The people we honor today had one thing in common: they gave up their lives for Christ. They were martyred because they were followers of the Lord Jesus. By the year 64, Emperor Nero’s human rights violations had reached proportions beyond description. When a fire broke out in Rome on July 16, it was commonly believed that the emperor himself was responsible. As two-thirds of Rome lay in ruin, resentment grew. Nero became fearful. He needed a scapegoat and blamed the fire on the Christians.
Tacitus, a well-known historian, recorded that the Christians suffered cruel deaths. Some were fed to wild beasts. Others were tied to posts and became human torches that lit the Roman streets. The exact number of heroes is not known, but their gift of witness and their lives made a lasting impact on the people. Nero’s was the first persecution by a Roman emperor, but not the last. And the more the Church was persecuted, the more it grew. The martyrs had paid the price so that all who would come after them could have the opportunity to embrace the faith.
Do we live our lives for Jesus and for Him alone? Are we concern for a greater glory that awaits us in Heaven?
O God, who consecrated that abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs, grant, we pray, that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.