The European Jesuit Martyrs – Readings


Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Ps 122; Matt 16:21,24-27

Both readings remind us that suffering is going to be the expected lot of many who commit themselves to following the Way of Christ. The Gospel begins with Jesus foretelling his own fate. He will go to Jerusalem and there suffer at the hands of the leaders of his people – the Elders, the Chief Priests and the Teachers of the Law. These three groups together formed the ruling council of the Jews, the Sanhedrin. He will be put to death but, three days, he will rise again to new life. This news comes as a terrible shock to the disciples who have just, in the name of Peter, acknowledged that Jesus is the long-expected Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour-King of Israel. That Jesus the Messiah should be executed by the leaders of his own people makes no sense whatever and Peter, newly named the ‘Rock’, will tell Jesus to put such an idea out of his mind.
But then Jesus goes further. Not only will he suffer and die but anyone who wants to become a follower of Jesus will have to be ready to put their own self-interest aside and carry their own cross, which will be different for every person. Those who live only for themselves will end up losers but those who give their lives in love and service will find life. For some, as in the case of those we are commemorating today, it will be the ultimate sacrifice. These men were all ready to die for their faith and total commitment to the Way of Jesus. We may not be asked to make the supreme sacrifice but we are still called on to find Jesus in our world and to use all our talents and energies for the well-being of our brothers and sisters and of the world in which we live.

In the First Reading, Paul tells Timothy how he himself carries out the command of Jesus and what it has meant for him. “Because I preach the Good News, I suffer and am even chained like a criminal.” But then he goes on, “the Word of God is not in chains” and, because of that, he is ready to endure anything for the sake of God’s Chosen People so that they, too, may experience the saving life that God wants them to have. He ends with a piece of verse:
If we have died with him,
We shall live with him.
This is probably a reference to Baptism where the catechumen stripped, stepped down into the pool as Jesus went into the earth after his death, and then emerged to be clothed with the white robe of new life with the Risen Christ. An experience repeated again by the martyrs who, with Jesus, surrendered their lives and offered them to God.
We are not likely to be asked to make this supreme offering – although it is not at all unknown in our times – but we can be inspired by the generosity of these men to make our lives a living offering to God, as shown by our living our lives for the benefit of others, especially those in spiritual and material need.

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