September 22nd – Martyr

The martyrdom of Marcellus, a Roman Centurion of the 3rd Century A.D. is told by A.J.Mason in his book about Historic Christian Martyrs. I thought you would like to hear the story and set it against the troubles which we Christians complain of today.
It was in Tangier and the Emperor’s birthday was being observed by the Roman Army in feasting and sacrificing. Marcellus, a Centurian of the Trojan Legion, horrified at the blatant paganism, stood before the eagles of the Legion, unbuckled his belt and shouted “I am a soldier of Jesus Christ, the King Eternal”. Then casting away his centurion’s staff and sword said “From this moment, I cease to be a soldier of your emperor, and as for your gods of wood and stone, I despise them. They are deaf and dumb idols, I renounce the standards, I refuse to serve.”
Astonishment reigned. He was of course arrested and taken before the Commanding Officer, Fortunatus, who had him imprisoned until after the festival. Then Marcellus was brought to trial before Fortunatus where he repeated his decisions and derision. So he was sent unharmed to Aurelius Agricolanus, the Deputy Prefect of the Praetorium. The trial took place on 30th October, where his conduct was rehearsed and verified. Marcellus confessed to the truth of all the accusations.
“How came you to be so mad as to abjure your oath and speak so?” he was asked. He replied “There is no madness in those who fear the Lord”.
“Did you speak as charged?” – “I did.”
“Did you throw off your weapons?” – “I did. It is not fitting for a Christian man to serve such terrible worldly ends.”
Agricolanus had no other choice. He sentenced him to be decapitated. Marcellus heard the sentence and said to Agricolanus, as he was led away to be beheaded: “The Lord bless you”.
“That”, says the ancient record “was the proper way for a martyr to leave the world”.
These are the words of Jesus of Nazareth
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12
The original New Testament word for ‘witness’ is martyr. Remember this when you are threatened not with decapitation but a little mockery for Jesus’ sake.
A Prayer:
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shades lengthen, the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, Lord, in they mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and a place at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now read Hebrews 11:32-40.

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Faith does not set aside natural duties, but perfects and strengthens them. (J Bengal)

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