Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all listen to the words of the Lord speaking to us about the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, as he was called by God on the way to Damascus, when as Saul he wanted to bring destruction and death to all the Christians living there with the express permission and authority from the High Priests and the Sanhedrin. Saul was struck by a great light and saw the Lord in a vision, and it was there that he received the truth from God, of the mistakes he had done in pursuing his path.
Saul was touched by God and through His disciple, Ananias, Saul received baptism, the wisdom and truth of God through the Holy Spirit, by which his eyes were opened to the truth and he received the courage to preach the truth, the truth that he had been denying and tried to snuff out by striking against the followers of the Lord. And he spoke therefore of the Lord, the same Crucified Messiah rejected by many among the Jews and by most of the Jewish authorities. He preached the Lord Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead, Who has given His own Body and Blood for us, for our salvation.
The Jewish people refused to accept that the Lord could have given them His own Body and Blood for them to eat and share among them, and many of them left after this occasion, unable to accept the hard truth from the Lord. They all refused to believe in the reality of the Body and Blood of Christ being shed and given to all. Even the disciples were shaken by what they heard at that time, and found it hard to believe too. But after the Lord had indeed shed His Blood and broken His Body on the Cross, for the salvation of all, the disciples finally understood what the Lord meant.
Thus, as they had witnessed all the important events surrounding the moments of the Lord’s Passion, suffering and death, and His glorious Resurrection, the disciples of the Lord went forth strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit to speak about the truth and the salvation of God, through Whom all has received the assurance of new life by partaking in the same Precious Body and Blood, given through the Church in the Holy Eucharist.
It is this same mission then that St. Paul was also called into, as he shed his old life and existence as an ardent enemy of the faithful, leaving behind his old name of Saul and taking up the new name of Paul to indicate his conversion and change. While once he had enjoyed the favour of the Jewish population and the authorities, he willingly left all that behind for the Lord and His truth, labouring hard for many years in various places, having to encounter many challenges and persecutions, almost being killed in some of those occasions.
Yet, it was due to their great courage and dedication that the Church grew and flourished even under the most difficult of circumstances. These disciples of the Lord and their successors and all those whom had been called to be His servants are inspirations to us. And we remember in particular two of them, whose feasts we are celebrating today. St. George, who was a soldier and a renowned martyr remembered all around the world for his exploits and dedication, as well as St. Adalbert, a courageous bishop and missionary who also suffered martyrdom for his actions.
St. George was a member of the Roman military, and a high ranking one at that, as he was a member of the Praetorian Guards, the personal protectors of the Roman Emperors. At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his harsh and particularly brutal oppression of Christians, was the ruling Emperor, and he decreed that all the Christians throughout the Empire has to abandon their God and offer obedience and worship to the pagan gods and to the Roman Emperor, or else suffer terrible consequences.
And in particular, Emperor Diocletian enforced this on the members of the military and also his Praetorian Guards, of which St. George belonged to. The faithful follower of God refused to do as commanded by the Emperor, and when confronted over his Christian faith and dedication, he chose to suffer and die rather than to abandon his Christian faith or to apostasise and scandalise the faith by offering sacrifices to the Roman gods and to the Emperor. As such, he was executed by decapitation, died a martyr, and yet, his courage in faith inspired countless others throughout time.
Meanwhile, St. Adalbert, also known as St. Adalbert of Prague was the Bishop of Prague and was remembered for his ministry and evangelisation to the pagans, particularly to the Hungarians and to the Prussians, both of whom were still mostly pagan back then. He was also an ardent missionary and dedicated bishop to the Bohemians in Prague and the rest of his diocese that back then was only partly Christianised. St. Adalbert had to face difficulties and challenges from the secular rulers and once had to endure exile as he opposed the actions of the nobles and lords, standing up for the Christian faith in doing so.
Later on, he would go on to more missionary works in Hungary and in the lands of Prussia, in present day northern parts of Poland, where he managed to gain quite a bit of success in converting many to the true faith. Yet, he also encountered challenges from the pagans who refused to believe in him, and with the plotting of some of the pagan priests, St. Adalbert was murdered and died a martyr in the midst of his works of evangelisation. To the very end, he remained firm in his commitment and dedication to the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the examples of these faithful servants of God, all those who have responded to the Lord’s call and embraced Him wholeheartedly as their Lord and Saviour. Let us all ourselves also be inspired to follow in their footsteps and dedicate ourselves from now on to be faithful disciples of the Lord. Let us all do our best in our respective fields and capacity, to be true disciples of the Lord in all of our daily actions throughout life. May God be with us and may He strengthen us all that we may always serve Him, each day, with dedication and faith. Amen.