Thursday, December 13, 2018

Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)

Martyrs are celebrated throughout the year.  They are the heroines and heroes of the Church.  But Advent particularly favors martyrs.  After all, they reflect the hope which characterizes the season.  They hoped for the eternal life Jesus promises as they died in witness to his Lordship. St. Lucy was an early Sicilian martyr.  As with most martyrs of antiquity we know little about her.  She stands out almost exclusively for the fact of her martyrdom.

In today’s gospel Jesus praises John the Baptist who suffered a martyr’s death.  He calls him the greatest of the prophets because John announces the coming of the Messiah.  Yet he did not know Jesus as the Messiah.  For this reason Jesus says that anyone who knows himself, the embodiment of God’s Kingdom, is greater than John. Those who have known him like St. Lucy and all who believe in the gospel should be ready to die for him.

Is this asking too much of us?  To be sure, it is not asking that we seek to be killed by extremist haters of Christianity.  But it is demanding that we give witness to the Gospel by dying to ourselves.  It means that we always do to others what we would want them to do to us. It also means that we desist seeking our own importance, wealth, and pleasure.  But it means as well that we find joy in Jesus’ company – one that will last forever.