Let’s take a journey back in time to 33 A.D. at Golgotha in Jerusalem. 11 of Our Lord’s friends have abandoned Him including Peter, His Rock. But three people remain until the very end: the Virgin Mary, St. Mary Magdalene, and a lone apostle: St. John.
All three saints have something in common — none of them were brutally murdered for spreading the Gospel. God spared the women, but why John? Perhaps it's because John passed the test of showing up.
John identifies himself as the beloved apostle. And it's not like this is a braggadocious or exaggerated claim. Our Blessed Mother was entrusted to his care by Our Lord. And it makes sense that the man who risked his own execution by standing at Christ’s feet (until the bitter end) was honored and spared a bloody purgation.
He wasn't spared suffering, though. Roman emperor Domitian ordered he be boiled in oil, and he was heavily persecuted for his ministry in Ephesus (located on the West coast of modern-day Turkey). John just wouldn’t die, and he was instead exiled to the Greek island of Patmos to live out the remainder of his life — where he wrote the book of Revelation.
As for the other Apostles, they didn't have John's courage. Perhaps this is why they abandoned Christ while he suffered and died. Even Peter, the leader of the apostles, denied knowing Him three times — just as Jesus prophesied on the Mount of Olives.
The moral of the story? The eleven were forged in the purgative fire of suffering so they too could be ready to die for Christ and obtain eternal life. He gave them all another opportunity to lay down their lives after they fled from the cross. And with the Holy Spirit residing within them — they died heroically.
Saint Peter was crucified upside down by the Romans. He requested this because he believed he was unworthy to die the same way Christ did (tell a Satanist this next time you see him wearing an upside-down cross).
Saint Paul Had his head lopped off by the Romans and was tried for his evangelization efforts despite being a Roman citizen.
Saint Bartholomew was skinned alive in Armenia, and it was a brutal sight.
Saint Thomas was stabbed by four spears all the way in India, where he founded the Syro-Malubar Rite of the Catholic Church.
Saint Andrew was crucified diagonally, his cross is still visible today on Scotland's Flag.
Saint Matthew was killed in Ethiopia (he was either burned, stoned, or beheaded), Saint Philip was either beheaded or crucified in Asia Minor, Saint James was beheaded in Spain, Saint James the Less was crucified in Egypt, Saint Simon the Zealot was cut in half with a saw in Persia, and Saint Matthias was burned alive in Persia.
It's clear from these men's deaths that God bestows special graces on the courageous members of his mystical body who die for Him. What's less obvious is that all Christians are called to martyrdom in one way or another. Every one of us is called to sacrifice our life and identity for His Glory (John 13:38).
We have to embrace suffering like St. John did because we will die. And when we die, one must hope and pray they have the supernatural courage to stand at the foot of the cross instead of running away from it in fear. Those who run (like the apostles did before their redemption) will be in Hell, where there is no love and no hope.
In our lifetime, it’s unlikely we will be murdered for our faith as the Apostles were. We, however, can still prepare for a non-violent crucifixion like Saint John did while watching his closest friend die on the cross (and his 11 friends later in life).
We must love as Christ’s beloved apostle did. Christians need not concern themselves with the Roman soldiers of the world who are standing around and judging their every decision — those types are prepared to crucify you for spreading the Gospel. Let them.
The youngest apostle's life is a metaphor for, what the church calls, white martyrdom. White martyrs die natural deaths while demonstrating heroic virtue in life, facing persecution and hatred for loving Christ and His Church. That is you.
In today's climate; where Christians are told they can't promote facts about biological sex, pray at school, or refuse a vaccine that may or may not sterilize them, it's incumbent upon American Christians to buckle down and stand firm in the face of anti-Christian adversity. And, more importantly, show up. Remember that St. John could have been arrested and crucified right there as a conspirator, yet he remained.
This is the message of Christianity in a nutshell. Accept your inheritance of eternal life. Die to yourself as John did while watching Christ sacrifice himself at Calvary for his salvation. Stand at the foot of the cross washed clean of all sin — and offer suffering up to Christ and be sanctified. Only then will you gain eternal life.