Today our companion is John the Baptist. His conception was mi-raculous. His birth was brought much joy. He was ahead of the Lord in preaching repentance. When he was mistaken to be the messiah, he humbly declared “He must increase, I must decrease”. He knew himself. He was only a forerunner. He was only a spotlight to point to the messiah.
A few days before Christmas, we are reminded of the call for martyrdom in the footsteps of John. Martyrdom can take many different forms.
The first martyrdom that we are accustomed to is the martyrdom by persecution and death. The early Christians went through persecution for the faith that eventually led to physical death. These martyrs gave up possibilities in this earthly life to be able to enter eternal intimacy with the king of martyrs.
There is also the so called white martyrdom which Saint Jerome used to refer to “the desert hermits who aspired to the condition of martyrdom through strict asceticism”.
There is also the martyrdom of obscurity as called by Ron Rolheiser. It is real death to be prevented from expressing ourselves. There is an inborn passion in us to be know, recognized and understood by many. There is a certain restlessness and frustration in us when we feel we are not appreciated or not extolled. There is drive within us to be a famous politician, to be a popular movie star, to be a gold medalist, to be seen on the front page, to have a viral photo on Facebook, to be known.

Unfortunately, this drive for self-expression has transformed our culture into a bitter, competitive, restless and unhappy generation with suicide being considered as solution. The answer is to enter into the hidden life of Christ and the desert life of John the Baptist. In this hidden life, we embrace the martyrdom of obscurity and find the joy of the ordinary.
He must increase; I must decrease.

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