Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are shown again of more of the works of the Apostles who had gone to proclaim the truth of God in more and more places in their long years and periods of ministry, reaching out to the people who have not yet known the Lord and speaking of the history of God’s salvation among His people, which He had fulfilled and made whole through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Whose coming into this world heralded the coming of the time of grace, the time when the Lord came to gather His beloved people and reconciling all of us to Himself.
In our first reading today, we heard of the account of the works of St. Paul in evangelising amongst the Jewish people in Antioch in Pisidia in Asia Minor, where he went among the local Jewish diaspora community and spoke up about the Lord in the synagogue. He spoke courageously and at length about the works of God’s salvation among His people, on how He had led them out of Egypt, guiding them and protecting them all the way, appointing judges and kings, and also prophets to help them to remain on the right path, and sending them reminders and help whenever they faltered and fell into the wrong paths.
St. Paul also then spoke of the more recent events back then, regarding the works of St. John the Baptist that was quite well-known and popular among the Jewish people, even in the diaspora, and how he was the precursor and the one to prepare the path for the coming of the one true Messiah or Saviour for all the people, namely Christ Himself, the Son of God and the Holy One, Who has called and sent St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to become His witnesses and missionaries among the people. St. Paul courageously spoke up about God’s truth and emphatically encouraging the people to come to believe in Christ and His teachings, and to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.
However, this calling and mission was truly a difficult one, and there were plenty of obstacles and trials that the Apostles like St. Paul would have to endure, as they strive to minister to the people and proclaim the Good News of God, recalling what the Lord Himself had suffered and experienced at the hands of His enemies and even from one of His own closest collaborators, as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. The Lord was betrayed even by one of His own members of the Twelve, namely by Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him and handed Him over to the chief priests for a meagre sum of thirty pieces of silver.
That reality was why the followers of Christ will likely go through the same challenges, trials and sufferings as the Lord Himself had experienced, as after all, if they had rejected their Master’s teachings, and the Gospel today spoke of how the servants are not greater than their master, then all those who follow the Lord and work to proclaim His truth would therefore likely suffer similar kind of rejection, persecution and suffering. But they must not be afraid because God Himself will be with them and will be by their side, no matter what. This is the same truth that all of us have to believe in just as we also continue to carry out the works of evangelisation in the Name of the Lord.
We should be inspired by the examples set by some of our holy predecessors, the holy martyrs, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, as well as St. Pancras. All of them had devoted their lives and works to the Lord and for His glory, and in their own ways, they had endured many sufferings and tribulations, and were eventually martyred for the sake of their faith, and they faced those sufferings and ultimately their martyrdom, full of faith and trust in the Lord, believing that what they had done for the Lord’s sake, will be justified and worthy of God in the end, and they will be by the Lord’s side in triumph. They did not give up their struggles for their faith, to the very end.
St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were chamberlains or servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian according to the Christian tradition, whose name was Flavia Domitilla. According to tradition, they were martyred together with Flavia Domitilla, as they were Christians and the niece of the Emperor had also converted to the Christian faith, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian himself, which was one of the more vicious ones in the series of persecutions against the Church, and it was told that both St. Nereus and St. Achilleus joyfully welcomed their suffering and martyrdom, in defending their faith.
Meanwhile, St. Pancras, also known as St. Pancratius of Rome, was a young man who lived through during yet another vicious moment of persecution against Christians, this time under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his particularly harsh persecution of all Christians. It was told that he was forced to offer sacrifices to the traditional Roman pagan gods, and he refused. The Emperor, impressed by St. Pancras’ bravery and courage, tried to persuade and coerce him through wealth and other means, to abandon his faith, but he would not be moved or persuaded. He remained faithful to the end and accepted his martyrdom with grace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow the great examples of our predecessors in faith, and do whatever we can to proclaim the Lord and His truth by our faithful lives, at every moments and opportunities. Let us all be great inspiration and examples for one another in faith, and endeavour to bring even more people to the Lord and His salvation through our exemplary life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.