Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are given the messages of encouragement through the Scriptures, that as the followers and disciples of Christ, all of us will not be forgotten or be abandoned, but instead will receive the fullness of the fruits of everlasting joy and grace that will be the lot of those who have kept their faith in God.
In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard the words of God through His prophet giving strength and encouragement to the people of the kingdom of Judah, as it was possible that the prophet lived during the time of the exile, when the people of God were exiled from their homeland in distant Babylonia after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
At that time, it was a time of great humiliation, as the people of God had to endure scorn and shame as a conquered people, having their kingdom, their city and the holy Temple destroyed by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. God had allowed their enemies to have power over them because the people of God had not been faithful, and they had been wayward in their lives, worshipping pagan idols and performing all sorts of acts that are wicked in the sight of God.
Therefore, God spoke through the prophet Joel, giving encouragement to His downtrodden and demoralised people, that if they would turn back to Him and to abandon their sinful ways, showing genuine regret and sorrow over their mistakes, then He would succour them and protect them, and He would bless them once again, He would be their God and they would be His people.
God is always faithful to His promises, to the Covenant which He had established with each and every one of us. To that extent, He gave us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Mediator of the New Covenant, which He sealed by His sacrifice on the cross, through the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood and the offering of His own Most Precious Body as the perfect sacrifice for our reconciliation and as the atonement for our sins.
Yet, many of us failed to recognise this love which God has for us, and we ignored the care and love He has shown for us. We chose to walk on our own path, and disobeyed His laws and commandments, just as much as how the Israelites of the past had done. They had abandoned God and sinned before Him, and therefore, because of their sins and refusal to repent, they have been rejected and condemned.
In the Gospel today, Our Lord Jesus made it very clear to us, that all those who listened to the Word of God, will be blessed by God, and God will be with them. If only that we obey the Lord wholeheartedly, God will grant us all that we need, and provide for us every single moment of our lives. But it is indeed not easy to become a faithful disciple and follower of the Lord, for at every juncture in our lives, there will be temptations, challenges, and even persecution and oppression.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that was what Pope St. Callixtus I, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, have experienced in his life. Pope St. Callixtus I lived during the time of the early Church, and became the Pope and leader of the Universal Church at a time when there were great persecutions against Christians and the Church, and when becoming a Christian or being known as Christians would equate a fate of great suffering and even martyrdom.
Pope St. Callixtus I encountered these difficulties throughout his life, having to endure exile, prison and torture from time to time, and as he led the Church as the Pope, he encountered even more troubles and challenges. Yet, he did not give up the fight, and continued to remain faithful to God despite the odds and challenges. He was faithful to God, and obeyed Him in all of His laws and commandments, showing a great example to the people of God entrusted under his care.
Although eventually Pope St. Callixtus I was martyred for his faith, yet, his examples, his courage and bravery, the devotion and faith which he had in the Lord continued to inspire many throughout the ages, who saw his examples and became believers in God. Therefore, all of us should also follow in their footsteps, walking faithfully just as our holy predecessors had done, living righteously and devoutly in God’s presence.
May the Lord through His holy saints and martyrs, their lives and dedications continue to inspire each and every one of us as Christians to live in accordance with God’s ways, and be obedient to Him in everything, despite the challenges and difficulties we are likely to face as part of our faith. May He empower us to live ever more closely related to Him in all the things we say and do. Amen.