Reflecting on 2 Tim. 4: 6-8, 16-18
How did St. Paul die? Tradition holds that he was taken in chains and beheaded during the reign of the super-crazy Emperor Nero. St. Peter is believed to have been martyred around that same time, possibly 64 AD, after the great fire that destroyed 70% of Rome. The Christians living in Rome were accused (by Nero) of starting the fire, and this became the excuse for hunting them down and executing them. Nero had much at stake here, since the earliest accusations about the fire were leveled at him. The Christians provided his dearly-needed scapegoat.
It must have been terrifying for Paul, long a prisoner in Rome, to hear that Nero was rounding up the Christians of the city and having them martyred. He had encouraged and exhorted and inspired thousands of people to accept Jesus, in an empire that sporadically broke out in horrifying persecutions of them. Now came the terrible test. Could they endure torture and death for the sake of the Name? Could Paul endure it himself?
“The time of my departure is at hand,” we hear in that touching second reading from 2 Timothy. And then we hear, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat.” But the evil threat was real, and Paul was not rescued.
So, was Paul misled, and, in misleading others, cause their horrible deaths as well?
We all reach the point in our life in Christ where we face the crucifixion of Jesus square on. He was not rescued from the cross. God did not deliver him. But oh how he, like his great apostle Paul 30 years later, was “brought safe to the heavenly kingdom.”
Does the martyrdom of the earliest Christians encourage your faith?
Kathy McGovern ©2019