If you have a Church Calendar you will see that today is red as we remember a Martyr of the early Church; Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. He is remembered as a person of courage who prized his relationship with Jesus Christ even more than his earthly life.

One of the things that Jesus identified in the Sermon on the Mount as often coming between us and our Father in Heaven is the temptation to give up. Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna for about 40 years. In the year 156 the Roman authorities launched a persecution of Christians. Polycarp tried to defend his flock, encouraging them to hide and not seek martyrdom. But he was caught and brought into the public arena where he was urged to curse Jesus Christ. He replied, “For 86 years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme against my King and Saviour?” Tied to a stake, the wood at his feet was set ablaze as he prayed. But the flames could not touch him and a gladiator was sent in to kill him.

Polycarp’s example of not giving up strengthened the Christian community throughout the days of persecution, and beyond. We give thanks for Polycarp on February 23.

Bible Reading: Matthew 5: 1-12