Sunday, September 13, 2015

What the Korean Martyrs Teach the Church

We hear a lot about religious and clerics and their love for others but last year in August, we had the beatification of 124,  and only one was a  priest; the rest were lay people--Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions.  A  Catholic Times' column recounts the lessons we learn from those early martyrs.

Our times are different; these martyrs practiced their faith in their society and gave witness to Jesus' love. We have many examples of how they lived the social Gospel. Hwang Il kwang  (1757-1802) was one of those martyrs from the lowest class within the Joseon society who was moved greatly by the social equality and freedom in the new community he joined. He could sit in the same group of Christians and talk about Jesus at a time in which this was not cultural habit. Simon was moved by the noble class's treatment of him and is quoted as saying: "There is not only a heaven after this earthly life but we have heaven here and now."

Blessed Son Kyung-yeun, Gervasio, Korean martyr, in order to help the Christians bought a large house; in the front of the house, he made it into a tavern; inside was a gathering place for the Christians. Gervasio knew the reason for the use of money. The inside and outside were different; our exterior and interior are not as altruistic.

Blessed Chon Suk and Kwan Chon-rye knew the preciousness of life, and in the world of today where the meaning of sex has disappeared, they as a virgin married couple showed the Christians the deep meaning of love. People of faith know that without our giving of ourselves, all our actions  become lifeless, self-centered. 

September is  the month of the martyrs. A month in which we realize there is something more important than life. They fought against what they found in society that was not just, with their lives. They fought against a way of thinking with another, armed only with the teachings of Jesus. 

"The example of the martyrs also teaches us the importance of charity in the life of faith.  It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day.  It was their refusal to separate the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor, which impelled them to such great solicitude for the needs of the brethren.  Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need." These words are from the sermon of Pope Francis at the Beatification on August 16, 2014.

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