If I say the word witnesses there is very little emotional response, but if I use the Greek word for witness, martyr, my guess is you just had an emotional response. After all, if someone says you should witness to your faith in Jesus, your response would probably be, "Ok!" But if they say you should be a martyr, my guess is your willingness just dropped a bit.
As Christianity grew we began to use the word martyr not to mean just witness, but one who gives witness by dying for their faith, the ultimate imitation of Christ. The nine people who died in Charleston were martyrs. Had any of them chosen to stay home and watch television, they would be alive today. They died because they were black and they dared to gather in Church for prayer.
There are three kinds of baptism recognized by the Church:
Baptism of water- the most common
Baptism of desire- the reason a catechuman has a right to be buried as a Christian even without baptism of water.
The third we don't much talk about is baptism of blood. In the early church their were many who died as martyrs before they were baptized.
The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (Catechism, #1258)
In traditional iconography martyrs are pictured with palm branches, the symbol of victory and peace. The conflict is over and they have won. We do not overcome violence with violence. Those who suggest that they should have gone Church packing a gun don't understand Christianity.
What does all this have to do with today's readings?
In the second reading today, St. Paul tells us that we who received baptism of water died as well. Our old self died and we became a kainos ktisis,"new creation". The old things have passed away. 2 Cor 5:17
We refuse to see it. Like the unattractive youth who grows into a beautiful adult but still looks in the mirror and sees only the unattractive, too many Christians hold on to the old self. We look into the mirror and we cannot see the new creation. We refuse to let it die.
One way or another all Christians must die for Christ. Most of us may not die as the nine in Charleston, but we all must let our old self die, whatever is displeasing to God in us must die so that we can live as the new creations that we are