Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture through which we are reminded of the powerful deeds of the Lord in saving His people as He heard the prayers of His faithful ones in distress, that of Tobit the righteous Israelite who suffered from blindness and other personal matters as well as Sara, the distressed daughter who was beset by a powerful demon. Both Tobit and Sara prayed to the Lord and sought His help in their most vulnerable moments.
And God answered them by sending one of His Archangels, Raphael into the world to help both of them and to show all of us the love He has for each and every one of us, as well as the guidance and providence that He has shown to us all along the way. Through the Archangel Raphael, God eventually rescued Tobit and healed his eyesight, while sending his son Tobias with Raphael to visit the family of Sara, who was the daughter of Tobit’s friend, Raguel. Raphael would then free Sara from the bondage by the evil spirit and deliver her from her troubles.
Then in our Gospel passage today, we listened to the story of the Lord and His confrontation with the Sadducees, who tried to question Him on the matter of the resurrection of the dead, which they staunchly refused to believe in, as part of their beliefs. The Sadducees were the powerful members of the Jewish community who held positions of great influence and belonging to the more secular and irreligious segments of the community. They were especially at odds with the Pharisees who were the spiritual guides of the community.
To a great extent, the Sadducees and their aversion to anything spiritual extended to their refusal to accept any form of life or existence after death, that there can be no resurrection of the dead, and they also refused to believe in spiritual beings such as Angels and spirits, which means that they really saw the worldly life and existence they had there and then as the only sole existence. As such, many of them tended to live in a hedonistic and worldly manner, swayed by their desires and temptations.
And they probably also referred to the case of Sara in the Scriptures, when they asked the Lord regarding the matter of resurrection from the dead, as Sara was already married to seven husbands before she met Tobias and Raphael, and all of the seven husbands had been killed by the demon Asmodeus who made her suffer. They used this example to highlight the question on who then the woman would have been legally married to in the afterlife, in the life after the resurrection since she had been married to all the seven husbands in the world, and then later on would also marry Tobias, the son of Tobit after she was freed from the demon.
Instead, the Lord said to all of them that their understanding of the Lord and the faith was flawed, and they were too fixated on worldly matters that they failed to understand what the life that is to come is all about. Indeed, in truth, they had also failed to appreciate what life is all about. They saw life from the perspective of worldly desires and wants, of human ambition and pride. This is why they failed to realise that their lives were not just about themselves or their own desires, but instead all are for the sake of glorifying God. In the world that is to come, everyone will be free of their corruption of sin, and will be in perfect harmony in God, where little desires for pleasures and worldly things no longer have meaning.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that without Christ and without the Lord’s guidance and providence, without His strength and grace, we are really nothing. We are great and wonderful because we have God by our side, and all that we are, we owe it to the Lord, Who is always constantly by our side, as He constantly sends out His Angels and Archangels, all of His forces to be by our side and to safeguard and protect us, even when we cannot see them directly. The example of how the Archangel Raphael appeared to Tobias and helped him and Tobit and Sara showed us that God is always with us, and the views of the Sadducees were wrong.
Today, all of us celebrate the feast of the holy saints and martyrs, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, both of whom according to the Church and martyr tradition were servants of God, a priest and an exorcist who were beheaded for their faith during the intense anti-Christian persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. They remained faithful to the Lord and were committed to the mission that they had been entrusted with as servants of God, which was likely also how they ended up in martyrdom, arrested and then put to death because they refused to abandon or reject their faith in God.
Had they not believed in the Lord, in the resurrection from the dead and eternal glory that they have been assured with through their faith, they would not have been willing to suffer so grievously and to die for their faith. The Sadducees would have viewed their suffering and death as stupidity and folly, but that was because they themselves failed to see the truth and they were too engrossed in their own selfish desires to understand God’s truth and His intentions. St. Marcellinus and St. Peter through their courageous lives and martyrdom strengthened the faith of many of their fellow brothers and sisters, and many others afterwards.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we trust in the Lord as our holy predecessors had done? Do we have the faith and are we able to commit ourselves knowing that God is always with us and He will always provide for us, for His faithful ones. If we are suffering now and are in difficulty, as Tobit and Sara had suffered, then we should seek the Lord and bring up our prayers to Him. God knows what we need, and sometimes we have to be patient, and persevere, as in the end, no matter what happens, God’s will shall be done, and we will triumph with Him. The outcome may not be according to what we want, but that is because God has a better plan for us.
Let us all turn towards the Lord with a renewed faith, and let us all seek Him with ever greater conviction and love Him more and more with each and every passing moments. May the Lord empower us with hope and strength, that we may always hold onto Him and remain strong in our devotion, regardless of the challenges we face through life. St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, holy martyrs and servants of God, pray for us! Amen.