Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the times of difficulties and challenges facing those who are faithful to God. In the first reading we heard of the ruination of Israel and its Temple in Jerusalem, destroyed by the Babylonians. The prophet Haggai reprimanded the leader of the people, Zerubbabel, for having neglected the rebuilding of the Temple and therefore, House of God.
At that time, the people of Israel have just returned from their exile in Babylon and dwell once more in the land of Israel. It was a time of recovery and healing from the sorrows and sufferings they have encountered during the time of their exile. They have been restored to their ancestral land, and they have regained the hope in life, for God Himself has rescued them and liberated them.
Then in the Gospel we heard of the fear that king Herod of Galilee had, after having heard of the miracles performed by the Lord Jesus, Whom he mistakenly thought to be St. John the Baptist, risen from the dead. For he himself had arrested the good saint due to his opposition to his adultery with Herodias, his brother’s wife, and he had also ordered the execution of the messenger and servant of God, and he himself have witnessed that death.
Yet, even though king Herod mistook Jesus for St. John the Baptist, but all of us Christians believe that death does not have the final say over us, and therefore, even though St. John the Baptist had suffered and died, but through his holy death, as a defender of the faith and the truth, St. John the Baptist had deserved and indeed had received the eternal glory which the Lord our God has promised to all those who are faithful to Him.
In what we have heard from these two Scripture readings, one from the Old Testament and another from the Gospel, we can see how God does not abandon all those who are true in their faith to Him, and ultimately, He will reward their faith with everlasting happiness and true joy, which no other can give. This is what each and every one of us must know, so that in our lives, we may always strive to glorify God and to persevere in faith regardless of the difficulties, challenges and temptations.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of many great martyrs and saints, who have given their lives for the greater glory of God, dying in the defence of their faith, so that even though they might have lost their lives for the sake of God, they shall regain them again from the Lord, and their rewards are truly great in the world that is to come.
First of all, St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of Bohemia, a region now known as the Czech Republic. He lived during a time when the Christian faith gradually became accepted throughout the country, as the old pagan faith and ways faded in the face of the true faith. Yet, there were still many oppositions against the Christian faith, and St. Wenceslaus as the Duke and ruler of Bohemia worked patiently to continue to establish the foundations of the Christian faith, and ruled his people with justice.
Yet, those who were opposed to the rule of St. Wenceslaus banded together and with the support from his brother, who desired power and the rule of the realm, and they murdered this just and righteous ruler for their own selfish gains. Nonetheless, the bravery, faith and commitment of St. Wenceslaus have inspired many others, just as St. John the Baptist remained true to his mission even unto imprisonment and death.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz or Lorenzo Ruiz was the first saint who hailed from the Philippines. He was wrongly accused of murder, and took refuge in a ship that brought him the land of Japan, at that time in the midst of a great persecution of the Church and the faithful. He and his many fellow Christians refused to betray the Lord and abandon their faith, and they were persecuted and tortured as a result.
Through grievous torture and painful suffering, he and his fellow companions in martyrdom refused to let go of the firm assurance of salvation from the Lord. They remained strong in their convictions, and they died giving praise and glory to God, knowing that while their earthly lives ended, God will glorify them and give them a new life that will never end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us should heed the examples of these holy saints and martyrs, and we should dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same manner. It does not mean that we have to go through martyrdom and die in suffering or agony as they had been subjected to, but instead, it means that all of us must be aware that to be Christians, it will often mean that we will end up facing challenges, sufferings, rejections and oppositions, and we must remain strong in our faith to overcome all these.
For the Lord is forever always faithful to His people, and He wants only that each one of us remain faithful in Him as well. Let us all dedicate our time and effort from now on for the greater glory of God, and let us ask for the intercession of the holy saints and martyrs, our examples. St. Wenceslaus, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and companions, martyrs of Japan, pray for us! Amen.