This morning during my Bible reading, I read in the Gospel of Saint Mark (patron saint of Egypt) where he described the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. I’ve read it or heard it probably over one hundred times. But today it was more meaningful because we have witnessed recently the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian martyrs by ISIS.
Pope Francis said “our brother Copts, whose throats were slit for the sole reason of being Christian, that the Lord welcome them as martyrs….” He also prayed for the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, “my brother Tawadros, who is suffering greatly…”
I watched the original un-edited version of the beheading of these 21 brave men, and I was sick. (Having seen it, I explicitly recommend NOT watching it if you have not already. You will gain nothing by it and I regret seeing it.) I immediately felt rage, but I soon realized that the soul of the martyr is at peace and he prays for his enemies. I was also angry at his taunt against destroying Rome, as well.
But vengeance is not the posture of sanctity. In fact, my natural inclination toward hatred and revenge is the evil mindset of the Muslim men hiding behind black masks and hacking at the necks of these holy and God loving Christians.
Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles had a love and respect for Saint John the Baptist. John, too, was brutally beheaded. The mystery of Christianity is that this detail leads us to honor and revere him. He became more holy and powerful in death than he ever could have been before that moment. [According to Thomas Aquinas, the highest glory in heaven is that of a martyr and they receive a special crown – We’ve covered all that here.]
How do we stop ISIS? Well, ISIS wants to attack Rome. But they are foolish in their plans. Nero once beheaded a former rabbi named the Apostle Paul outside the walls of Rome. And Nero had Simon Peter crucified upside down by the Vatican Hill. These barbaric murders of holy men gave life to a culture of life that spread across Europe and then the entire world.
We should protect and guard every innocent human life regardless of religion. But if somehow ISIS martyrs the Pope or a Cardinal, or a nun, or you or me, they will only be unlocking more divine power and more grace. God will not be mocked.
These demonically minded men of ISIS must be found and brought to justice. Yet we Christians should also perceive with theological eyes, that it is the courageous Martyr of Jesus, not the US President or Navy Seal, who will ultimately bring about the lasting transformation and the wave of justice.
Here is the voice of the martyrs from Revelation 6:9-11
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
All you holy twenty-one Coptic Christian Martyrs, pray for us.
The names of the 21 Coptic Martyrs are:
1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq