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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus predicts the persecution of his followers. A vast army of martyrs have in the course of Christian history given their lives for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. They are from every culture, country, language, and background. 

This is the army that stands opposed to worldly armies that do their work through violence, threats, and oppression. They witness to the power and authority of the risen Lord and therefore they are fighters—but they do not fight with the weapons of the world.

One might think of St. Peter himself, crucified upside down; or Felicity and Perpetua, thrown to wild animals; or of Thomas Becket, who resisted King Henry II’s attempts to manipulate the Church and was butchered by his henchmen; or Thomas More, who resisted another King Henry and paid for it with his head. 

One might think of Paul Miki, the Japanese Jesuit, who was crucified for announcing the Christian faith; or Miguel Pro, who was shot to death for defying a repressive Mexican government, shouting as he was martyred, “Viva Cristo Rey!”