Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard from the Word of God in the Scriptures, speaking to us about the works of St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, preaching in various regions of Achaia, what is now modern Greece, calling upon many people to turn towards the Lord and to be baptised in His Name. Many people came to believe in the Lord Jesus, and they believed because they heard what St. Paul had preached to them.
Another follower of Christ named Apollos also preached among the people, and many came to believe because of his teachings, although he was not completely correct as he had not yet received the full teachings of the Apostles. Thus, St. Paul helped to correct him and guided him, and Apollos continued to preach henceforth in many places, just as St. Paul would go on to many more places, teaching the people about the Lord and the truth which He had given them.
This was the fulfilment of the revelation and the promise which Christ had made to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that the time would come when the truth would be revealed in its completeness. He often spoke in parables to the people, that is using stories and parallels, by which He delivered to them, piece by piece, the truth that He wanted to reveal to the whole world. Then, He would explain the meaning of the parables to His disciples separately.
But He promised His disciples, He would speak in plain truth, and He did, although many of them did not understand what He meant at first, because of their lack of faith and understanding. Yet, God revealed to them the whole truth, through the Holy Spirit He sent them, at the Pentecost and henceforth, by the laying of the hands, of the Apostles on the elders and leaders of the Church, and to all the faithful.
The Holy Spirit tells them all, the truth which came from God, and stirred in their hearts, a strong and fervent faith, that brought them to zealously spread their faith and the truth of God among the many peoples they encountered, going from towns to towns, villages to villages, and places to places, testifying about the truth of Christ and declaring His salvation to all the nations.
Of course, we must also remember that while many believed because of what they have heard from the faithful disciples of the Lord, and through the journeys of St. Paul and his companions, there were also plenty of opposition to their works, to the point that many of the disciples were martyred while doing their work of evangelisation and teaching. Many became martyrs of the Church, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we remember the memory of three of those devoted servants and martyrs, namely St. Nereus, St. Achilleus and St. Pancras, all of whom have given their lives in the faithful service to God. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were told to be chamberlains of a family relation of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who carried out a particularly harsh repression and persecution of Christians throughout the Empire.
St. Nereus and St. Achilleus remained faithful to the Lord despite these difficulties they encountered, and as they were working in close relation to the Emperor who were bitterly against the followers of Christ, it was likely that they refused to abandon their faith and they rather chose persecution, and eventually martyrdom, rather than to betray their Lord and Master.
Meanwhile, St. Pancras was a young teenager who had shown great faith and courage amidst the persecution of Christians under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians throughout the Empire, and forcing them to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain true to their faith and suffered grievously to death.
Despite still being young as a teenager, St. Pancras refused to listen to the commands of the Emperor ordering the faithful to abandon their faith and offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the pagan gods. The Emperor himself was surprised and indeed, impressed at the courage and determination shown by the young St. Pancras, and he offered him much wealth and riches, power and glory should he be willing to abandon his faith.
St. Pancras was not tempted however, and he remained true to his faith, refusing the Emperor’s offer. That was how he met his end in martyrdom, beheaded at such a young age, remaining true and faithful to his faith in God. All these saints chose the same path, that is God’s path. They would rather gain an eternity of joy with God, rather than to gain the temporary pleasures and joys of the world, knowing that God is always faithful to His promises.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, for each and every one of us as Christians, are we able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly in the same manner as these faithful and courageous saints had done with their lives? All of us are called to follow in their footsteps, and to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to God’s service, to glorify His Name through all of our actions and deeds.
May the holy saints, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, together with St. Pancras, intercede for us all, that each and every one of us may be continuously empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, and have the same courage to testify our faith before others, by our actions, filled with faith, at all times. May God bless us all and bring us all together to eternal life and joy, with the glorious martyrs. Amen.