Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the sufferings of Christians that had to go through as they went on with their lives and following the path that God had set before them. The Lord will always be with His people and just as He has carried His Cross before for our sake, and called on us to carry on our own crosses in life in order to follow Him, hence, He is carrying His Cross together with us. And just as He has won the ultimate victory by His loving sacrifice on the Cross, we too shall all share in that victory and triumph in the end.
In our first reading today we heard of the story of how St. Paul and his companion, Silas were persecuted in Philippi in what is today part of Greece. They were harassed by the slave owners who were angry at both of them for spreading the Christian message of hope and equality between all men and women, as a threat to their own position as slave owners, because such a message would be a great impetus and encouragement for the slaves which were then quite common throughout the Roman Empire, to hold onto hope and even possibly rise up against their slave masters and owners. Hence, the slave owners incited the whole town and the officials against the faithful servants of God.
Those two were tortured and imprisoned, and it could have been their end, considering the way how they had made many enemies during their time there. But St. Paul and Silas had God by their side, encouraging and strengthening them, such that despite their perils and hardships, they did not give up hope and remained firm in faith. They prayed and stayed firm in faith even in prison, and that inspired many of the other prisoners, and when a great earthquake happened, a miraculous occurrence that could have only from God, freeing the prisoners including St. Paul and Silas, that showed how much God provided for them in their hour of need.
Even in that occasion, God called the jailor who was there to follow Him, as when he wanted to take his own life for that failure to keep the prisoners, St. Paul stopped him and convinced him, and not only just the jailor but his entire family too, to believe in Christ. That was how the Christian faith grew and flourished even amidst often intense persecutions and hardships. Many similar stories of persecutions and trials faced the Church and the faithful during those early days, and there were many instances of very courageous and brave actions by the saints and martyrs who endured with faith, and who inspired many more to follow in their footsteps.
In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself also highlighted how His disciples and followers would face persecution as well, and how He will not leave them alone even after He has gone from them, and He will send the Holy Spirit to guide them and to be with them, giving them the Wisdom and strength to carry on with their ministry and works, even in the face of much hardships and trials. The Lord gave them the guidance and the strength to carry their crosses with commitment. He promised them the Holy Spirit, Who has indeed come at Pentecost, to strengthen their hearts and minds, and to encourage them to endure the bitterness of the world.
Today, these Scripture readings are just perfect and apt for today being the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan. And today also marks the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which was instituted to get the prayers of the faithful in support of the suffering Church and the people in China, while also remembering the persecution of Christians elsewhere. The Church, especially in China has been facing a lot of systematic persecution for their faith in the Lord, and they had been placed under great pressure by the government to conform to the Communist ideologies and other tenets incompatible with our Christian faith.
This is the day when we are reminded that being Christians do not necessarily mean having an easy, good and happy life. There are many instances out there where the faithful are constantly being persecuted and encounter hardships, and cannot even openly live their lives as followers of Christ. They risk prison, suffering and even martyrdom every single days of their lives, much as how it was during the time of the early Church and the Apostles. What we have listened in our Scriptures today are not merely something that happens just in history, but is something that is real and is happening now even in our present day as well.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray and ask for the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and our loving Mother, the Help of all Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan, to intercede for us her children, that especially for those who are suffering for their faith in her Son, so that God will be moved to aid them and strengthen them in their time of need. Let us also do our best whenever and wherever we can, to help our suffering brethren, especially when we are able to do so. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may His Holy Spirit continue to inspire us and to give us the courage to proclaim His love and truth all the time. Amen.