Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
The significance of martyrdom
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today in the Liturgy we commemorate St Clare of Assisi, Foundress of the Poor Clares, a luminous figure of whom I shall speak in one of the forthcoming Catecheses. But this week as I already mentioned at last Sunday’s Angelus we are commemorating several holy Martyrs, from the early centuries of the Church such as St Lawrence, Deacon, St Pontianus, Pope, and St Hippolytus, Priest; and from the nearer past, such as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, Patroness of Europe, and St Maximilian Mary Kolbe. I would then like to reflect briefly on martyrdom, a form of total love for God.
On what is martyrdom founded? The answer is simple: on the death of Jesus, on his supreme sacrifice of love, consummated on the Cross, that we might have life (cf. Jn 10: 10). Christ is the suffering servant mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 52: 13-15), who gave himself as a ransom for many (cf. Mt 20: 28). He urges his disciples, each one of us, to take up his or her cross every day and follow him on the path of total love of God the Father and of humanity: “he who does not take his cross and follow me”, he tells us, “is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10: 38-39). It is the logic of the grain of wheat that dies in order to sprout and bring new life (cf. Jn 12: 24). Jesus himself “is the grain of wheat which came from God, the divine grain that lets itself fall to the ground, that lets itself sink, be broken down in death and precisely by so doing germinates and can thus bear fruit in the immensity of the world” (Benedict XVI during his Visit to the Evangelical Lutheran Community at the “Christuskirche”, Rome, 14 March 2010). The martyr follows the Lord to the very end, freely accepting death for the salvation of the world in a supreme test of love and faith (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 42).
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