Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Today’s optional memorial is of the first martyrs of the Church of Rome. The pagan historian Tacitus wrote of the persecution of the Christians in that city during the reign of the emperor Nero, as did Pope St. Clement I. Many hundreds, if not thousands, died adhering to their new-found faith in Jesus.

In my time in Rome, some of the most memorable experiences I had were standing in places the first Christians stood as they were being killed elsewhere in the city. Assisting at Mass in the very places where the first priests and bishops of the Church celebrated the Eucharist with those witnesses of the Gospel. I was in a special way reconnected to them; they in some difficult to describe manner, were present in those places even in those days.

Our readings at Mass this morning included the first reading from Genesis in which we heard again the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac. He was willing to sacrifice everything he had, even his son, because of his faith in the God who revealed himself. As you know, this was only a test to see if Abraham was willing to give everything to God, so an angel stayed the hand of Abraham and Isaac went on to live a long life and became the father of Jacob who became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.

These witnesses bring this to mind: Are we willing to give everything we have been given back to God who was the originator and giver of all things? Are we willing to let go of everything, holding fast to our faith and trusting in God’s benevolence? Are we willing to sacrifice all for love of Him?

God has lavishly blessed us. We are tempted to think all we have is ours to keep. What if God asks us to relinquish it? As previous posts have indicated, we may have to let go of what we own, possess, lay claim to, if to do so would benefit the needs of others.

Ultimately, we will be judged on this: Are we willing to leave all behind and follow Jesus? Yes, in this world by our service to the poor and in the eternity facing God only with our person and our lives, nothing more.

Lest we think this is ancient history stuff, let’s keep in mind that there are thousands in today’s world who are persecuted and dying for their faith. The martyrs are still with us.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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