Thursday, June 30, 2005
Today we celebrate the Proto-Martyrs of Rome--first witnesses to Jesus Christ with their lives under the mad tyranny of Nero. Blamed for the fire that burned Rome, hunted and killed by animals for entertainment in the arena, fixed to crosses and set aflame to light the stadium, these first Martyrs shocked their persectuters: they sang as they died. Even Nero was shocked to discover, on their dead bodies, smiles. That's the joy of the Christian--joy even under persecution, even in suffering. More than joyful, St Paul even boasted: "I have run the race, I have fought the fight, I have kept the Faith!" And this is the joy that we can bring to our daily lives in giving witness to Jesus Christ. Often enough we are like St Peter who left Rome during the persecution for safey, only to chance upon the Risen Jesus passing him and going the other way; St Peter said, "Quo vadis, Domine?"--"Where are you going, Lord?"--to which the Risen Lord replied,"I am going to be crucified again"--and St Peter turned around and followed him, only to be crucified himself, upside down. Yes, singing our witness to Jesus Christ made turn everything in our lives upside down: but to that craziness, to that suffering, to that witness we can bring the Joy of those blessed early Martyrs of Rome who sang and smiled under persecution. In fact, it's really only in such moments that our Joy really counts.