Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you” (Lk 13:31).
Even with this warning, from some Pharisees no less, Jesus continued to teach openly and publicly as well as performed healings and cast out demons. He did not fear the threat of retribution even from the likes of Herod. He willingly surrendered all to his Father.
The courage of Jesus makes him a very dangerous man because he cannot be controlled, threatened, or coerced. Jesus is sure of what God has sent him to do and he is going to follow through with his Father’s plan even it means giving up his life.
Some of his persecutors like the centurion who ran his spear through his side, admired the courage of Jesus, coming to believe that he was the Messiah (cf. Mark 16:39). Many of the first-century martyrs who followed Jesus to their own deaths were a big reason for many who came to believe and also became followers of this One who died on a Cross. Tertullian, an early Church Father, living from 155 – 220 AD, went so far as to say that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
We are all called by God to be martyrs, not necessarily by shedding our blood. Martyr literally means witness. Each of us is called by Jesus to bear witness to what we believe. Faith is a gift. If we feel that we are weak in our faith, we are in good company, because Jesus said on more than one occasion to his Apostles, the ones he would send out as his witnesses, “Oh, you of little faith.”
If we feel like our faith could use a little shoring up, then we can ask God to increase our faith, while at the same time, we can start to bear witness in our everyday encounters. How this plays out will be different for each of us. All of us have had those stirrings of the heart to say or do something or to reach out in one way or another.
Last year while I was still in Los Angeles, I was walking back to our apartment with a pizza for supper. Ahead of me was a disheveled, skinny, man who certainly looked like he could have used something to eat. I felt the stirring within to ask if he wanted a slice, not a big effort or cost on my part. I bought into the mind noise of reasons why I shouldn’t make the offer and instead picked up my pace like the priest or the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, widened my distance, so as not to provide him the opportunity to ask, and walked by him at a steady clip.
A few months ago, back home now in Florida, I was driving home with a pizza and saw a man sitting on the sidewalk. This time I pulled the car over and offered him a slice. He said he didn’t like pizza but thanked me for the offer. Like all of us, there have been times I have not followed through on the invitation of the Holy Spirit and times when I have. The key is not to beat ourselves up when we don’t but to continue to pray for discernment, and for Jesus to give us the courage to act as he did.
How is God calling, challenging us, to resist indifference and be his witnesses in our everyday lives? May the Sacred Heart of Jesus help us to be more open to the stirring of the Holy Spirit to be better witnesses. Each time we say yes, our faith increases.
Photo: Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Mission Dolores Basilica in the Mission District in San Francisco