Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day first of all we heard about the persecution of Christians as mentioned by St. Paul the Apostle, who recounted what he had done when he was still know as Saul, when he hunted down all Christians, all those who believed in God and followed the teachings and the truth as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world and Son of God.
Saul was once thought to have the potential to be a very influential and powerful Pharisee, as he was born into privilege, an educated and bright young Jewish man from Tarsus, having many close connections to the other Pharisees and the influential members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and High Priesthood. Saul seemingly was destined for a life of glory and greatness, of power and privilege among the Jewish people, being an elite among the elites of the society.
But God had a very different plan for Saul, and He called him to be His disciple, through the dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus, where He revealed Himself and the truth to Saul, calling him to turn away from evil and from his misguided past ways, and embrace the truth of God, and follow Him just as the other disciples of His had done. Saul eventually became a believer, was baptised, and from then on, became a great champion of the Christian faith.
Yet, in accepting the role into which God had called him to, Saul, who take up the new name of Paul to mark his conversion and acceptance of the Lord, he had to abandon all the worldly glory and power, influence and privileges he once enjoyed, and instead, having to endure all sorts of insults and difficulties, challenges and rejections. He had to endure torture in prison, and even almost being killed on many occasions.
Nonetheless, to the very end, as St. Paul showed throughout his travels as recorded in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, he endured all of those challenges and sufferings with patience, hope and faith, because he trusted in God wholeheartedly, and placed himself completely under His care. He went to wherever God called him to go, and did what the Lord had asked him to do. He endured it all, until he met his martyrdom in Rome.
St. Paul showed us that to be a disciple of Christ we must be thoroughly focused on Him, if we are to resist the temptations to do otherwise. This is shown in the Gospel passage today, in what we heard about the encounter between the Lord Jesus, and His friends, Mary and Martha. When the Lord came into their house, both of the sisters were so happy to welcome Him, and while Mary listened attentively on what the Lord told her, Martha instead was busy preparing all the food and all the hospitality work.
Martha became too engrossed in her works, and seeing her sister attending by the Lord’s side without helping her, she became annoyed and asked the Lord to tell her sister to give her a hand to help. But the Lord Jesus then reminded Martha, that Mary had in fact done what is right, that is, to focus her attention to the Lord, and not to all the hectic and busy matters of the world. Martha wanted to please the Lord by her actions, but in her choice of action, she ended up losing her focus on Him and instead on all of her chores.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us mankind, even among us as Christians, we have not been truly living our faith as how we should have, as we are too busy and preoccupied by our worldly concerns and desires, for wealth, for glory, for human praise and for all sorts of pleasures of the body and joy of the world. That is why we end up drifting further and further away from the Lord, because of the pull of these temptations.
Today we mark the feast of two holy servants of God, whose lives should become inspiration for us on how we should live out our own lives. First St. Denis, bishop of Paris, was a holy martyr of the faith, during the years of persecution of Christians by the Romans. St. Denis was a great missionary and evangeliser, who together with some other bishops and priests managed to gain so many followers and converts, that they earned the anger of the pagans.
Thus, St. Denis and his companions were arrested and tortured for their Christian faith. But they refused to let go of their faith or to betray their Lord for the pagan gods and the worship of the Emperor. He was beheaded with a sword, but miraculously, even after the beheading, the head of St. Denis continued to preach about the truth of God, and his hand carried his own head up, and walking down on a few miles from the place of his execution, he continued to preach, until he eventually stopped and passed on, a place marked with what is now the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris.
The examples and the miraculous occasion which accompanied St. Denis’ martyrdom inspired many of the Christians then suffering from persecution, and many others who witnessed his courage and faith, and the astounding spectacle of the miraculous talking head became believers in the faith and converted to the true faith. Many of them would also eventually became martyrs themselves.
Then, today, we also celebrate the feast of St. John Leonardi, a holy and devout priest who lived in the late era Renaissance Italy, remembered for his great piety and encouragement of many others to live a more devout and holy life, especially in the devotion he fostered for the Blessed Sacrament and to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. His work inspired many others to follow his example, and eventually they began a religious order together.
St. John Leonardi dedicated himself to the Lord thoroughly and spent his efforts trying to be more and more committed to serve the Lord, in each and every days of his life. His examples should also therefore, inspire us to live a more dedicated and pious life, just as St. Denis and his companions have inspired us to remain faithful and courageous in living our faith, even despite the challenges we encounter in life, one day after another.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore turn towards God with a renewed heart and with a new commitment. Let us spend more quality time with Him, to know what is His will for us, and what we can do more, in order to live our lives with faith, imitating what St. Paul the Apostle had done in his life. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.