Today we remember the deaths of Saint Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were crucified on a hill top overlooking Nagasaki, Japan. Persecuted for their persistent Catholic faith, the 26 martyrs were forced to march 600 miles before they were publicly executed in the 16th century.
Martyrdom almost seems foolish, doesn't it? It probably would have been pretty easy to deny your faith-- a forgivable offense in the face of death, for sure. So why be so foolish?
In 1 Corinthians 4:10, Paul calls himself a "fool on Christ's account". In the early Christian Church, being a "fool for Christ", or being "foolish for Christ's sake", was a Christian ideal. The imitation of Christ's meekness which led to poverty, mockery, and even death, was seen as foolish to the rest of the world. Why give up all your possessions? Why accept death rather than tell the persecuters what they wanted to hear?
As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18, "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
While Christians continue to be martyred in several parts of the world, for many of us martyrdom is not something truly comprehensible. While we may boast that we would easily accept martyrdom, it's hard to know if we actually would unless we were faced with it. Most of us can't fathom what Saint Paul Miki, his companions, and all the other martyrs underwent because of their faith.
But perhaps there are other ways we can be foolish for Christ's sake. Jesus allowed himself to look ridiculous. He allowed his teachings to be mocked, he allowed himself to be publicly displayed and humiliated by all in attendence. He was laughed at and sneered at.
Most of us are concerned with coming across as cool or acceptable. Though we profess faith in Christ, we still worry about what other people think of us. Today, take a moment to reflect on how willing you are to be a fool for Christ, or to start simply, a fool in general. Especially as we move into Lent next week, it's a great time to think about something we have or do that we are particularly proud of, and how giving it up may make us look foolish or passe. Perhaps taking on this foolishness could be a good Lenten sacrifice.