Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that if we follow the Lord our God, even though on our life’s journey we will encounter, and indeed, had encountered many forms of tribulations, sufferings and troubles, all the challenges we have to face, but in the end of it all, God will reward us with His everlasting grace and love.
This is the promise which God Himself had made through His Son Jesus, Who revealed the perfect love of God to all of us. He has revealed that all of those who are faithful to Him, remain faithful and true to Him despite the temptations and the challenges from the world, will be rewarded, and places have been prepared for all of them in the glorious heaven.
This is why we believe that saints and holy martyrs are present, and they are with God, praying for our sake. For it is this belief in the resurrection from the dead, and the hope of a glorious everlasting life with God, in the bliss of heavenly glory and joy, that make us to have faith in God and believe in Him, because of the saints and martyrs that had preceded us, all those who had to even give their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
If they had not believed in the glory in the life that was to come to them, then it would indeed have been foolish for them to die as they had done, or to suffer as they have suffered. Yet, those faithful people continued to believe in God, and resisted the efforts by those who wanted them to abandon their faith in the Lord Jesus. That is because they believed in the promise of God, which is indeed not just a mere promise, but already a reality in waiting for those who keep their faith in Him.
That is what the holy martyrs whose memory we celebrate today had done in their lives. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were martyrs of the early Church, among the earliest of the known martyrs, who lived during the years, as told by the tradition of the Church, of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who was known to persecute the Church and the faithful. And at that time, being a Christian meant difficulties, challenges, and they could even be arrested for being known as Christians.
Yet, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were among those Christians who did not let the difficulties of the time to hamper their zeal and devotion to the Lord, as many other martyrs had also done. And when the other saint, St. Pancras or St. Pancratius, who lived during the years of the great persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, was found out to be a Christian, he did not give up his faith, despite all that the enemies of the faith were trying to do in order to subvert them.
For example, when the Roman Emperor Diocletian tried to persuade St. Pancras to abandon his faith in the Lord, as he was impressed with his wisdom and intellect, St. Pancras refused to do so, even when he was offered good life and safe conduct by the Emperor, in exchange for his abandonment of the Lord and the Church. St. Pancras would rather choose to suffer and to perish rather than to follow what the world wanted him to do, because he had faith in the Lord and His promise.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, now the question comes to us. Do we believe in God and in His teachings? Do we truly believe what He had promised all of us who are faithful to Him? Do we really believe in all that we have come to believe through the Church? If our answers to all of these are yes, then we must remember the examples of our predecessors, the holy saints and martyrs in particular, in how they lived their lives and also in how they encountered persecution and rejection.
Let us all be inspired by their examples, and strive to follow their examples in how we lived in our lives and in how we should be faithful to the Lord. May the Lord also give us strength to live our faith with commitment, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. May God empower us to become ever more devoted disciples and followers of His will. Amen.