“Every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian”
You will be surprised to hear what an 18 year-old boy, Chi Zhuzi, cried out when his persecutors cut off his right arm and were getting ready to flay him alive: “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”
By Joe Palathunkal
Yesterday, July 9, was a day to remember the Asian martyrs who lived and died for Jesus and with Jesus in their own land China, and they were 120 in number. Among whom was Augustine Zhao Rong, a Chinese soldier turned Catholic priest, who accompanied French Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse to Bejing and got martyred.
When Christianity came to China in AD 600 via Syria, it was not welcomed with open arms because the land was a closed society allergic to anything foreign, where the Great Wall itself stood as a visible symbol of that closed mind. These Catholics who were martyred between 1648 and 1930 were all the victims of that mindset which has not left Asia even today.
When you close your mind, everybody from outside of what you believe to be ‘ours’ becomes an enemy. This creates suspicion and fear of the outsider and you are not even ready to examine whether that outsider is good or bad. These 120 Catholics among whom were several women, children, labourers besides the Catholic priests, were all victims of xenophobia.
Think of the Asian situation even today - closed! Only certain economic compulsions are forcing China to open up a bit and this is true for India, Japan, Korea and others. India was exceptionally open until recently yet the bug of closed-mind has started catching up with this land of 'Vasudhahiva Kudumbakam' too.
But the exceptional faith of these martyrs energized them to be Christians and to give their blood for their faith. You will be surprised to hear what an 18 year-old boy, Chi Zhuzi, cried out when his persecutors cut off his right arm and were getting ready to flay him alive: “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”
When faith cries out from the blood and through the blood, no force on earth can defeat it, however wily, cunning and cruel it may be. The first martyrs of Rome did it and it exploded into the open sky of history when Emperor Constantine was gripped by that faith in 315 AD.
Today’s Gospel is telling us about that faith through the Jewish official and the woman suffering from hemorrhage (Matthew 9: 18 – 26): “Courage daughter! Your faith has saved you,” Jesus tells the woman. See the faith of the official: “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”
Faith will save you from the most hopeless situation and it will give you life when you are dead psychologically and spiritually; that is what Jesus tells us very clearly that good faith is always redeeming and life-giving. These 120 martyrs are proclaiming to us the same through their life and death. Faith gives you courage and freedom as we see in the life of Augustine Zhao, Chi Zhuzi and others.
O God, who in your wonderful providence has strengthened your Church through the confession of the martyrs Saint Augustine Zhao and companions, grant that your people, faithful to the mission entrusted to it may enjoy ever greater freedom and witness to the truth before the world.
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)