In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God Amen
“Truly have the martyrs rejected the desire of this world, and poured out their blood for God, and have endured bitter death[s] for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Have compassion upon us according to the greatness of Your compassion.” Praises of St. Maryam, read on Thursday
In April of 2015, the world received the news, captured in video, of the inhumane killing of 30 Eritrean and Ethiopian faithful. While 2 months prior, in February, we also received news of the deaths of 21 Coptic brothers, both instances at the hands of the Islamic terrorist group, ISIS. Initially, we may feel shock, sadness, and even anger. However, as we accept God’s will and understand that what may seem like a tragedy serves a purpose in His plan. Here are a few of the many meaningful lessons from the experience of our brothers that we can apply to our lives. May God open our hearts and our minds to what He wills to teach us.
Their sacrifice was a message to us, to realign our focus. What is truly important? Where are we in our spiritual journey? Whatever is happening in our lives, we must understand that the most important thing is always our faith. We have to be willing to devote ourselves to our faith and we must continually be preparing for His calling to love, to service, to death.
As we contemplate how much time we can commit to prayer or how awkward it is to pray for our meal in the midst of non-believers, our brothers willingly yield their lives in front of the eyes of the world. They teach us courage for the times when we feel vulnerable and exposed. They show us that all situations can be won by the strength of the Holy Cross and we must rise to the occasion fearlessly. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." [2 Timothy 1:7]
Their martyrdom was a beautiful example of being a testament of Christ and witnessing the true Orthodox Faith. The perpetrators thought they were killing our brothers, but they are only making the Nation of the Cross stronger. Their sacrifice helps believers to appreciate every sermon, liturgy, and prayer even more. ISIS thought by recording the deaths that they would cause fear and shame to Christians, but on the contrary, people saw what happened to the martyrs admiring their faith and courage. It opened the eyes of nonbelievers to this ancient faith. They serve as a testament of the truth of our faith, that it takes us until death, for which they did not fear.
The decisions that we make to grow closer to God should not be made while grumbling, but with joy. In those prayerful eyes, being prepared for the greatest sacrifice, we do not see fear but hope and joy for the kingdom to come. St. Paul writes, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”[Philippians 2:14-16] Brothers and sisters, let our offerings and our efforts be not in vain infiltrated with complaints and losing their aim, but rather in joy and in the remembrance of His kingdom. Our labors do not sanctify God, let’s not act like we are doing God a favor and chose to lead a life of service and love with joy.
By recording the video of the killing of our beloved brethren, ISIS thought they would incite fear amongst all Christians. The only issue with that is that as Christians, we do not fear death! Death for us is life because our Lord overcame death, by death and triumphantly resurrected! In that, He revealed to us that we, like Him, will also resurrect at His second coming and that death does not reign. Truly, there is an eternal life of joy to come. In Romans 8:18, St. Paul tells us, “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Meaning that our current hardships and struggles are nothing in comparison to what we are waiting for in Heaven. As Fr. Boules George stated beautifully in his response to the martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Saints, “We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. ‘When will I get home? Are we there yet?’ Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey!”
We have been programmed to think that we must get even with those who wronged us. Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ said it best as He was on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” We do NOT hold any animosity towards ISIS or those who persecuted Christians in general, but we follow our Master’s example by forgiving them in order for God to forgive us of our sins.
May the prayers of our brothers, the martyrs of Libya, be with us. May our Lord accept their souls into His kingdom and change our sorrows into joy. May His great mercies be upon the perpetrators of these killings. Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
More of Fr. Boules George’s sermon: http://www.copticdadandmom.com/fr-boules-george/
A short Tigrigna play on the strife of these blessed martyrs:
“Eritrean Martyrs” be lisane Geez