Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20--Korean Feast of the Martyrs

Today,in Korea  we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Andrew Kim, Paul Chong and Companions.  

Martyrdom is witnessing  to your belief and confessing your faith. This witnessing has at its center love. There are those who have made the words of Jesus "to love your neighbor," even when he is an enemy, the essence of their lives.  A professor writing in the  Inchon Bulletin informs us that a martyr is not only one who gives his life for what he believes but does it out of love.
Writing the history of the martyrs, he says, usually involves concentrating on their death and overlooking the love that inspired their actions. When thinking of the martyrs we are reminded of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Martyrdom is a decision to follow the example of Love itself, Jesus. We find this exemplified many times in the history of the martyrs and he gives us one example from Taegu in 1815.

During a persecution in Taegu, one of the Christians, expecting a reward, reported the place where the Christians would be meeting for prayer on Easter, and led the police to the location. A number of those arrested denied their faith and were released, but not a few were to die for their faith.

The informer was later picked up by the police for some criminal act and was put in the same prison as the Christians. What he did was so despicable that the inspector in command told the guards to let him starve. The Christians arranged to cut back on what they were eating to enable the informer to eat. After some  time, the jailors drove the informer out of the prison without clothes, and the Christians again helped, gathering enough clothes to cover his nakedness.

In writing about the incident at the time, it was said that the Christians showed unbelievers what true love meant by the way they treated their enemies. Their act of love for the one who put them in prison helped them to have the strength to go ahead and give their lives for what they believed, when it would have been so easy to say they decided to stop being a Christian. The practice of love nurtured their faith life.

A Christan without love, writes the professor, using the words of St. Paul, " a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal." When we only see the suffering of the martyrs and forget the love that accompanies it, we do the martyrs a great injustice. This is what is meant by the spirituality of martyrdom.  During the month of September, the month of the martyrs according to our Korean liturgical year, our Catholics have the opportunity to reflect on what the spirituality of the  martyrs has to teach them.

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