Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scripture passages remind us of the need for us to be faithful to God, in all of our actions in life. By having faith in God it means that we must put our complete trust in Him, and we must dedicate ourselves to His way and walk in the path that He has shown us, even though those paths He led us to may be the ones that bring us pain and sufferings. To be a faithful servant of God, sometimes we need to suffer and even to face persecution, humiliation and disgrace.

Let us take for example, the names of those mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, part of which is our first reading of today. In that passage, we heard the names of Abel, Enoch and Noah. These few people who were mentioned were those who have walked on this earth at the beginning of our history, those who were considered and mentioned to be righteous among the sons and daughters of men, descendants of Adam and Eve.

First, that of Abel, he was the son of Adam and Eve, younger brother of Cain. Abel offered the pleasing sacrifice of a young lamb while Cain offered what the Lord did not command him to offer, that is of his crops. When Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God, Cain was filled with jealousy and hatred, slaughtering his own brother out of anger and that jealousy within his heart. As a result, Cain sinned against God, and when God confronted him, he persisted in his disobedience by denying his involvement in such a wicked act.

And then, Enoch was mentioned as a most righteous man, more righteous than anyone living on earth at the time, and who obeyed the Lord so faithfully and completely, that God took him up into heaven directly, and Enoch did not suffer from death, much like how the prophet Elijah would later be taken up into heaven on flaming chariots before Elisha, his disciple and successor. God showed His love and faithfulness to those who have been faithful and committed to Him.

For Noah, in the recent days we have just heard how God commanded him to build up a great Ark, as He was about to wipe out all those wicked sons and daughters of men who lived at that time. The wickedness of those people were such that, God has to rescue Noah, his family and all that He wanted to preserve even as He struck against all those who were wicked in their ways and unrepentant in their sins.

All of these faithful servants of God certainly did not have an easy life, persecuted and ostracised, humiliated and made to suffer because of their faith in God. God Himself was also suffering through His begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Who came into this world to be our Saviour. As we heard from our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus openly proclaimed and predicted the coming of the persecutions He was about to face, and the pains He had to go through, ultimately leading to the sacrifice on the cross.

This is a reminder for us that the path which the Lord shows us, the way that He wants us to take will not be an easy one, as they will be filled with difficulties and challenges. For us to be good and committed Christians, we need to face this reality, that our lives may have to be changed dramatically if we want to be God’s disciples. That is because we have to walk in the way conforming to God’s will, which are often in opposition and are incompatible with the ways of this world.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Polycarp, a renowned holy bishop and servant of God, a committed disciple of the Lord and witness of His truth, and also a brave and courageous martyr of the faith. St. Polycarp is regarded as one of the three most important Apostolic Fathers, the early Church leaders and successors of the Apostles, together with Pope St. Clement and St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Polycarp was one of the earliest Church fathers who wrote extensively and helped to establish the sacred traditions of the Church.

He was dedicated in his work, and in his ministry to those faithful who were entrusted under his care. St. Polycarp devoted his life to serve the Lord and His people, so thoroughly that even through the difficult times of persecution and opposition against the Church and the faithful, he led them all through those difficult and challenging moments. That was how he was eventually martyred, by impaling and stabbing when even fire failed to harm him. St. Polycarp remained true to his faith in God and dedicated his life to His service.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to reflect on our own lives, on what we ourselves can do to give our lives in commitment to God, to serve Him and to love Him all of our lives, even as we are aware of the consequences and challenges that are awaiting us if we decide to do so. Let us remember that ultimately, in the end, the glory of God and His eternal life and blessings will be ours, if we persist and triumph through this challenging moment.

May the Lord continue to guide us all, and through the intercession of St. Polycarp, and the other holy saints, holy men and women of God, may we draw ever closer to God and may we grow ever deeper in our love and commitment towards Him. Amen.

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