Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and St. Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, Martyrs
It is appropriate that the week which began with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross should end today, as we commemorate the martyrdom of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chong Hasang, and 101 other Koreans who were martyred for their faith. The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, famously declared that “The Cross is not the terrible end of a pious happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We see suffering and death as the interruption of what we would rather be doing. Jesus, who has come to bear our sufferings with us, invites us to allow suffering to be a key moment to deepen our relationship with Him, and draw even closer to Him. Certainly the martyrs we celebrate today were able to do so.
When St. Andrew Kim Taegon was taken to the banks of the Han river to be beheaded, he first preached to his captors, exhorting them to convert. He declared that “[m]y immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death.” St. Andrew saw his death as another part of his movement towards God. Moreover, he continued to the end to encourage his killers to find happiness (not usually foremost on people’s minds as they are about to be killed) by converting to Christianity. In the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, the rule which Jesuits live by, St. Ignatius says we ought to “seek God our Lord in all things.” Suffering and death are too much a part of our lives to be excepted from this statement. With the example of the saints and martyrs, we can see more clearly how it is that we can seek the Lord, even in the midst of pain and death.