Friday, 18 May 2018 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Scriptures through which we are reminded that as Christians all of us are ultimately bound to live by the will of God, and we will be led in our lives to where God wants us to be, and it is often that life will not go according to how we want it to be, no matter what we have done and are going to do in order to secure our desire.

In the first reading today, we listened to how St. Paul defended himself before the king of Judea, Agrippa, as well as the Roman governor of Judea, Festus. He spoke with such a wisdom and eloquence that he even almost persuaded them to be Christians. He has appealed to the Emperor, and would go on to Rome, in order to face the judgment as meted by the most powerful man in the world at that time.

In his earlier years, St. Paul was known as Saul, a fanatical and influential young Pharisee, who was renowned and glorified for his intense persecution of all Christians and all those who profess faith in the Lord Jesus. He seemed to be destined for a life of greatness and influence among the people of God, to be among the elites of the society as member of the Pharisees.

However, God did not wish it to end that way, that Saul remained a great enemy of Christ and His faithful ones. God instead called Saul and gave him an entirely new purpose and calling in life. And Saul chose to accept that role given to him, a role through which he would save countless souls, through his direct teaching and efforts, as well as through the many disciples and students he had led through those years of his service.

Then, in the Gospel today, we also heard about another Apostle, St. Peter, the head and appointed leader of the Apostles. The Lord Jesus entrusted His Church to his care, just as He had said before, that He would build His Church upon the foundation of Peter, the Rock. And the Lord Jesus said to St. Peter about the same expectation as I have just mentioned, that at the end of it all, it was God’s will that will prevail.

God said to St. Peter that he would have to suffer for being a disciple of His, and he would be led to places that he would not want to go. That was a foretelling of what he had to encounter, to be brought to Rome, where he would meet his martyrdom just as St. Paul would. He was crucified upside down in the place where the Basilica of St. Peter now stands, while St. Paul was beheaded at around the same place.

Today we also remember the memory of another good servant of God, one of the early successors of St. Peter the Apostle, as the Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome. Pope St. John I was a devout servant of God, humble and faithful, elected to become the successor of St. Peter and lead the Church. At that time, the Church in Rome was under the rule of those who followed the false Arian heresy, and Pope St. John I was caught in the great dilemma of having to accommodate between the two sides in argument.

King Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths, who was an Arian, demanded that the Pope present his argument before the Roman Emperor in the city of Constantinople, that toleration and concessions must be given to those who believe in the Arian heresy. However, Pope St. John I resolutely supported the position of the Orthodox and true teachings of the faith as espoused in the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, and in the end, he was imprisoned by the king.

Pope St. John I would eventually die a prisoner of the faith, refusing to bend to the demands of the king. He and the Apostles of the Lord had shown us that, even many in the world will oppose us and persecute us, just because we believe in God and walk in His ways. They entrusted themselves to the Lord, and remained true and faithful to Him. And despite having suffered and died in pain, they now enjoy forever the glory of heaven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, as Christians, all of us are also expected to have that same faith and commitment to the Lord, just as shown by our holy and devout predecessors. Let us all henceforth renew our commitment to our faith, and spend more time and effort in our relationship with God. May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to be with us and bless us, all the days of our lives. Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, and Pope St. John I, holy martyr, pray for us all. Amen.

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