Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have to come to realise of the nature of God and His coming into the world, when He came to save us through Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself had said, that His coming into the world would not cause peace but divisions and conflicts, and in those, many would suffer because of the division and the oppositions.
However, in order to truly understand what Jesus had meant in His words we heard today in the Gospel, we have to understand the nature of this world and how things work here. Remember that this world has been tainted by darkness and evil ever since sin entered into the world through men. Men who have been tainted by sin also followed the ways of evil and sin, tainting their hearts and the world with their unworthiness.
And in the process, they closed themselves and their hearts to the Lord. In short, the ways of this world is diametrically opposite to that of the way of the Lord. Ever since the beginning of time, when men disobeyed the will of God and followed their own desire and Satan’s words, the actions of men had come in direct conflict and opposition to the acts and the will of God.
God did not come into the world to bring violence and destruction upon it, and neither did He want to condemn the world and bring ruin to it by causing intentional conflict and infighting among men. Instead, we have to realise that it is our own disobedience and unwillingness to obey to the will of God which brought us into direct conflict with the Lord Jesus and all that He had taught the world through His disciples.
Thus, those who follow the words and teachings of Christ, by accepting baptism and becoming one with the Body of the Church of God will inevitably come into direct conflict and opposition against those who hold fast to the ways of the world, or those who listened to Satan and his lies instead of the truth in God. As Christ Himself repeatedly said to His disciples and the people, that those who followed Him and walked in His ways would suffer rejection and persecution just as Jesus Himself had been persecuted.
The concrete proof of this saying by Jesus came not sooner than after Jesus Himself had been betrayed, brought to the courts of Pilate and condemned to death, and after His death and resurrection. As the Church grew and spread due to the works of the Holy Apostles and the disciples of Christ, so does the unity of the family of the people of God, the Jews was torn apart. And it was St. Paul himself, once known as Saul, who showed the reality of what Jesus had told His disciples.
Many of the righteous and the faithful were hunted down and persecuted by Saul and his allies in the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were firmly opposed to Jesus and His ways, just in the same way that Satan and the world came in direct opposition to the ways of the Lord. Eventually Saul himself repented from his sins and followed the Lord, being shorn off from his former allies and benefactors the Pharisees, and as St. Paul, he was often hunted, condemned and persecuted by the same people who had considered him friend and ally.
During the time of the Roman Empire itself, when the persecutions of the faithful were common, many families were torn apart when one or more members of their families chose to abandon the old and sinful ways of the Roman polytheistic paganism, and decided to follow the way of the Lord. Many martyrs and saints were made in this way, when the faithful ones refused to recant their faith in God and were martyred in many painful and even gruesome ways, in the defense of their faith.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the end of the day, we have to realise that conflict and difficulties are inevitable if we choose to follow the way of the Lord and remain faithful to it. We cannot become disciples and followers of Christ if we do not want to suffer rejection and persecution which may come our way at any time. What is important however, is whether we are capable of overcoming our own hatred, desire for violence and revenge, just as what the world had shown to us.
Many of the martyrs had led such an exemplary and wondrous life, and they acted with such love and offered forgiveness to their persecutors, that many of those who had persecuted them, including even some members of their own families, in turn became believers and repented from their sins. This is exactly what we should also do, brothers and sisters in Christ, not to oppose the persecution and violence with our own hatred and violence, but instead with love.
That done, we may play our part in bringing more and more souls to salvation in God, and through Him we may be justified for our hard works. And today, we also celebrate the feast of a saint, whose life may become even further inspiration for us, that is of St. John of Capistrano or Capestrano, an Italian priest who lived during the time of the early Renaissance, known for his zealous and fiery preaching and by the title of the ‘Soldier Priest’ due to his role in fighting the infidel Ottoman Turks in a crusade.
St. John of Capistrano was a friar who went about many parts of Europe, the northern portions in particular, to spread the faith and the orthodox faith among the people of God. His sermons frequently drew thousands and tens of thousands of people. He was known for his hard ways of opposing the Jewish people, who in their influential positions continued to deny the Lord and refused to believe in the truth of Christ.
He also stood up against the threat of the Ottoman Turks when they rose in power and might, conquering many Christian nations and brought many of the faithful under slavery and forced them to recant their faith and reject Christ under the threat of death. He fought faithfully in the holy crusade and he died of a plague after the conclusion of the successful fight for the defense of the faith.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the example of St. John of Capistrano and the many other martyrs and saints of our faith showed how we have to understand what is required from us in our faith. Sometimes, in order to be faithful to God, we have to forgo our relationship and connections with others, as we have to choose, between God and our relationship with men. We have to realise that at times, we are required to choose and stand up for our faith, and we cannot sit on the fence.
May Almighty God therefore awaken in us the desire to bring others to Him, that while we suffer rejection and persecution from others for our faith in Him, our actions and deeds founded firmly on the tenets of faith may be source of inspiration on countless others and also those who persecuted us, that they too may see the light of Christ as we did, and thus hopefully open themselves to the Lord and give themselves for true conversion to the faith. God bless us all. Amen.