Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Holy Scriptures the calling of Jesus our Lord to all of us. Yes, He Who had created us calls us to follow Him and to walk in His path. He called His disciples, His Apostles and all those who were willing to listen to Him and wanted to follow Him, and He called them to abandon their past lives and follow Him to where He is leading them to, the salvation in God.
Many followed Him and left behind their past lives, but there were also many who were reluctant to do so, as shown in today’s Gospel, when some of those who wanted to follow Jesus made excuses that they wanted to settle their worldly matters first before they would follow Him. Jesus rebuked them and reminded them that those who were not fully committed and not fully sincere in their dedication to Him will not be able to follow Him as they have not placed their faith fully in God.
And the path to the kingdom of God will be closed for them because they have themselves closed it by their own doubts, their own lack of faith, their own ignorance and lack of commitment, and not by the action of God. God wants us all to be saved, and that is why He made calls after calls, constantly urging and calling us to follow Him. Yet, we hesitate because of the many temptations and hurdles present in our life, in this world that prevented us from truly finding our way to God.
We are all called to reflect on this even as we proceed to continue our lives in this world, even as we continue to live as how we used to live everyday. Let us all ask ourselves, how have we lived our lives in faith? Have we truly been faithful to the Lord our God? Have we devoted ourselves to the ways of the Lord? Or are we distracted by our many distractions in this life? Are we distracted by all the allures and the pleasures of this life, the busy schedules of our work life that we are not able to devote ourselves?
That is why sometimes it is important for us to take a step back and find some time even amidst our busy lives and works, that we should look at our actions and see how they have been shaped either by our faith or by our lack of faith. Are we Christians in name only? Or are we true Christians ready to take up our crosses in this life and follow the lead of our Lord? These are the questions that we ought to ask ourselves.
And thus, now, let us all look at the example of the holy saints and martyrs who have followed in the footsteps of the Lord, going all out in their devotion and commitment, even to give their lives for the sake of the Lord. St. Wenceslaus the martyr was a renowned saint from the land of Bohemia in central Europe, once the Duke and ruler of Bohemia, who helped to propagate the faith in his lands, despite the opposition of the pagans and all those who still refused to believe in God.
He ruled fairly and with justice, caring for the poor and the sick, the weak and the less fortunate in his domains, and he promoted the Christian faith wherever and whenever he could. Rightly, his many enemies and opposers gathered and resisted him and his rule wherever and whenever they could, but he prevailed and pushed harder for reform and for the faith in God to be in the hearts of all his people.
Thus, those enemies of the Lord plotted against St. Wenceslaus and murdered him, a martyr of the faith, dying defending the truth that he had believed in and worked so hard for. Yet, many followed in his footsteps, and he was revered immediately as a saint after his death, as a role model to many of the faithful who came after him.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz was a Filipino who lived a few hundred years ago, who due to a false accusation, was accused of murder and thus had to flee his homeland, and eventually reached the land of Japan. At that time, the government was launching a particularly vicious oppression and attack on the Christian faith and all those who professed their faith in God.
Many of the faithful were arrested, tortured and forced to choose between abandoning their faith and living, or to keep their faith in God and perish in terrible suffering and pain. Many refused to let go of their faith and thus remained true to their faith in God, including St. Lawrence Ruiz and his fellow companions in faith. They were tortured and made to go through various torture forms and sufferings unimaginable to the human mind.
They were eventually martyred, refusing to give up to the very end, calling for others to remain strong in their faith and persevere despite of the difficulties facing them. It was told that St. Lawrence Ruiz said that when he was about to die, he proclaimed, “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God. Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him shall I offer.”
In all the examples of the holy saints and martyrs we have heard, and all others whom we are familiar with, we can see that they devoted their whole lives, their whole beings to serve the Lord, to serve His purpose and His will, and to give their whole heart, mind and soul in bringing forth the good works of God to the whole world, to all the peoples by example, by action and good deed.
We can also follow their examples and good deeds, by practicing them in our own lives. Let us all reflect on how we live our lives, and whether we have been truly faithful to God or not. Let us all walk from now on, in the path of the Lord, devoting our time and efforts for the Lord, and committing ourselves wholly to Him alone. May God help us in this endeavour. Amen.