Thursday, 20 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the love that God has shown us by His many ways of extending His help and providence to us. God reached out to us through the people we encounter in our lives and He also sent us none other than His own beloved Son to be our Saviour. Through Him and His coming into our midst, we have heard the Lord’s love manifested and giving us all a new hope.

In our first reading today we heard the account from the Book of the prophet Samuel in which the story of David and how he was almost harmed by King Saul out of jealousy and fear was brought to us. At that time, David was a servant of the king, a great warrior and leader entrusted with the forces of the Israelites, and David became very famous especially after he managed to defeat the great Philistine champion, Goliath, the story of which we heard just earlier yesterday.

David had also been anointed as the new chosen King over the Israelites by Samuel himself, as the one whom God had chosen to be the leader over His people in place of King Saul. Saul came to know that David was the one chosen to be his successor, and he was overcome with fear, resulting in him attempting to bring harm upon David. Fortunately for David, he came to befriend Jonathan, one of the sons of King Saul who favoured and liked him. As such, he was able to evade Saul’s attempts to harm him.

David had to endure difficulties and challenges because of his growing popularity and the fact that God had chosen him as the successor to Saul, and he even had to go into exile and hiding when Saul wanted to kill him. Jonathan, the son of Saul helped him to escape and from then on, David went on a journey from place to place, evading Saul while trying to do good for the people of God. God was with him all the way, and eventually he would become the King of Israel.

Then, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus and His disciples were going around from place to place, ministering to the people of God, and He healed many of those who were sick among them, casting out demons from those who were possessed and delivering the truth of God, revealing the true purpose and intention of the Law so that they may come to believe in God and be saved by following His path in their lives.

The Lord’s coming into this world, Him dwelling in our midst as the manifestation of God’s love in the flesh, to be our Saviour, is a proof of His ever enduring love and compassionate nature, in all that He has done for us, in calling us to follow Him and in showing us the way and path towards eternal life and true happiness with Him. And as long as we remain faithful to Him and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us through His Church, we shall have that assurance from God.

We have no need to be afraid of the challenges and trials facing us, because God Himself is with us, journeying with us and guiding us down our way. Just as He has provided for David, He will also provide for us all as well. Today, we have two saints whose feast we are celebrating, whose lives can be great inspiration for us to follow. These two servants of God, Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had endured great tribulations for their faith, and yet they remained faithful to the Lord, enduring those sufferings with great faith and commitment to the very end.

Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult years of persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors and the state. He was chosen when according to tradition, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, in the sight of the assembled faithful. He was credited with the evangelisation and the efforts to spread the Good News in Gaul, what is today part of France. This happened during a relative lull and relaxation in the harsh persecution of Christians.

However, the rise of Emperor Decius to power ended the temporary halt to persecutions and this was accompanied with renewed attack against the Christian communities, in which many of the faithful were arrested and persecuted, and many among them suffered martyrdom for their faith. He ordered all the subjects of the Empire to offer incense to the images and figures of the Roman deities, the pagan gods and the idol of the Emperor, which were refused by the Christian communities as idolatrous.

That was how Pope St. Fabian became one of the first to suffer persecution and then martyrdom under the reign of the new Emperor, either through imprisonment or execution according to different Apostolic traditions. Pope St. Fabian remained faithful to his mission to the very end, giving himself wholly to the works entrusted to him by the Lord. And through his courageous defence of the faith and zeal of evangelisation, he inspired all of us on how to become good and faithful disciples and followers of the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was a soldier who was a high ranking member of the Roman military and likely one of the elite members or even captain of the Praetorian Guards involved in protecting the Emperor. At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the other leaders of the Roman state ordered a particularly harsh and brutal persecution of Christians, as they forced the faithful to either obey the order of the Emperor to give offerings to the pagan idols and to abandon their faith or face certain suffering and death.

St. Sebastian according to tradition was involved in the conversion of several prisoners, who became Christians and helped some others to be freed from persecution. Eventually he himself was discovered and when he was confronted to reveal the truth about his conversion, put under arrest and was tied to a tree, and archers were told to shoot their arrows at St. Sebastian. Miraculously, even as endured the torture and pain,St. Sebastian never flinched from his sufferings. He remained strong in faith and was eventually martyred later after he rebuked the Emperor and his actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have seen from our two holy predecessors, we have no need to be afraid or fearful, just as Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had been courageous in the living of their faith to the very end. Like King David, who entrusted himself to the Lord, and God protected him, then we too shall be in God’s good hands. Let us not be afraid against those who can only harm us in body but not our souls. By following God wholeheartedly, we shall find the path to eternal glory and true joy with Him. May God be with us all, and may He empower each one of us to live in His presence, at all times. Amen.

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