Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Love That Reaches Every Nation, Culture, and Epoch

Today is the Feast of the Korean Martyrs of the 19th century. Over a hundred are celebrated, many of them lay people who took heroic steps to spread their faith in Christ and to keep it alive under the relentless persecution of a hostile government. St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first native Korean priest, was tortured and beheaded in 1846. He was 25 years old. Below are some excerpts from his farewell epistle to the Christian faithful who were struggling to remain steadfast.

Who is this man Jesus, that people of every nation, culture, and epoch are willing to suffer and die for Him? What is it about this man that gives the human being an awareness and a freedom that can stand against every kind of power, every attempt to suppress the person? 

St. Andrew Kim Taegon and companions, pray for us as we struggle to follow Jesus in our own trials. Pray that those who oppose us might encounter, through our witness, the truth and love of the presence of Christ.

From the farewell epistle of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Korea, 1846:

Dearest brothers and sisters:
when he was in the world,
the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows
and by his own passion and death founded the Church;
now he gives it increase through the sufferings of the faithful.
No matter how fiercely the powers of this world
oppress and oppose the Church,
they will never bring it down.
Ever since his ascension
and from the time of the apostles to the present,
the Lord Jesus has made his Church grow
even in the midst of tribulation.

For the last fifty or sixty years,
ever since the coming of the Church to our own land of Korea,
the faithful have suffered persecution over and over again.
Persecution still rages
and as a result many who are friends
in the household of the faith,
myself among them,
have been thrown into prison
and like you are experiencing severe distress.
Because we have become the one Body,
should not our hearts be grieved
for the members who are suffering?
Because of the human ties that bind us,
should we not feel deeply the pain of our separation?

But, as the Scriptures say,

God numbers the very hairs on our head
and in his all-embracing providence he has care over us all....
Hold fast, then, to the will of God

and with all your heart fight the good fight
under the leadership of Jesus;
conquer again the diabolical power of this world
that Christ has already vanquished.

I beg you not to fail in your love for one another,

but to support one another
and to stand fast
until the Lord mercifully delivers us from our trials.

....I embrace you all in love.