I recently spoke with one of the priests at Christian Brother’s Academy of NJ about the concept of Christian Martyrdom. Here are a few things that I learned:
Throughout civilization, individuals have been tortured, arrested, and killed for their beliefs. Often, these individuals are called martyrs. In fact, in the New Testament of the Bible, the word martyr translated into witness. When Christians witnessed about their faith, they were often killed leading to martyrdom. Today, the word martyr is used to describe someone who has died for their faith. There are many Christian martyrs, most of whom are from history. Three of the most famous are Stephen, Simon Peter, and William Tyndale. Each of these individuals was put to death because of their Christian faith.
In the Bible, Stephen’s martyrdom is described in Chapters 6 and 7. He is considered to be one of the first martyrs following Jesus’ death. Stephen would testify and while he spoke the truth, his words often offended those who would hear him. These others eventually put together a council to try Stephen and rather than go to jail, he was run out of town and stoned. Stephen continued to testify, even asking God to forgive those who stoned him.
Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, brought Simon to Christ. Simon Peter was a thinker and was known as thinking hard before ever speaking. Following the death of Jesus, Peter became a fiery preacher and his sermons were talked about in the beginning of Acts. He traveled and primarily brought the teachings of Christ to the Jews. Simon Peter was killed by Nero and is believed to have been crucified upside down.
William Tyndale is a more latter-day martyr, a reformist who defied the teachings of the Catholic Church during King Henry’s reign. He translated the Bible into English, bringing the word of the Lord to many. Tyndale was tied to a stake in 1536 and died by choking.
Feeling completely inspired I was on the hunt to find more modern day Martyrs.
The Holy Spirit is part of the divine Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). The Holy Spirit is the invisible Spirit of God sent to earth after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Bible says Holy Spirit is the comforter and the voice of God for His people. In the Christian Bible, the Holy Spirit comes in a variety of forms, including tongues of fire and a dove.
Many people think that Holy Spirit only appears in Christian texts; however, the representation of the Holy Spirit also occurs in other religions.
The Holy Spirit is called Ruh al-Qudus and is mentioned in the Qur’an four times. In this religion, the Holy Spirit provides divine communication and action. However, a belief in the Holy Trinity is considered blasphemy and is forbidden.
Hinduism’s Shakti is the Universal Goddess who resides inside of humans. Shakti is seen as an essence of the cosmos. Shakti can be experienced inside the body and travels along seven chakras in the body. This spirit resides in the believer much like the Holy Spirit does in Christianity.
Buddhism also has a similar Holy Spirit called the Buddha Nature. In Buddhism, the Buddha Nature helps followers journey toward their spiritual goal of enlightenment.
The Hebrew Bible and other Jewish writings call the Holy Spirit the Ruach ha-kodesh which literally means the spirit of the holiness or holy place. In Judaism, the Holy Spirit is the divine force of the Most High God over creation.
In addition to the religions discussed here, there are many references to the Holy Spirit in other religions, including the American Indians, the Baha’i and Sikhism. In each of the religion discussed here, the Holy Spirit is divine and interacts with humanity and the world around us.
Here is a retelling of one of my favorite stories from a sermon by a priest:
One time during confessional, a young man came into the booth and said “Forgive me father for I have sinned, I have not bought a pair of cleats yet.” Confused I asked the boy, “What do you mean? Why do you need to buy a pair of cleats?” “I thought in order to be a good Christian I needed to buy a pair of cleats? Or believe in a pair of cleats? And I want to be a good Christian!” I started to laugh. Belly laugh. The boy was clearly getting upset at me, and I felt bad. I told him “My son, we want you to believe in the Paraclete, the holy spirit, not buy a pair of cleats! Do you believe in the Jesus, The Father and The Holy Spirit? Then you are a good Christian!” He seemed truly relieved. I guess he wasn’t a sports fan!
One thing that makes our church special is our choir. It’s our goal to find songs that capture the essence of the Holy Spirit. Music is something that brings everyone together. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, Christian or Lutheran or even Jewish. Music is something that every soul enjoys. It doesn’t matter what race you are, black, white, asian. That is what God wanted and preached.