Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate the feast of the first martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, remembering all those martyrs of the faith, who perished during the great persecution by the Roman Emperor Nero, in conjunction with what we celebrated yesterday in the great Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, both Apostles who also died in martyrdom during the same period of persecution.
At that time, the Church which the two Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul founded in the city of Rome, the capital and heart of the Roman Empire was truly flourishing with many converts from the Jewish and Gentiles communities alike. Many more people turned from their pagan gods to follow the Lord, Who have shown His glory through His Apostles and disciples, as we have heard in our Scripture passages today.
He healed them of their sickness and diseases, and caused evil spirits to go away from the people afflicted by them. He brought joy to the people much as Abraham in our first reading, faithful to the Covenant which God established with him, received his share of joy in the child whom God promised him, Isaac, his own son with his wife Sarah. And thus, the faithful God showed His love to His people, and many more people came to believe in Him.
But there were great oppositions from those who were not happy to see all these people becoming Christians, as those who believe in God. First of all, there were those who were opposed to the teachings of Christ, including those who were holding fast to the way of the Pharisees among the Jews, as well as those who were pagan in nature, the pagan philosophers and teachers who saw the Christian faith as a threat to them.
Then, the Imperial administration, the government, the Emperor and all the state officials viewed the Christian faith with suspect, particularly and primarily because, having adhered themselves completely and truly to the teachings of the Lord, refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman pagan gods and idols as well as to the Emperor, which was mandated from all the Roman citizens and subjects.
Therefore, the state carried out a great persecution of Christians, particularly in the city of Rome, when the perfect opportunity to scapegoat and blame them appeared as the Emperor Nero allegedly instigated the Great Fire of Rome, when most of the capital came down in a great fire that engulfed most of it. Christians were blamed for the fire, and many were put to death because of their faith as a result.
Many of the faithful were put to the gladitorial games in the Roman arenas, where they were thrown to the lions and wild beasts to be torn apart. Many were also put to death by beheading and by crucifixion. Yet, most if not all of these faithful people of God never feared, and they faced their death with faith, knowing that the Lord was with them, to the very end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these should bring us to the reality of our faith, that as Christians, there will always be obstacles and challenges in our path, not least from this world and all those who belong to the world, all those who are opposed to the Lord, to His ways, His truth and His salvation. Remember, brethren, that the devil and his angels are always prowling about, waiting for us to fall into the trap of his sin, temptation and persuasion that we end up as their prey.
Therefore, let us all be inspired by the examples of the first martyrs of the Church of Rome, whose memory we celebrate on this day. Let us be inspired by their steadfast faith, and their refusal to let go of their principles and their faith, even if certainly they must have been persuaded to do so. Let us all thus stand firm in our faith, and be really obedient to the will of God, by our actions and deeds in this life.
May the Lord be with us always in our journey of life, and may He empower us all to become His faithful disciples so that in all of our actions in life, we will always bring glory to Him, and will be worthy to share in that inheritance He has granted to all of His saints and martyrs, not least those martyrs whose memory even now, we remember before Him. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.