Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth, telling us one after another, about the fact that there is time for just everything and anything we do, and this is a very good reminder to each and every one of us that we live not on our own time and terms. In reality, we live in accordance to God’s plan and time, and it is His will that shall be done, and not ours.
This is also related to what we heard in the Gospel passage today, which mentioned the time when the Lord Jesus asked His disciples about the truth of His identity. He asked them who they think that He was, and they mentioned at first all sorts of identities that the people at the time would have thought Who Jesus was, be it a prophet or a servant of God brought back from the dead.
St. Peter then managed to give Him the truth, that He is indeed the Son of the Living God, God’s own Messiah and Saviour, Whom He sent into the world for the salvation of all mankind. However, in the same Gospel passage, immediately after the Lord received St. Peter’s answer, He also told them not to tell anyone about the truth just yet, and revealed to them what must have been uncomfortable truth, that He, as the Messiah, would have to suffer rejection and persecution, and die before He would rise in glory.
Yet, that was what the disciples had to know, that they were not following in the wake of the glorious conquest of the Messiah King, unlike what the Jewish people at the time widely believed, that the Messiah would be the One Who would redeem them and liberate them from the tyranny and the power of the Romans and all of their foreign oppressors, and Who would restore unto them the glory and the majesty of the kingdom of David.
The truth and reality is such that, the Messiah would be a humble and suffering Messiah, Who would be the One persecuted and killed, that by His sufferings, He might gather to Himself all the sufferings intended for us, and because of that, redeem us all from the fate of eternal damnation and destruction. This happened through the crucifixion and later on, the resurrection in glory of the Lord.
Nonetheless, the suffering was truly a great one, so much so that the Lord Himself in His humanity was seriously tempted to give up, as when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane in great anguish and sorrow. But Christ obeyed the Father’s will perfectly and completely, saying that ‘Not My will be done, but let it be Your will that is done’, entrusting Himself to the work of salvation of the cross, despite the pain and suffering that action would bring Him.
In this example, we saw how Jesus showed us the perfect selflessness of God’s servant, putting everything to the will of God, His Father. It was all according to His will and not His own selfish desires, affirming what we have heard in the Book of Ecclesiastes today, all according to God’s plan and not our own plan. His desires and will, and not our desires and will that will be done.
Unfortunately, many of us still lived in the manner unlike what the Lord Himself had shown us. We are so busy pursuing our many desires and worldly concerns, that we end up in the state of worry and fear, uncertainty and also unhappiness, and even anger because we have not gotten what we wanted, or that things do not go according to how we wanted it to be. We put ourselves and our wants even before our obedience and obligations to God.
We worry and we spend so much time trying to gather for ourselves many things of this world, be it glory, fame, influence, wealth, material possessions, and many others. The concerns we have for all these things often fill up our minds and cause us to lose the focus which we really should have for the Lord. And it is when we are distracted that we are most vulnerable to the works of Satan, who is always trying to bring about our downfall, through sin.
This is why, we must actively restrain ourselves, in all the matters of the world, and strive that we should not fall into temptation and sin. And we need to take proactive efforts in order to overcome the pressures, coercions and temptations to sin. Otherwise, we will easily falter in this important journey that is our own lives. And that is why we should follow the examples which our holy predecessors had shown.
Today we celebrate the feast of the holy martyrs, St. Wenceslas of Bohemia and the holy martyrs of Japan, St. Lawrence or Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom. St. Wenceslas was one of the earliest Christian rulers of the land known as Bohemia, the present day Czech Republic, over a thousand years ago. He was remembered for being a righteous and just ruler, who ruled the people with fairness and supported the Christian faith.
However, he encountered much opposition from the nobles and the powerful lords in his lands, who resisted the efforts that St. Wenceslas has done in reforming the governance of the country as well as resenting the popularity which St. Wenceslas enjoyed among the people. St. Wenceslas pushed on with the reforms and good works regardless, and in the end, he had to suffer the effect of rejection, when those same nobles plotted with his brother to murder him.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz is the first native saint of the Philippines, who was falsely accused of murder and hence, had to seek refuge away from his own homeland, and ended up in Japan at the time when Christians and missionaries were persecuted for their faith by the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled over the country then. St. Lawrence Ruiz was among the many Christians who were arrested and tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith.
But St. Lawrence Ruiz refused to abandon the Lord and his faith in Him, and therefore, with many others of the faithful, he was martyred and as a result, gained entry to the glory of God in heaven. His great courage and commitment to God, his righteousness and devotion, together with the justice and goodness shown by St. Wenceslas should be inspirations for us to follow, in how we as Christians live up our faith in our daily lives.
Now, are we willing and ready then to take up our cross and follow Our Lord? The Lord is calling on us to be faithful to Him, and often, this will require from us dedication and necessary sacrifices, in order for us to be able to follow Him wholeheartedly. And it often requires us to get rid of our own personal pride and human desires in order for us to be able to walk in the path of Christ. That is why we must follow the perfect obedience and humility that Our Lord Himself showed to the will of His Father.
May the Lord, through the intercession of His holy saints, St. Wenceslas, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his many companions, martyrs of the faith, awaken in us the love which we ought to have for Him, so that in everything we say and do, we will always strive to do our best to love God and to glorify Him. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all and our endeavours and good works. Amen.