This episode focuses on the sad but triumphant tale of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Well-named was our beloved Bishop of Smyrna; “much fruit” is what his name means in Greek, and he has done just that, both in his ministry to the church and in the glorious manner of his death. There are some who claim that Polycarp harbored a death wish, but nothing could be further from the truth. When he was advised to flee the city to avoid arrest, trial, and execution, he humbly complied. But escape was not to be the lot assigned to him by God. Polycarp learned this himself from a prophetic dream that was vouchsafed to him by heaven. In his dream, he lay in bed upon a flaming pillow. When he awoke, he could still see vividly in his mind’s eye the image of that pillow reduced to ashes; it was then that he announced to us that he would die, not by wild beasts, but by fire. Though we who live in America in the 21st century need not fear that we will be martyred as Polycarp was, we can learn from his brave resolve and unshakable faith to speak the truth of Christ in love to those in power.
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