Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scriptures reminding us all that as long as we put our trust in the Lord and remain faithful to Him, we shall not be disappointed, for the Lord is ever faithful and ever good to the promises which He had made upon us. Despite the problems and challenges we may encounter in life, God will always be faithful to the Covenant that He had established with us.
In today’s first reading, we heard of the account of the aftermath of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first recognised martyr of the Church, who was persecuted and stoned to death by an angry mob of the enemies of the Church who refused to believe in the truth of Christ. St. Stephen spoke courageously defending the truth that Christ has brought into this world, amidst the false witnesses and testimonies his enemies brought up against him.
Those who persecuted the faithful servant of God refused to listen to the words of truth he spoke before all of them. Instead, they hardened their hearts and minds, and stoned St. Stephen to death. Saul, who would later on become St. Paul the Apostle, then one of the most feared persecutor and enemy of the early Christians, was there supporting and approving of the martyrdom of the faithful servant of God.
Yet, despite all of these, and many other persecutions of the early Christians, the Apostles and all those who dedicated themselves to the Lord continued to serve God faithfully, as shown in the same passage from the Acts of the Apostles, how St. Philip went to the region of Samaria, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord there, performing miracles and calling many of the Samaritans to the faith. They continued to do the work of God despite the challenges and risks they had to face.
And the reason for such courage and faith which St. Stephen and the other Apostles had shown us, is exactly what the Lord Jesus told to the people in our Gospel passage this day. In that passage the Lord told the people again that He is the Bread of Life, the Saviour of the world, and all those who put their trust in Him will not be disappointed, for God has ordained and willed that all those whom He had gathered to Himself by His Son’s work, shall not be lost but receive the assurance of eternal life and glory.
This is the assurance and firm hope in which the Apostles and the holy saints and martyrs of the history of the Church held fast upon, and which they kept in mind at all times even in times of darkest and toughest persecutions and trials. They were able to endure sufferings, pains, rejections, ridicule and torment, challenges and all sorts of difficulties, because they had that strong and living faith in God.
They have received the Lord with faith, and committed themselves wholeheartedly to Him. Their faith was built upon their dedication and commitment, their giving of their own time, effort and attention to God, that even when faced with the oppression and pressure from the whole world, they were able to resist and persevere through those difficult times, because the Lord was truly with them and guided them through those turbulent times.
They placed the Lord and their desire to glorify Him, and to serve His will above and beyond their own desires to fulfil their own needs, wants and wishes, and the Lord was ever foremost in their mind and heart. They worked for the greater glory of God and all of their words and actions were directed to serve the greater purpose of God. And this is what each and every one of us should reflect on, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to live our lives daily in this world today.
Today, there are many out there in various parts of the world who are still enduring persecution, challenges and difficulties, where our brethren in faith cannot openly celebrate and practice their faith, and some are even under threat daily, of suffering and even martyrdom, just because they continue to remain faithful to God, their Lord and Saviour. And if our lives have thus far been good and peaceful, and if we have been able to practice our faith openly and without need for fear, perhaps it is time for us to think, if any of us have taken our faith and our good life for granted.
Let us all therefore first of all keep in mind our suffering brethren, who have to endure suffering, persecution and challenges every day, and let us pray that God will continue to guide and protect them. And if we are able to do anything in order to help them, then let us all not be ignorant and refuse to help them in whatever way we can. And finally, let us also renew our faith and commitment to live our lives from now on with greater fidelity and devotion to God, glorifying Him with our every words, actions and deeds.
May the Lord, our Living Bread be the source of our strength always, that through our regular sharing in the Most Holy Eucharist He has given us, in our state of constant grace, we will be strengthened and encouraged to live our lives ever more faithfully, and that by our good examples, many more will also come to believe in Him, and be saved. May God bless us all. Amen.