“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Today, the Church commemorates St. Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas. Like the rest of the twelve faithful Apostles (except for St. John), St. Matthias was ultimately martyred for his Faith. He willingly and joyfully accepted suffering and death for being a Christian, knowing that he would soon be with Our Lord in Heaven for eternity.
Many saints throughout history – such as St. Therese of Lisieux – longed to receive the crown of martyrdom. When St. Teresa of Avila was a child, she ran away from home once in the hope of becoming a martyr. It is easy for us Catholics to hear stories of the martyrs and believe that our own lives are nothing in comparison to theirs; we think that unless we have the opportunity to physically give our lives for Christ, we are not truly living the Gospel to the fullest.
The answer to this lies in a homily of St. John. People would always flock to hear the wise sermons of Christ’s beloved disciple, but every day, St. John’s homily was the same: “Little children, love one another.” This single sentence was the only sermon he would give, much to the confusion and disappointment of many.
However, this sentence contains the essence of Christianity. As we read in the Gospel today, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” If we do not love, then our Faith is in vain. What made the martyrs so great is their deep love for God; they were willing to give everything for Him – not out of obligation, but simply out of love. This love, as Jesus said, allows the joy of the Risen Christ to enter our hearts.
Without love, we can have no joy, yet love inevitably involves sacrifice. In this paradox lies the key to properly understanding our lives in light of the martyrs. While we may never have the opportunity to physically give our lives for Christ, we do have the opportunity each day to be living martyrs, dying to ourselves by working to overcome our own wills, our tendencies to be impatient, uncharitable, slothful, proud, lustful – and so the list goes on. It is no small task to overcome our sinfulness, but to do so for the love of God is the cross every Christian is offered. If we willingly accept it – not out of pride, but out of love for God – we become living martyrs for Christ. In this way, our love for God will penetrate all that we do, and we will find ourselves loving our neighbour more genuinely, radiating the love of Christ to others.
On this feast of St. Matthias, let us ask God for the grace to become living martyrs, to accept our crosses patiently out of love for Him, and to die to ourselves completely, so that we can truly say it is no longer we who live, but Christ in us (cf. Gal 2:20).
Simply said Chantal, yet so elegantly. Thank you.