• Sarah Raad


“Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54).

The Twenty-One Martyred Copts

I love to read. I mean, I really, really love to read. And there is noting that I love to read more than Romance novels, not the sort of Romance novels that they sell in supermarkets that offer little in the way of romance, and much in the way of lust – but true Romance novels, of the Romantic period of the 19th century, written by authors like Jane Austen.

One of my all-time-favourite romantic novels is Jane Austen’s Regency piece, “Persuasion”, which was her final composition written (but not finished in the editing phase) prior to her death in the English summer of 1817. In this beautiful novel, the heroine, Anne Elliot, was convinced by her family to call off her engagement to the naval Captain Fredrick Wentworth when she was only 19 years old because they believed that he was not of high enough consequence to associate with her family. Eight years later, Anne was still single and still pining for him when he returns from sea. After some confusion and misunderstanding, the two declare their love for one another, and marry, living happily ever after.

Though the story is simply marvellous and ever so Romantic – in the literary sense of the word, meaning that emotion rather than reason is the primary motivator of action – it is not the plot which caused me to reflect today, but something else entirely… It was the title.

The novel is called “Persuasion” because it is littered with instances where people were persuaded to behave in one manner or another. The most obvious example is Anne being persuaded to call off her engagement to a man she loved because of the opinions of her family…

This word persuasion somehow sticks in my mind today because it reminds me of how much I would like to persuade the whole world to stop what they are doing RIGHT NOW and change their life – giving it to God.

Oh, the yearning in my soul for all of creation to bow down and ADORE God…

And yet, how weak I am. How limited my capacity to persuade. I am so weak that I am unable even to set the example of faith that I yearn to see in the whole world – and yet still I yearn to persuade people…

How it pains me, this weakness of mine. How I wish I could be of some USE to God… And since I cannot do anything great – I shall content myself with this microcosm of my existence, and try to do some small good with some great love and effort today…

For not all of us are called to greatness...

In 1936, in Spain there were forty-nine Claretian Missionaries who were arrested for their faith by the militia. Two of the seminarians arrested were Argentinian and the militia did not wish to execute them as this could cause diplomatic problems with Argentina. Their superiors told them that instead of dying as martyrs with their brother priests, they should live as martyrs instead… So, though they were willing to die for their faith, they were asked to offer a different martyrdom instead. Their martyrdom was their “lifelong service to Our Lord.”

Saint Faustina wrote, “I was reflecting on how much God had suffered and on how great was the love He had shown for us, and on the fact that we still do not believe that God loves us so much. Oh Jesus, who can understand this? What suffering it is for our Saviour! How can He convince us of His love if even His death cannot convince us?”

Perhaps, the most effective form of persuasion is by example?

In 320AD, a group of forty Christian soldiers, who are now known as the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, were condemned to freeze to death in an icy pond because they refused to renounce their Christian faith. In front of the freezing pond, their executioners placed a warm bath to tempt them to surrender. One of the soldiers yielded, left the others renounced his faith and got into the warm bath to save his life. Upon seeing his renunciation, one to the guards participating in the execution, left the executioners, proclaimed himself a Christian and joined the thirty-nine remaining men in the lake to freeze to death. He became the fortieth martyr – baptised in the icy waters of the lake in which he died.

And this is not just an ancient occurrence. In 2015, in Egypt, twenty-one men were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists. Twenty of those men were Coptic Orthodox Christians. The terrorists threatened to execute them by beheading them if they refused to denounce their faith. They refused. A twenty-first man who had been kidnapped with them and who was not a Coptic Orthodox Christian was also martyred. For though he was no Christian, when the terrorists asked him who his God was – after seeing the faith of the other twenty – he answered, “Their God is my God.” And so it was that twenty-one men were beheaded on that beach in Egypt that day.

That man, like the converted executioner of Sebaste, was the centurion at the foot of the Cross, who upon witnessing the execution of Christ said, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54).

If only others could see that “truly this is the son of God”, for then they would say, “Her God is my God” and all of Creation would bow down and give Him praise…

All glory and praise to our God!

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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