The readings today speak of times of persecution. They are a call to fidelity and a courageous response to live in the truth. We also celebrate the courage of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and 116 other martyrs who died in a persecution of Catholics between 1820-1862.
Choose Death to Choose Life
To choose death rather than denying your God requires conviction and courage. To proclaim the truth when a lie could save your life, and perhaps the lives of others, is a choice that, more than courage, must be supported by faith. It requires a faith that enables one to say with the psalmist of Psalm 27: “I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 27:13) Do I believe that there is something more than this life on earth? Enough to bet my life on it? Each of the martyrs have given testimony to that faith by choosing their faith over their own life, believing that there is life after death, testifying that Heaven is real and that they look forward to it above all else. “The land of the living” they are looking forward to is not this land. Do I look forward to Heaven as they do?
Consolation in Mary
The martyrdoms of the Vietnamese people bring to mind that God never abandons His people. In moments of persecution, Our Lord often sends us His Mother to comfort us and give us courage, as was true in Vietnam as well. Our Lady appeared (circa. 1798-1802) in a rainforest of Vietnam where Catholics had fled. When they returned to their village years later they told of Mary’s comfort and aid in surviving sickness they had contracted in the jungle. They called her Our Lady of La Vang.
We always have the opportunity to call on Mary in our times of need. She is a good mother who can never abandon her children, even at the darkest hour. Death, and all of the unknown that goes with it, is a reality that is uncomfortable to face. When death stares us in the face, either our own or that of a loved one, God invites us to take the hand of His Mother, and allow her to give us comfort. Perhaps the reality will not change, but to be accompanied by one who has watched her own Son die, one who can sympathize with our suffering, is the consolation we need to persevere and secure our eternal life (cf. Lk. 21:1