When we think of the "Age of Martyrs," our minds generally focus on the early centuries of the Church and the Roman persecutions. But as a matter of fact our very day is an "Age of Martyrs." In so many places around the world Christians are being persecuted and even murdered because of their faith. We are inspired by those modern day martyrs who have so bravely faced death.
In our first reading today the author of Hebrews writes to encourage those under attack, "Do not surrender your confidence; It will have great reward." He reminds them of how they endured suffering in the past and urges them to "hang in there."
Courage under trial. Perseverance in suffering. Determination not to give up. Will we be strong enough if we face persecution?
We need not go to a foreign land to have our faith challenged. People where we work, people in the political arena, and even people in our homes may belittle us or make fun of our faith. They may bully us or insult us when we stand up for moral principles.
As General Douglas MacArthur stated years ago, "Last, but by no means least, courage of one’s convictions, the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle_ the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other."
We find our strength in the example of Jesus who did not "surrender his confidence." Instead he trusted and said, "Into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit." His trust was followed by the "great reward." The resurrection! May it be so with us.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/