Pope: martyrdom, a form of total love of God and others
ICC Note: Pope Benedict XVI offers a reflection on martyrdom. The martyr follows Jesus making his own cross, gifting his life for love of Christ, the Church and the world. He is full of “serenity and courage,” free “from the power of the world.”
8/11/10 Vatican (AsiaNews) – Martyrdom is a “form of total love for God”, to which not all are called. But all Christians are called to “grow every day in greater love of God and others”, to transform the world, where “selfishness and individualism” prevail. This is what the pope said today at the Wednesday audience held in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo.
Inspired by the number of martyrs that the liturgy celebrates in these days – St. Lawrence, St. St. Pontian, St. Hippolytus, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, Patron of Europe and St. Maximilian Kolbe – Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to martyrdom, a “form of total love of God.”
The pontiff first of all explained “where martyrdom is founded”. He said “The answer is simple: the death of Jesus, in his supreme sacrifice of love, consumed on the Cross so that we might have life (cf. Jn 10:10). Christ is the suffering servant of whom the prophet Isaiah speaks (cf. Is 52.13 to 15), who gifted himself for the salvation of many (cf. Mt 20:28). He urges his disciples, each of us to take up his cross daily and follow his path of total love of God the Father and mankind: ” whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me – he tells us – is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10.38-39). It is the logic of the grain of wheat that dies to take seed and bring life (cf. Jn 12:24). Jesus himself is the grain of wheat come from God, the divine grain of wheat, which is dropped on the ground, which allow itself to be broken, broken in death and, through this, it opens and can thus bear fruit in the vastness of the world “(Benedict XVI Visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome [March 14, 2010]). The martyr follows the Lord to the very end, by accepting freely to die for the salvation of the world, a supreme test of faith and love (cf. Lumen Gentium, 42).
Martyrdom and the vocation to martyrdom – he continued are not the result of human effort, but the response to God’s initiative and call, they are a gift of His grace, which enables them to offer their lives for the love of Christ and the Church, and thus the world. If we read the lives of martyrs, we are amazed by their serenity and courage in suffering and death: God’s power is fully manifest in the weakness, the poverty of those who entrust themselves to Him and place their hope in Him alone ( cf 2 Cor 12:9)”.
Martyrdom, he added, “enriches” and “enhances” the freedom of those who confront it: “the martyr is a supremely free person, free from the power of the world; a free person who in one final act gifts his entire life to God, and in a supreme act of faith, hope and charity, abandons himself in the hands of his Creator and Redeemer, sacrifices his life to totally become part of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross”.
Of course, Benedict XVI stated, not everyone is called to martyrdom, “but none of us are excluded from the divine call to holiness, to live our Christian life to high standards and that means taking the cross upon ourselves every day”.
And he concluded: “Everyone, especially in our time when individualism and selfishness seem to prevail, must make our first and fundamental commitment that of growing every day in a greater love for God and for mankind, to transform our lives and in doing so transform our world. Through the intercession of the saints and martyrs we ask God to ignite our hearts to be capable of loving as He loved each of us”.