Blood of martyrs brings new life in Christ

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians” is the famous quote of Tertullian, a second century Father of the Church from North Africa. This sentiment has always served as a source of hope for Christians that death would bring forth new life for the Church.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

Tertullian expresses our faith that there is a deep connection between the sacrificial love of Good Friday and the victory of Easter Sunday. This is the faith we cling to in the face of the pain and shock we feel after terrorists killed many of our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who were expressing their faith in the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday morning.

Our hearts are still pained from the terrorist attacks in Egypt on Palm Sunday in 2017 and again in November 2018.

In certain places, the world and human hearts seem not to have changed that much since the second century, when it was known that becoming a Christian could cost you your life. All of us need to face the reality of which Jesus often spoke: that as Christians we should expect to be rejected, even hated, by the world. “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (Jn 16:2, see also Mt 10:21 and Mt 24:9).

It is only our faith in the power of Christ’s resurrection that can make sense of the evil of this world. Our faith in the resurrection of Christ is twofold. First, Jesus’ resurrection makes clear to us that the true life we are seeking is not the life we have now on earth, but rather the eternal life that he offers us. This resurrected life is the life for which we were created; it is the true life, where we are promised communion with God and with all those who have died in Christ. It is life that lasts forever, where he promises that “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rv 21:4).

This eternal life of heaven is the goal of our whole Christian life. And so, although we rightly express pain, sadness and anger at the death of our brothers and sisters, we also believe that those children and families, who were seeking Jesus at that Mass, passed from the celebration of the earthly liturgy into the heavenly liturgy, from the symbolic participation of the sacrament into the throne room of God, where they could hear the angels sing “holy, holy, holy” and see the risen Lord face to face.

This is a great consolation as we see their innocent bodies destroyed, “for we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”
(2 Cor 5:1).

The second truth of Christ’s resurrection is just as important: The Resurrection shows us the reason that God allows evil in the world. It is part of the mystery of redemption through Christ’s Paschal Mystery that God doesn’t wipe out evil completely from our world. In sending his Son, God could have vanquished all evil and established an earthly kingdom where there would be no more evil, sin or suffering. Jesus did not do this.

Rather, he entered into evil to conquer it from within, by transforming it. He chose to suffer the evil of this world more than any other human being could, since he was both God and man. Although innocent, he submitted to death and bore the weight of our sins.

In doing this he made evil an opportunity for love. He showed us that suffering, death and even sin can ultimately be used for good. This is the truth of the Resurrection seen in light of Good Friday.

There is nothing so evil that it cannot be taken up by God and made into a potential good. St. Paul expressed it this way: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Really, St. Paul — all things? Even the death of loved ones? Even tragedies in my life? Even my sins and failings?

Yes, in all things.

This is the faith of Easter that the resurrection of Jesus Christ proclaims. All the evils we have seen in the past year: The burning of one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world? The sins of priests and bishops? The useless slaughter of Christians? All these things can be taken up by God’s love and made into a good. How?

As you and I surrender our lives to the Paschal Mystery, as you and I seek to live more and more united with Jesus in the sufferings and trials of our daily life, as the Church lives the holiness Jesus calls us to, Jesus begins to bring the resurrection to life in our world.

This is how St. Paul described the sufferings of his life: “For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor 4:10-12).

He believed that his suffering brought spiritual life to the world. Easter Sunday shows the power of Christ’s love to transform evil into good. In this season of the Resurrection, where we still experience so much of Good Friday, may these pains in our hearts become for us opportunities to imitate the trust of Jesus as he surrenders to his Father, so that even today the blood of martyrs might be the seed of Christians.

Sangre de mártires trae nueva vida en Cristo

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Category: Only Jesus