Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the readings of the Scripture all of us are again brought to focus our attention on the love of God that He has shown us all through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Lord has kindly showed us His mercy and forgiveness, extending to us the compassionate hands of His Son, Our Saviour, to reach out to us and to free us from our bondage to sin and death.
In our first reading today, we continue to hear the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which today’s portion focused on the High Priest of God, Melchizedek, also known as the King of Salem. Melchizedek was a mysterious man who was highly regarded and a High Priest of the Lord no less, just as his title as the king of Salem bring about reminiscence of the name of the city of Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, the place of His holy Temple and House.
That is why, the Lord Jesus, Who is the High Priest of all mankind, the one True High Priest is often compared to Melchizedek. Some traditions and histories even had Melchizedek as a prefigurement of the Messiah and the Son of God, our Lord as the High Priest of all. Nonetheless, regardless of who Melchizedek truly was, Jesus was cast as the High Priest belonging to the order of Melchizedek, just as all of our priests are called the priests of the order of Melchizedek.
The significance of this is that, as High Priest, the Lord Jesus was the One Who offered on behalf of mankind their prayers and offerings. And as what we have discussed and discerned in the past few days, the Lord Jesus is our one and true High Priest, Who offered nothing less than Himself as the perfect offering for the absolution of our sins. Through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has redeemed us by the price of His own Body and Blood shed on the Altar of the Cross.
Thus, unlike the other priests and High Priests, through this sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, all of us are assured the salvation in Him. He, our everlasting High Priest has given us this assurance Himself, and He has done everything in order to bring us to Himself, redeeming us from our sins and freeing is from the bondage of sin and from the tyranny of death. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the same love the Lord has shown us by His healing of a paralytic man, even when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised Him for that.
In that account, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law found great issue and were irritated that the Lord continued to perform healing and miracles even on the day of the Sabbath. To the former, the Sabbath was a sacred day dedicated to God that could not be disturbed or used for other purposes, or work. And the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were taking its interpretation to the extreme.
And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that the Law was not made to oppress or make the life difficult for any one of us. Instead, the Law was meant to remind us all to redirect our attention and focus to the Lord, to remind us that the Lord should be the centre of our lives and we should spend time with Him, to love Him and to remember all the kindness He has shown us.
The Sabbath was meant to help the people to overcome the temptation to get away from God and to forget Him just because they were so busy with their lives and their activities. It was not meant to prevent them from doing anything that is useful and good, and especially if good things can be done, even on the Sabbath, then they should be done, and in fact, not doing good and purposefully avoiding doing good is a gross misunderstanding of God’s Law.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, through this all of us are therefore called to focus our attention on God, for the love that He has shown us and lavished on us all these while. God has always been kind to us even when we have disobeyed Him, rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him. When we have been stubborn, God has always been patient in reaching out to us with love, and we really should appreciate all of that.
Today, let us all be inspired by our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, both of whom served the Lord wholeheartedly and gave themselves and their lives in defending their faith. Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Church and the faithful during difficult and turbulent years when the Christian populations went through successions of persecutions by the Emperors of the Roman Empire and the state apparatus and authorities.
Pope St. Fabian himself dedicated his life to the service of the Lord and the Church, and took good care of the faithful, and even during those days, risked himself in his activities to provide for them all. In the end, he was martyred during the intense persecutions under the Roman Emperor Decius, who was indeed notorious for his particularly harsh persecution. However, Pope St. Fabian remained true to his calling and love for God to the very end.
Similarly, St. Sebastian was also a faithful servant of God, who was a member of the Roman military, secretly being a Christian in a largely pagan forces. It was told that St. Sebastian was a member of the Imperial guard, and at that time, the Emperor Diocletian took over power and governance over the whole Empire. And as the Emperor began a series of intense persecutions of the Christians, the members of the military were also obliged to obey the Emperor and offer sacrifices to the gods and the Emperor.
St. Sebastian steadfastly refused to abandon his faith in God or betray his conscience and love for God, and as a result, he was tortured and forced to recant his faith on the pain of death. To the end, when he was shot with many arrows and put through many other forms of sufferings and pain, St. Sebastian remained firm and committed himself as a true servant of the Lord, dying as a great martyr.
Brothers and sisters, clearly we can see how these two saints truly loved God from their heart, and if they had been able to do so, then should we not do the same as well? All of us ought to be inspired by their examples, and we should also encourage one another to be faithful to the Lord, to understand His laws and ways, and to love Him from our heart, and not just give Him lip service or fake faith.
May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our every endeavours. May God bless us always, and may He guide us all to eternal life and glory in Him. Amen.