Our faith calls us to go outside of our comfort zone, but that is easier said than done. The saints of the Church never seek martyrdom for martyrdom sake. Because they went outside their comfort zone as their faith called them to do, they ultimately experienced martyrdom. Whether by the shedding of their blood or by what is known as a white martyrdom, which comes from the suffering that most saints experience. They may not have to shed their blood as Jesus Christ did on the cross, but they are called to embrace the sufferings of the cross. This white martyrdom is our clothing ourselves in the white garment of Baptism. It is in Baptism where we die with Jesus Christ on the cross and rise with him to a new life in the waters of Baptism. Our Baptism calls us to go outside of our comfort zone to share with that great cloud of witnesses in Jesus’ mission and ministry as priest, prophet and king.

The second reading (Hebrews 12:1-4) from the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time tells us of this great cloud of witnesses who give us support. The cloud of witnesses the author is speaking about are the martyrs and saints, who through their example of faith and intercession, give us support.

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” This great cloud of witnesses gathers with Jesus Christ, “who has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.” 

In the Catholic Mass, we join in the great Eucharistic banquet in Heaven where Jesus Christ presides as Great High Priest. As Catholics in the Eucharistic celebration, we join with all the martyrs and saints as they intercede for us in that once and for all Eucharistic Banquet. Their support is felt in our own gathering together in the Eucharistic celebration, which is the Mass.

Even though we can’t see this cloud of witnesses, we can feel their effect on our lives.

The challenge of faith is that we are continually called outside of our comfort zone. This can cause great anxiety as we meet those challenges of faith. We are called to share a message that can cause division among people, even among our own family members. Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:49-53)

It is not Jesus who divides, it is our rejection of Jesus that brings about division. If we only could trust in that great cloud of witnesses and allow them to support and intercede for us. That is the challenge the Scripture readings provide to us today. The readings draw us out of our comfort zone, in the same way Jeremiah was challenged by God to share a message that would be rejected by kings and paupers: “In those days, the princes said to the king: Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in the city,  and all the people.”(Jer.38:4-6 ,8-10) Jeremiah had to answer the challenge God gave him to share a prophetic word that would ultimately cause others to plot against him. Jeremiah had to rely on God’s word and trust that that word would save him. The Psalm for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Psalm 40:2,34,18 was most likely on the lips of the Prophet Jeremiah, “Lord, come to my aid.” The Lord sent Jeremiah help and the Lord sends us help but it may require us to step outside of our comfort zone.

If we can trust in the intercession of that great cloud of witnesses, the martyrs and saints who are with Jesus in heaven, we can then meet the challenges that face us as people of faith. We only need to step outside our comfort zone and follow where Jesus is leading, after all he is our aid.