St Tyrannio, St Zenobius and other Martyrs

(entered heaven in 304 and 310)

Dear Troy,

Why do you underestimate the power of God?  You act as if being faithful to him will spell utter disaster for you in the professional world.  I don’t see the connection. Yes, if you follow God’s commandments it won’t be easy, you’ll have to resist plenty of temptations to fudge reports, backstab, falsify, steal, inflate, deflate, and manipulate – all of which can be helpful in climbing the corporate or political or medical ladder of success, it is true – but do you think God will let you down because of it?  Do you really think you would be happier by executing your conscience in order to procure a bigger office on a higher floor? Don’t be so naïve; you really ought to know better. Besides, the more faithful you are, the more God will be able to use you to transform the culture if you do make it into a position of power and influence. Give God his due, my brash young nephew; after all, he is God.

Take today’s saints, for instance.  God suspended the very laws of nature in order to reward their fidelity and show forth his glory.  I know how skeptical you are, so I won’t tell the story myself; I’ll transcribe the words of an eyewitness, the Church’s first great historian, Eusebius.  Here’s how he describes the spectacle:

“Several Christians of Egypt, some of whom had settled in Palestine, others at Tyre, gave astonishing proofs of their patience and constancy in the faith.  After innumerable stripes and blows, which they cheerfully endured, they were exposed to wild beasts such as leopards, wild bears, boars, and bulls. I myself was present when the savage beasts, accustomed to human blood, were let out upon them, and, instead of devouring them or tearing them to pieces as might naturally be expected, they stood off, refusing to touch or approach them, but turned on their keepers and any that came in their way.  It was only the soldiers of Christ that they refused to attack, although these martyrs, in obedience to an order given them, tossed about their arms – which was thought to be a sure way of provoking the beasts against them. Sometimes indeed the animals were seen to rush towards them with their usual impetuosity, but they suddenly withdrew, held back by a divine power: this happened several times, to the wonder of all the onlookers. The first relay having done no execution, a second and a third was loosed upon them, but all in vain.  

“Meanwhile the martyrs stood there unshaken, although some of them were very young.  Amongst them was a youth not yet twenty [your age, isn’t it?] who remained quite still in one position, undaunted and not trembling, with his eyes uplifted to heaven and his arms extended in the form of a cross, while the bears and leopards with wide open jaws threatening immediate death seemed on the point of tearing him to pieces: but by a miracle, not being suffered to touch him, they withdrew.  Others were exposed to a furious bull that had already gored and tossed in the air several infidels who had ventured too near and had left them half dead. It was only the martyrs that he could not approach: he would stop and stand scraping the dust with his hoofs, though endeavoring to rush forward, he would butt with his horns in all directions and paw the ground while he was being urged on by red hot goads, but it was all in vain.  After repeated trials with other wild beasts with no better success, the saints were slain by the sword and their bodies cast into the sea.”

That’s an eyewitness account, and it’s far from unique in the history of Christian martyrs.  I think the moral of the story is quite clear: don’t underestimate the power of God. “Commit your way to the Lord, and he will act,” as the Scriptures say (Ps 37:5).

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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