Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded that there will be difficulties, persecutions and challenges in our way as we seek to be faithful Christians and to obey the Lord in all things. We are not going to have it easy if we choose to follow the Lord’s commandments and walk faithfully in His path. Just as mentioned in our first reading today, even from the earliest days of the Church there had been persecutions against the faithful, and martyrdom as shown by St. Stephen and his martyrdom.
We heard of how Saul, the zealous and misguided young Pharisee, attempted to destroy the then still very young and fledging Church, using force and even violence to strike at the followers of Christ and all who were suspected to be Christians, not sparing even the women and children. There had been many sufferings and trials those early Christians had to suffer, and many had to endure prison and even martyrdom because of their steadfast faith in God.
But despite all of these, we must not lose heart just as those Christians remained strong in their faith, as they still committed themselves to the cause of the Lord and His Church even amidst the persecutions, like what St. Philip the Apostle had done, in preaching the Good News of God and performing his ministry even at the height of the persecution from the Jewish authorities and the vengeful but misguided crusade of people like Saul, the future St. Paul in those days when he was still a great enemy of the Church.
Saul has been a great persecutor of the faithful, but later on, God would call him and in turn he repented and became instead a great champion of the Church and the faith. And this is just how we must truly have faith and put our trust in God, for God will surely be with us, and we do not need to worry, for God has His plans for us. If someone who had been so vicious and so dangerous to the Church as Saul could be converted and had such a total change in his life to be a follower of God, then everything is indeed possible for God, although we may have thought that such a thing is impossible.
All the Apostles, the disciples and all those Christians, our very own predecessors have been able to persevere through those difficult moments, through those persecutions and trials because they truly put their trust in the Lord, their Risen and glorious Saviour. In our Gospel passage today, we continue to hear from what yesterday’s Gospel had told us on the discourse of the Bread of Life. Christ referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, to the disgust of some of His own followers who failed to understand what He had meant properly.
Through His gift of the Eucharist to us, the Lord has strengthened us and make us all to share in His Body and Blood, that all of us who partake in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, are united in this Communion with Him, the whole entire Church together, both all of us who are living in the present in this world, and also all those who have gone before us triumphantly, the same Apostles and disciples and all those who had endured martyrdom for their faith, namely the saints and martyrs, as well as all the holy souls in purgatory waiting for their time to enter the glory of Heaven.
All of us share in this same Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ through Whom we have received the assurance of eternal life if we trust Him and have complete faith in Him. He has called us all from the nations and brought us to Him, that through Him we may find our way to the eternal glory with Him in heaven. That is why we must look forward to this and focus our attention on the Lord, our Hope and our Light, even when we may encounter difficulties and challenges in our lives as Christians.
Today, let us also look upon the good examples of our predecessor, St. Catherine of Siena, a great and renowned saint and Doctor of the Church whose life and contributions to the Church are still felt and experienced even to this very day. She was renowned for her many visions and experiences of the faith with the Lord that she had received from when she was as young as five or six years old, and which she would continue to receive through life.
She devoted herself and her whole life to the Lord, and she wrote extensively about her experiences and her visions, as well as treatises about the faith and the Church. She was deeply respected and honoured for her faith and piety, for her great visions and writings, and she was involved even in the resolutions of conflicts that were common at her time, in what is now Italy, over six hundred years ago. Even Popes and Cardinals at that time sought her advice and help for the issues of the Church.
St. Catherine of Siena truly placed her complete faith in the Lord, the Bread of Life, as she committed herself to an almost daily reception of the Holy Eucharist, living with great simplicity and practiced fasting so often that she had to be reminded to take care of herself. Nonetheless, her faith sustained her throughout her life and missions, her contributions and efforts in rejuvenation of the faith and the Church.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to imitate the good examples of St. Catherine of Siena in her faith and dedication to the Lord? Let us all put more of our trust in the Lord, and be more committed in our faith from now on, and appreciate this most wonderful gift He has given us in the Eucharist? By sharing in the Bread of Life, all of us will be strengthened in faith and in our lives, especially important in these days when things seem so bleak and hopeless all around us.
Let us all share our hope in the Lord, and share this joy of having the Bread of Life, the Christ with us, with one another. May the Lord be with us always and may He guide us through our journey, now and always. Amen.