October 19, 2016 – Wednesday in the 29th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Isaac Jogues (1607 – 1646) & Rene Goupil (died 1049)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 3:2-12    –    Isaiah 12:2 …6    –    Luke 12:39-48

My normal routine in writing these reflections is to first read something about the “saint for the day and today I read a very strange comment by St. Isaac Jogues about his desire to “die a martyr’s death!” This isn’t the first time that I’ve read statements like this about obviously holy people wanting to shed their blood for Christ. I have to admit that it is somewhat a strange desire but one that has been with the Church since the very beginning.   It’s hard for me to grasp this kind of desire. After all, God gives us life which we admit is sacred and tells us to respect this gift of God. It’s almost like thinking that God gets some pleasure out of our loosing our life for His sake. A couple of days ago – on the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch – there was the same kind of reading: he even went so far as to warn his contemporaries not to try and dissuade him from this quest. When the Church puts so much emphasis on the “sacredness of life” it seems incongruous to desire to die – even if it’s a death that will lead us to eternal life.

Today’s Gospel is talking about how slaves aught to behave amongst themselves. Slavery is almost as alien as the subject of ‘dying a martyr’s death’ where I began this reflection. If we replace the word, “slave” with the word, “servant” we might get a better understanding of what Jesus asks of us in the Gospel: “If you want to be first you must seek to serve the needs of others.”   Now, how do we apply this to the thought of “martyrdom?” I guess it might be somewhere along the lines of how far I’m willing to go in “doing” for another. Would I go so far as to offer my life in place of another – like St. Maximillian Kolbe did? I have to admit that the Isaac Jogues plea (along with Ignatius of Antioch) to forbid friends to intervene in their quest to “die for Jesus” still strikes me as selfish. If we followed through along these lines we could easily get to a point where we helped people who desired to follow Christ more perfectly die quickly! I think the challenge for us is in the struggle to follow Jesus with the full knowledge that we, like Peter, will undoubtedly deny Him but still be welcomed back when we confess (“… you know that I love you!”) I know that I want to follow Jesus wholeheartedly within the context of my fickleness and it would be a cop-out for me to ask for an early death in order to be with Him more fully – without having walked the walk of life’s little problems. Let me go back and see what I’ve written and if I want to save it as is. In the end I have to say, “What I have written is what it is for what it’s worth!” Amen!

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