Where does the radical boldness and the freedom of the martyrs come from? How do people like the North American Martyrs find the insane courage to acknowledge Christ before rulers and authorities who are absolutely intent, not only on eliminating their lives, but also stamping out the Gospel entirely?
When it comes right down to it, the only possible answer is Love.
The martyrs are fueled by Love.
And this love is not some vague feeling or warm emotion…
No — Sacred Scripture tells us very clearly that “God’s Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”
Lest you go this entire day without hearing it anywhere else: God loves you. He loves you relentlessly. He loves you, period. He is pouring His love into you right this instant.
And thankfully, God’s Love is not an abstract idea. God’s Love is a Person! The Holy Spirit, the Communion of Love that exists between the Father and the Son from all eternity, is being poured into us by God.
THAT is the same Love which filled the martyrs! THAT is the source of their confidence and peace in the face of certain death. And THAT is the same Holy Spirit, the same Love which is poured into our hearts as well.
Ya know, there’s something fitting about the fact that we wear the color red both on the feast days of martyrs AND on Pentecost: The same Spirit of Love which filled the apostles with fresh courage in the Upper Room to announce the Gospel is the same Spirit of Love that fills the martyrs with the audacity to lay down their lives.
With all this in mind, listen again to Christ’s words from today’s Gospel:
“When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about what your defense will be or what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
This is good news! The Holy Spirit — the very LOVE of God poured into you, will teach you, sustain you, empower you to bear proper witness.
The North American Martyrs believed this truth to their bones! Long after the moment of hatred and violence passed, the Love of God which was poured into their hearts is still being proclaimed right here in this Basilica today and throughout the world. Their victory in the Spirit is still being announced, whereas their executioners are all but forgotten!
Take this to heart!
Through their intercession, may we call to mind the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us. Indeed, today on this altar, the Spirit will be called down once more upon our simple gifts of Bread and Wine, and they will become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus — the Love of God poured out for us.
Receive that Love, and then like the North American Martyrs, let it spill out into the rest of your life. Give the Holy Spirit a chance to defend you. Become a daily martyr — a daily witness — to His Love.