Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Embracing the Will of God (First Martyrs of the Church of Rome)

I’ve always been fascinated by this gospel passage for a couple of reasons. One reason is that I have to laugh a bit when I picture it in my mind and see a whole herd of swine stampeding down a steep hill into the sea. But more importantly, I wonder at the response of the people in that town. They experience these great miracles of men being set free from the grasp of demons and are not happy. More than not happy, they are downright upset with Jesus for doing what He did and for allowing the demons to go into the swine. The people had their own ideas of what God should do and this particular instance didn’t fit the mold they had set out. They wanted God to work, but did not want to have to submit themselves to His will, which sometimes includes some suffering on our part.

What a stark contrast from the saints that we celebrate today, the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. In the year 64 AD, Rome caught fire and the Emperor, Nero, blamed it on the Christian community there in Rome. He soon began the persecutions that would continue off and on for the next 300 years. The Christian men and women of Rome were subjected to incredible sufferings and death; some were crucified, others were fed to the wild animals as parts of the games of the city, and still others were burned alive and used as human torches to provide light for all of this to be seen in the evenings. In the face of all of this suffering, the martyrs we celebrate today were not angry with God. They did not abandon the faith or seek to avoid all of these things. Rather, they embraced it and went joyfully to the painful death that they knew would bring them eternal life.

May we, like them, never go against the will of God or seek to escape our own crosses, but be willing to embrace them and do so with joy, knowing that it is only by doing so that we are able to attain salvation for ourselves.