DOMINICAN MARTYRS OF VIETNAM
Today the Church honours the memory of the 117 Martyrs of Vietnam who suffered for their faith in Christ during the 18th and 19th centuries. These martyrs were recognised and beatified in four groups during the early 20th century and the second group beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1906 were all Dominicans – Saint Ignatius Delgado and his Companions – whom we hold in special honour today. The whole group of 117 were canonised together in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
The readings of this last week in Ordinary Time continue to remind us that the world, as we know it, will one day come to an end. And so how do we respond to these prophetic warnings of the End Times? Do they cause us fear, anxiety, or hope? People in every age have wondered if the end times were going to occur during their own lifetimes, particularly when faced with some overwhelming disaster. The Black Death that decimated a third of Europe in the fourteenth century is one of many examples we could cite. Even today, unrest in the Middle East, along with the continued threat of terrorist attacks, adds to our own fears and anxiety, at least on a subconscious level.
As Christians, we cannot afford to let fear dominate us. It will only result in a listless kind of faith that is short on expectation. Those who know the love of God know that he wants everyone to be saved. And He wants this so much that he sent his Son to die for us. Rather than treat catastrophic events as occasions for fear and trembling, we should look upon them as opportunities to wake us up to the dire needs of the world.
It goes without saying that we should always be ready for Our Lord to return. Whether the end comes today or tomorrow or in a thousand years, our disposition should be the same. The story is told of St. Francis of Assisi who was digging in his garden one day, and he was asked by one of his brothers what he would do if the end were to come right then. Confident in his preparation and even more so in the mercy of God, St. Francis replied that he would simply continue digging.
Our Lord will return in glory; we have his word for that. But we don’t know when. The beginning of Advent is just a few days away now, so let’s use that time to draw ever closer to Christ so that we can become his ambassadors to the world, offering the people with whom we share our lives the same confidence that fills our hearts.