Humans always seem to turn everything into a competition. Whether it is who has the most, who is the best or who is on the Mount Rushmore of…..?
We can even compete on things that should not be competitive, like competing with each other in holiness, piety or who has more faith. We can even show our competitiveness in ways that sound very pious, “Dear Lord I thank you for not making me like him/her.” We think by being better, more faithful or more pious earns us more of Jesus’ love than others.
It seems as though that is what’s going on in the Gospel today. Jesus is told about the Galilean martyrs who had their blood mingled with other sacrifices by Pilate. Jesus, is unnerved by the insinuation that because of the way these Galileans were martyred that they were somehow holier than other Christians. It seems to imply that there are degrees of holiness or earning God’s favor by being martyred in a weirder more complicated way.
There was a certain amount of this in the early Church as Christians, desiring to be truly holy or more holy, actually sought out martyrdom. It got so bad that even the gentile rulers got tired of it and thought up ways for Christians to avoid martyrdom.
Jesus calls us back to sanity by explaining, it is not a competition. The way in which you are martyred or even IF you are martyred earns us points in heaven. Jesus explains it is the manner which you live your life, specifically how you forgive is what leads to holiness and not how you rank against others.
Holiness is a choice to do as Jesus asks and not a competition to be closer to Jesus or to win the praise of others.