Saturday, June 2, 2012



Why do two obscure early Christians who died in 304 have their own feast day in the calendar of the Church when almost nothing is known about them? Saints Marcellinus and Peter (not the Apostle) were beheaded as martyrs in 304 during the persecution of Diocletian. One was a priest, the other was authorized by the Church to deal with cases of demonic possession. That’s about it. No biography. No resume. No obituary.

The Scripture declares, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” That is, saints in the biblical sense of those pressing on to be holy and righteous, not only those with heroic virtue whom the Church respects with its collective memory to give honor where it is due. Forgotten by secular history, nevertheless these men once sent an impulse of encouragement through the whole early Church with their ultimate step of faith.

Even those of us who have lived a common and relatively hidden life, perhaps unknown and unacclaimed by the world, will never have lived and died in vain. The “Unknown Soldier” who is honored in our National Cemetery is not unknown to God by name and life deeds. Nor is anyone to whom God has given breath. With that initial breath of life He gave us, we received the gift of a unique eternal soul that lives on after our final breath.

As God never overlooks the fall of a single sparrow, so He never forgets the passing from this life to life eternal of any of those in friendship with Him. No obscure or unknown believer slips through the cracks to be forgotten by Almighty God. In our doctrine of the Communion of Saints, we are all forever bound together with one another—those still on earth, those being purified on their way to Heaven, and those already rejoicing in God’s presence there.  We are all living in the “eternal now” and Jesus assured us that those who believe in Him “shall never die.” Is it then not inaccurate to say that we “lose” our loved ones who died in Christ?

“Do you believe this?” Jesus asked Martha at the grave of her brother. He asks us as well. He expects us to accept that sure promise straight from his own lips as our Savior—and then act like it. We all know folks whose friends, loved ones or relatives have passed or are even now passing from this life—and each of us will do so too. No exceptions. Let us encourage each other to live according to what God has said is true and rejoice in that blessed hope and assurance.

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