Saturday, 20 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages relating to us firstly from the time of the Old Testament, about the moment when king Saul was killed during the battle against the Philistines, and how David, his successor, reacted to the death of his predecessor. And then in the Gospel, we heard about the Lord Jesus and His family, Who told the people, that ‘He was out of His mind.’

In the first reading, we heard how David was overwhelmed with sorrow upon hearing that Saul has fallen in the battle, and even went so far as tearing his robe and garment, and declared great mourning for the fallen king. And this should be understood in the context of rivalry between Saul and David, as Saul in fact had tried to kill David in several occasions, out of his jealousy and fear of David, who was to replace him as king, but he failed to do so, because God was with David.

Yet David did not reciprocate the hatred and jealousy with his own hatred and jealousy. He continued to regard Saul as his lord and king, and his response to what he heard about the death of Saul confirmed just how much he regarded his predecessor, despite all that he had plotted against him, and how much suffering and difficulty that he had been inflicted with.

That is the essence and personality of someone who has obeyed the Lord for all of his life, and walked righteously in his path. David was a righteous man, with heart that was filled with love for God as well as for God’s people, whom he has been entrusted with. He has lived a life of honesty and upright attitude, and he committed himself selflessly to his Lord and Master.

And this is something that is certainly is not common in our world today, as most of us would not have done what David had done in his life. Let us look at our own lives, and think of all that we have done thus far. How many of us will forgive our enemies and those who hated us, and still love them back? Many of us would keep grudge and hatred alive in us, and seek revenge whenever we could.

Indeed, for us to be like David would mean for us to go out of step with how the people of this world usually behave and operate. And this is exactly why, in the Gospel today, we heard of how Our Lord Jesus was treated, even by His own family, who said that He was out of His mind! That is simply because what the Lord Jesus had done, was revolutionary at the time, and was against the norms of the society.

Yet, that was what the Lord has delivered into this world, the reality of His truth. And that is what all of us as Christians, all those who believe in the Lord and in His message ought to stand up for, living righteously and with devotion to God, just as King David, our predecessor in faith and role model had done. And there are still many more role models which are still available for us to follow, including the two saints whose memory we celebrate and remember today.

Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian were two martyrs of the Church, who in their own respective lives have shown great courage and commitment to live their faith, even amidst challenging times and persecutions, in their respective areas of responsibilities, doing whatever they could as faithful disciples and servants of the Lord, refusing to give in to the pressures of those who tormented and tortured them.

Pope St. Fabian lived during the time of the great persecutions of the Christians in the Roman Empire, and he led the people of God as Pope and Vicar of Christ during the time of the Emperor Decius, a notorious enemy of the faithful. He guided the people of God through those difficult moments and lived with virtuous examples, inspiring many of those who are suffering persecution for their faith. In the end, during one of the many persecutions carried out by Decius, Pope St. Fabian himself was martyred for his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was an army captain or centurion, who served the Roman Emperors, and during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruled a few decades after the martyrdom of Pope St. Fabian, all the members of the Roman army were obliged to offer sacrifices to the pagan idols and to the Roman Emperor to show their sign of loyalty to their Emperor and to the pagan ways of Rome. Through the many tribulations encountered by the faithful counted among the army members of the Roman Empire, eventually many, including St. Sebastian were discovered.

He was placed on a pole, to which he was tied, and arrows were shot on his body, a very painful way to die. And yet, St. Sebastian remained true to his faith, and he neither betrayed the Lord nor begged to be released from his sufferings. Miraculously, he was not killed by those arrows, even though many of those arrows had pierced him. He was rescued and nursed back to health, and even though he could have hidden himself to save his life, he went to confront the Emperor and rebuked him for his cruelty against Christians.

In the end, St. Sebastian was mauled to death on the order of the Emperor, and yet, his courage, together with the commitment of Pope St. Fabian should become sources of inspiration for all of us Christians living today, that we should not be lukewarm followers of the Lord. Instead, walking in the footsteps of king David the righteous, let us all be true disciples of the Lord, by living our lives with genuine faith and devotion.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He give us all the courage to live our lives with faith and commitment, that day by day, we may draw ever closer to Him, and eventually, we may find our way to His everlasting glory, and receive from Him the promised eternal life. Amen.

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