The Shema (Dt 6:4ff) is repeated by Christ startiing at Mark 12:29. Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your Strength.”
The Jewish commentaries observe that this list is in increasing order of difficulty. It is relatively easy to feel a love of God in our heart. It is another big step up to be prepared to give up our life (soul) for our faith. Jesus adds the commitment of the mind, as a way, I suppose, of challenging each of his followers to live up to this command. The, the last, to love God with all our strength refers even to sacrificing all our earthly possessions. So, the Shema (“Hear”) is the daily “pledge of allegiance” of Jews to God and if possible the last utterance at the moment of death.
Surely, one doesn’t know for sure how to react in the situation, but we have a COMMAND as to how we should act. Is it commonly recognized for what it is? This topic is really about martyrdom, and we each should be preparted to recognize the situation and be ready to act on it, to be a martyr – a witness.
Confronted with the prospect of being drafted for the Vietnam War, I sought classification as a conscientious objector, arguing that I could not take an order to kill masses of innocent villagers, as occurred at My Lai and (reportedly) a thousand other locations. I had to stand up to to the draft board and let them know. I performed two years of alternate service in a hospital.
I know a school teacher who was approached by two students who happened to be Catholic members of her parish. Now, the job of a teacher is not counseling. But the girls insisted that this teacher help them to decide what course of action to take about their pregnancies. She told them that they should not get abortions. She was fired for standing up for the faith and the lives of the unborn. I told her in no uncertaiin terms that she was a saint.
Yes, indeed. We have to wonder what we will do when the time comes to profess our faith.