, but most of us will face a different kind of martyrdom; one of lifelong struggle and personal and social adversity. In either case, God is at our side, waiting for us to call upon Him for aid.
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT