I wanted to continue the theme from yesterday–being thankful for opportunities of showing our love for God. We saw St. Katherine offering prayers of thanksgiving before her martyrdom because giving her life was a public expression of her love. Today in our New Testament Challenge we are reading about the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Although the story is told from the perspective of Herod, we can be sure that St. John as well was thankful for this opportunity to show his love for God.

So, am I saying that we need to be thankful for the chance to give up our lives? In a certain sense, yes. Few of us are going to be called to give the ultimate witness which St. Katherine and St. John the Baptist and all the martyrs have given, and have been grateful for the opportunity to witness this love before the world. But every one of us is called to sacrifice a part of our life out of our love for God, and to thank God for the opportunity. Our witness may not be seen by anyone at all, but we are still giving witness before the angels of God that we love God more than our lives.

What do I mean by this? Consider the scene: You are driving along the highway, minding your own business, perhaps lost in your thoughts of the next meeting, or of a family activity for the evening. Suddenly the guy in the next lane cuts you off, dragging you out of your reverie and forcing you to slam on your breaks, nearly avoiding an accident. The adrenaline is flowing, you are angry and your first instict is at least to say some choice and inappropriate words in response. That is our life, our fallen life. However, something deep inside intervenes; you know that if you react in this way you will be betraying the love you have for God and your desire to conform your life to his will. So you stop yourself and your angry reaction, and instead you say a quick Jesus Prayer that God will have mercy on the othe driver and on you. Your whole being screams out with the desire to curse the other person; sometimes the psychological need almost feels like some small part of the torture felt by the martyrs. But you have given up some little part of your fallen life and the satisfaction of your passions in order to give witness to your love for God. No one has seen it, but witness it is nonetheless. And, like the martyrs, your fallen life dies, little by little, to be replaced by the presence of God in your heart. The same pattern is repeated every time we are faced with all those daily temptations which bombard us.

And then, instead of feeling rotten and regretful that you have fallen once again, the heart is light and gives thanks to God for this opportunity to take one more “baby step” towards living a life in conformity with his commandments.

As the last bits of leftover turkey and stuffing are finding their final reincarnation and we are putting ourselves back in gear to prepare for Christmas, the martyrs are calling us to be grateful for these moments of witness, these moments of love, these moments of small triumphs in our daily struggles.