In our first reading today, the heat is being turned up in the Acts of the Apostles on the early Christians and it was not only the Apostles and closest disciples who are going to have to decide what they stand for. Throughout the world today, especially in the Middle East, Christians are having to answer the same questions as the early Christians are asked: Are you willing to give it all for Me (Christ)? It’s amazing how quickly a spiritual life, prayer life and a sense of one’s self seems to come together when our faith is tested. The greater the test, often the greater the faith. It does however, presuppose a deep and ever-deepening relationship with God. I speak like I know something here. I would say it is more a deep respect for the Lives of the Saints, especially the Saint-Martyrs of the Church. I have been inspired by the Apostles who we see go from scared and afraid to speak of Jesus to ready and called upon to give their lives for Jesus. St. Paul, the early Christians who gave their lives for Christ and the Church. Having lived in Huronia before entering the seminary, I prayed and reflected on the holy ground where the Jesuit Martyrs gave their lives in Canada for Christ. As a priest, I am inspired by the life and story of Fr. Miguel Pro in Mexico. These are all beautiful stories of beautiful lives.
There’s a saying that profoundly speaks to these holy men and women: “it’s not how many years in one’s life that matters, but how much life is to be found in those years”. It is foreign to many of how we could find so much life, living for someone other than ourselves – but we do, and we can. As a man who lived 30 years before becoming a Catholic Christian, I know the great truth of this. I also find myself needing to read the lives of these saints and reflecting upon them, because I may be called upon to defend my faith and my faith like the Christians in Acts today; it might be tested.
Reflecting with our transitional deacons (soon-to-be-priests) last night, I encouraged them to savour every moment of the beauty of their ordination, the love experienced by the people who share in the day, the grandeur the liturgy offers – because it’s what we need when the days are tough, as some surely will be. I reinforced what they already know – priesthood is beautiful, it a wonderful vocation and I find myself blessed not only to be experiencing that but to know many who feel the same, 10 years, 25 years, 50 years and more after ordination. There is much work to do, but it’s a glorious way for a Christian to live his life. I am inspired by the religious who live fully and completely for the Gospel as well. And many of these women and men are being called upon to go into the places where Christians are being persecuted; to serve the poor, to love and care for all people and they too are being murdered for their faith, dying a martyr’s death. It’s important that we consider that here in Canada. The freedom we have to choose to be indifferent, comfortable, antagonistic to Christ and His Church, to look at our faith as only a small part of who we are rather than who we are itself is a freedom that we need to really reflect upon. While we are free, we must ask ourselves – is that truly being Christian? Is that really showing what we are made of as loved children of God?