Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded that we have been called as the disciples and followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to help and be part of His mission and work, in leading more and more of the people of God back towards Him, just as He has called on those whom He called the Apostles, and entrusted to them specific missions and ministries, as well as to others whom had been tasked with the evangelisation of the true faith. Each and every one of us are part of this great ministry of the Church, as members of the same Body of Christ, the flock of God’s faithful and as partakers of the same Covenant that God has established anew for the sake of us all, His beloved ones. We are therefore reminded of what we are to do as part of this Covenant with God.
In our first reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of that Epistle of the role which the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour has as the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and us. This follows after the past few days of readings in which the same author highlighted the role that Christ had in being our High Priest in offering Himself as the Paschal Lamb, the sacrificial Victim on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins. It was through this offering of the perfect and most loving gift of the Lamb of God, slain and sacrificed for us, that each one of us have received pardon from our sins, and have received a new hope through the Lord Himself, and also having this New Covenant being established between us and God, our most loving Father and Creator.
In the past, Covenant was made by a formal pact between both parties, and sealed by the sacrifice and offering to a deity, and in this case, God Himself was one of the parties, in the example of the Covenant made between God and Abraham, the father of nations and the Israelites. The same Covenant was renewed between God and His people at Mount Sinai, as Moses acted as the intermediary between God and the people of Israel, placing sacrificial offerings offered to God and also the blood of the lamb being slain was sprinkled on the entire people as a mark of the sealing and confirmation of that Covenant. Then the same had also happened as the Lord Jesus became a Mediator of the New Covenant between God and His people.
That is because He acted as the same intermediary, as the Mediator between His heavenly Father, and all of the people of God, mankind in this world, past, present and future. We have been sundered and separated from God due to our disobedience and sins, and unfortunately because of that, we could not have returned to the Lord our God, as there is no place for us in His Presence as long as we have been tainted and corrupted by sin. Yet, by His ever enduring love and desire to be reconciled with us, He has provided us with the sure path to deliverance through none other than His Son, Who as our High Priest and Mediator, chose to offer Himself, His own Most Precious Body and Blood to be broken and poured out for us.
Thus, on the Altar of His Cross, Jesus our Lord has made anew the Covenant between God and mankind, and by His Most Precious Blood outpoured upon us, He has marked us all as those whom He had chosen and called to be saved. He gave us this grace and gift through baptism, and then which we affirm further through the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, as we partake in those very Precious Body and Blood of the Lord. During each time we partake of the Most Holy Eucharist, we are reminded of this same Covenant that the Lord Himself has established and renewed for us by His suffering and death on the Cross. We are truly blessed that the Lord Himself has willingly took upon Himself to reach out to us in this way, and to show us His love in the most amazing and tangible way possible.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the Lord calling and appointing His Apostles, the chief twelve among all of His disciples and followers. They were meant to be the leaders of the Lord’s followers, and together with the other disciples and followers, they were to do the will of God, and carry out whatever mission that the Lord has entrusted to them. Later on, after the Lord has already risen from the dead and then ascended into Heaven, it was the Apostles, leading the other disciples and followers of God, that established the foundations of the Church and carried out extensive and intensive works of evangelisation throughout the world. That same work is still being carried out today to even more places and touching more peoples, as the Church had done for the past two millennia and more.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these words from the Sacred Scriptures today, let us all ponder upon what it means for us to be in Covenant with God. A Covenant is a solemn and formal pact between two parties, and in this case it is between God Himself and each and every one of us. God has always shown us just how faithful He has been to us, in remembering us, caring for us, in His constant reminders for us, and in His care for us, that He reached out even the last and the lost and the least among us. Through Christ, He has shown us His ever enduring love, and fulfils His own words, that there is no greater love than for one to lay down one’s life for a friend, and He laid down His own life for us, suffering for us most grievously so that we may not perish, but have eternal life.
Hence, each and every one of us are expected to do our part in this Covenant as well. We are part of God’s same Church and flock, and we ought to carry out the missions and the many opportunities that God had granted to us in proclaiming His truth and love in this world. What are we going to do about it, brothers and sisters? Are we going to remain idle and refusing to embrace the missions and opportunities provided to us, or are we going to listen to His call and promptings, and finally commit ourselves to the path that He has shown us? Let us all consider carefully our choices and paths in life, and do whatever we can in order to live our lives more faithfully as the ones who call ourselves as Christians, as members of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Today we commemorate the feast of Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, two great saints and martyrs whose lives hopefully can strengthen and encourage us as well in how we live our lives with faith. Pope St. Fabian lived at the time of great difficulty and challenges for the Church, at the height of persecutions against Christians. Similarly, St. Sebastian was a Roman soldier who lived during the harshest time to be a Christian, under persecution by the Roman state and the Emperors. Yet, each one of them persevered in faith and remained faithful to God all the time. Pope St. Fabian led the Church patiently and faithfully throughout those difficult moments while St. Sebastian carried on his faith even in secret. Eventually both were persecuted, arrested and martyred for their faith, and especially for the case of St. Sebastian, in refusing to abandon his faith in God or worship the Emperor and the pagan gods. They faced suffering and death with great courage, knowing that God was by their side throughout.
May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey throughout life, and may He empower each one of us that we may always strive to live worthily in the path that He has shown us, and resist the temptations to sin and to do whatever is against His teachings and truth. May we be reminded by the examples of the saints and martyrs, in particular that of Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, among many others. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, and also for the salvation of many more souls. Amen.