The 350 Martyrs (Part 3): The Spiritual Message

The bottom line is that we can be satisfied that the tradition of the Maronite Church is genuine. There was a tragic slaying of more than 350 monks in 517, for no reason other than their devotion to the true faith. It is sobering to reflect that we are living in an age when Christians are suffering more persecution than ever before in our history. Here in Australia we have been safe, but this can no longer be assumed.

We have, perhaps, tended to pass over Our Lord’s statements and predictions of persecution:

·       “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

·       “Amen, I tell you,” said Jesus: “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions and to receive eternal life in the age to come”. (Mark 10:29-30)

·       “Remember the word that I said to you: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you …” (John 15:20).

Persecution is a reality. We do not seek it. But perhaps we shall be asked to accept it.

When we ponder the 350 Martyrs, we have to ask ourselves: “Am I prepared to give my life for the Lord, as they were?” The memory of the Martyrs should enliven in us the realisation that there is more to life than a long life. It is the quality of our lives that counts, and what can give quality to our lives but the search for holiness?

Holiness is the quality of God: it is the approach to his goodness, truth and beauty. Because we must travel to Him and His Kingdom, we cannot specify the route we will take. The way is in his hands. We can only choose to walk it, or not to. And if we do accept, then our choice must be unconditional.

Let us always remember the 350 Martyrs. May their prayers be with us.

Joseph Azize, 4 April 2017

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