St. Andrew Dung-Lac was a priest in Vietnam in the early nineteenth century. He and his 116 companions, including Spanish Dominicans, members of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, and 96 Vietnamese, including 37 priests – of which Andrew Dung-Lac was one – were all martyred around the year 1839. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were martyred in Vietnam during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
These martyrs knew well the dilemma that faced St. John in today's reading from the book of Revelation. The scroll – the word of God – tasted sweet on the tongue, but became sour in the stomach. The sweetness of receiving the Gospel very often becomes sour when one now has to live it. But live it we must, and quite often at a price. For St. Andrew and his companions, it was at the price of their very lives. For each of us, the price may be different.
Whether we have to pay by having to give up a job promotion because it does not allow us to live the Gospel, or of having a strained or broken relationship with someone in our lives because they do not share our beliefs, or even just the social stigma of not giving in to the peer pressure that leads us to consumerism, the call of the Gospel can turn our lives sour indeed. This is often called a "white martyrdom" (as opposed to the "red martyrdom" of those who paid with their blood) and we are all called to suffer it at some point.
But may we all step up and eat the scroll, proclaiming its message by our very life's witness.