The witness of martyrdom

Readings for November 10, 2019

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38

The story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother is a gruesome one, encompassing the entirety of Chapter 7 of 2 Maccabees. They stood firm in their belief as a prefiguration of the resurrection, “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life because we have died for His laws.” Their courage is proof that they were not mere rule followers, but deeply committed to the Lord and believing in His promises, the law having been truly written on their hearts. They died faithful to their love for God, choosing to live in righteousness in the face of a cruel and unrighteous king. 

The final verse of the chapter sums up the reason for telling this story. “Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme torture” (verse 42). The writer puts forth an example to God’s children, who have wandered away from the law. The story is offered as a witness of obedience to the law of God and the extreme nature of this witness of faith should be sufficient for the people to turn back to the law.

Fortunately, most of us will not be subjected to martyrdom, though there are those in today’s world that are. Still, the Christian, in righteousness, must be prepared to provide an unwavering witness to the Gospel by obeying its precepts and commands. And martyrdom is the “supreme witness given to the truth of the faith … bearing witness even unto death” (CCC2473). If Jesus is our example of righteousness, then following him means we must be prepared to both live and, yes, die as he did.

There is a saying that we may be “the only bible the world reads today.” If, as Jesus commands, we are to “go and preach the Gospel to the whole world” (Mark 16:15), then we are to bear witness “by the example of [our] lives, wherever [we] live … to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit … Thus [we] help [others] to attain salvation by love for God” (Ad Gentes, 11). To be Christian is to live our lives in word and example in the sanctification of Christ’s sacrifice.

Lord Jesus, you lived your life as an example to me so that I may believe in you and be an example to others. Give me the strength to carry out your Great Commission in love and mercy to all those I encounter. May I be prepared to give that example even unto death, if necessary. All glory and honor and praise to our God in heaven! I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen

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