May 6, 2011 - Friday of the Second Week of Easter

Today's Readings

Osama Bin Laden is not like St. Peter. We see in the Acts of the Apostles today the difference between St. Peter and Osama Bin Laden. St. Peter is a martyr; Bin Laden is not. People often say that a martyr is someone who dies for what they believe in, but a martyr is so much more. All kinds of people die for what they believe in: some are good; some are bad; some are just crazy. If Peter and the apostles had merely suffered and died for what they believed in, they would be unimportant additions to a numerous group, but we see in the apostles something different: joy.

The apostles were flogged. Their response is not weeping or anger. They do not respond with self-righteous pride. Their response is joy: “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” A martyr is not a merely stubborn person. A martyr is not someone who can put up with a lot of pain. There are such people in the world, but we do not believe whatever stubborn people happen to believe. We might be impressed by such a person. We might admire such a person. We might even name a day after such a person or make a movie about them, but we will not believe. We want to believe in the truth. Martyrdom is meaningless if it does not reveal the truth. The miracle of martyrdom is not found in a person who willingly dies but in how such a person dies.  It was not that the apostles suffered but how they suffered that revealed the truth. They suffered rejoicing.

Only one fact could explain their joy: a power beyond human capacity. It was clear to all who saw the suffering of the apostles that their joy was supernatural. The martyrs suffered and died with forgiveness on their lips rather than revenge. They could suffer in this way, suffering even the cruelest punishments, because they could see heaven clearly. We all would like to go to heaven. As we repeated in the psalm today: “One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.” When we see how a martyr dies we know only one thing for certain. I want to die like them. I am going to die someday, and I would like to die with the certain hope in the Resurrection that the martyrs were witnesses of.