A Thousand Deaths

A Thousand Deaths

When Jesus was confronted with untrue accusations, do you remember what He did? As the Sanhedrin gathered false testimony, as Pilate presented questions given by the chief priests, as Jesus struggled beneath the weight of the cross and the jeers of the people, as Jesus was maligned while on the cross, do you remember what He chose?


How hard it is to not rush to our own defense! When situations are misrepresented, when intentions are skewed, when honest questions are left unanswered, it is a tremendous act of the will to not attempt to set all things right. Sometimes, it is necessary to provide clarity and correctness and other times it is completely unnecessary. And sometimes it is necessary to try to show the misunderstandings, but to ultimately fail in convincing them of their skewed view.

We always feel the pains of injustice acutely when it offends our own sense of justice. I look at the lives of the saints and martyrs and I tend to think about how glorious and courageous were their deaths. Yet each of those martyrdoms was preceded by many, many small bloodless deaths. St. Paul didn’t only suffer beheading in Rome. Before that, he was imprisoned, he experienced riot after riot when preaching the Gospel, he was looked upon with distrust by the Jews and the Christians after his striking conversion, and he spent much time in chains for the sake of the Gospel. His final suffering, the death of a martyr, was simply the last death he experienced in a long line of dying to self.

Most of our stories won’t be quite that dramatic. We probably won’t sit unjustly condemned in terrible prisons awaiting our cruel deaths. We will, however, suffer in other ways. And it will be in ways that will be easy to want to reject or feel the need to correct. As Jesus heard false testimony, I am certain He had at least part of a desire to simply say, “I didn’t say that. That isn’t right. You weren’t there. You are intentionally misrepresenting me.” Instead, He suffered in silence with the Lord. He knew that the truth would be revealed and He rested with the Lord in the midst of being misunderstood. He invites us to do the same, in the small and the large sufferings of our daily life.

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White martyrs

Will we have martyrs in the United States soon?  I cannot say, if we are speaking about red martyrs.  Some have been called dramatic if they claim martyrdom will be present in our “land of the free and home of the brave” because we have the Constitution and freedom.  With the HHS mandate fiasco, I have no doubt that freedoms we have hitherto taken for granted will now need to be fought for.  The fight, indeed, has already begun.

It is not the same in the US as it is in other countries.  Many countries have it far worse than we do.  But I cannot help but look at them and wonder if we will not soon follow suit.
This article about an archbishop in Belgium nearly breaks my heart.  I have realized in recent years that I have developed a heart for the Church and her leaders.  Pope Francis was merely announced and I fell in love with him.  This archbishop in Belgium is calm in the face of such evil and I cannot help but feel my heart ache for him.  We are not always faced with such blatant evil or display of sin.  Nevertheless, if we are to encounter it, we should be of such spiritual fortitude that we might respond like this brave shepherd.
Speaking of white martyrs, I would like to voice my belief that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is, in my humble book, a white martyr.  From the moment he was elected pope he seemed to be hated.  Even now, every compliment of Pope Francis seems to be given with the double intent of backhanding Benedict.  It is hard for me to face a classroom of young people when I know they dislike me, are bored with me, or have uttered unkind things about me.  Yet Pope Benedict was able to face the world without shrinking when most of the media was seeking to demonize him and the Catholic Church.  Instead he helped present the love of Christ and a witness of simple humility that inspires me.