Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of St. Paul who was then in Ephesus, speaking among the gathered Church elders and the faithful. At that time we heard St. Paul saying to those assembled how he was led by the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News and the truth to the many peoples all across various parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. And he told those assembled in Ephesus that he would then be going to his suffering and martyrdom, as the Spirit led him on to go to the city of Jerusalem for the final leg of his mission.
St. Paul knew that he would be facing sufferings and trials, and he would have to be led in chains, imprisoned and brought from place to place, as later on he would be brought from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital of the Empire, after he appealed to the Emperor for the charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders and elders. He could have avoided that fate by not going to Jerusalem and staying on amongst those who cared for him like in Ephesus, but he followed and obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the truth in his last mission, and to bring that truth the city of Rome before he was to be martyred.
The same also happened to the Lord Himself as seen in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord was having His Last Supper with His disciples, and revealed to them how He would be taken away from them, and that He would no longer with them. This was a reference to how He would very soon be arrested, that very night, and would be condemned to death on the Cross and die for the sake of all. Again, here the Lord could have chosen to avoid it all, and if He had wanted to be out of all the trials He had to endure, He could have easily done it, for after all, is He not the Almighty One?
Yet, He willingly accepted His Cross and went on through all the sufferings, so that everything that He has designed and planned for the salvation of all could be fulfilled perfectly, right up to the moment of His death. He did so out of love for us and so that we can also be freed from the slavery to sin and death. If it not had been for His sacrifice on the Cross, all of us would still be enslaved to sin and have no hope or freedom from death. Instead, we have this hope and new light thanks to Our Lord and His love for us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, being a Christian is not something that is easy or simple, and it often requires plenty of effort, dedication and even sacrifices on our side. And we have to trust in the Lord and follow His guide, through the Holy Spirit that He has given us. We should not be afraid to follow Him, or give in to our doubts and fears. As the Lord Himself and St. Paul had shown us, we should entrust ourselves to the Divine will and providence, and we should allow Him to transform our lives, and how we are to act and do things in life.
Now, as we have received the truth of God, know of the mission that He has entrusted to us through His Church, and heeded His call and will to be Christians, what are we then going to do with our lives from now on? This is what we need to discern carefully from now on as we consider what it is that we all have to do in each and every moments of our lives that we may be good role models and examples for all of our fellow men, our brothers and sisters, that like St. Paul and the other Apostles and saints, we may encourage one another to be faithful and to be more committed and dedicated to God.
Today all of us celebrate the feast of Pope St. John I, one of the great and holy Popes, a faithful servant of God and martyr of the Christian faith that can be one of our great inspirations in how we are to live our lives. He was elected to the position of Pope, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff during a turbulent time in the history of the Church, as conflict between the Arian heresy adopted by the Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theoderic the Great and the Nicene faith of the rest of the Roman Empire came to head.
Pope St. John I, at that time, despite being frail and in poor health when he was elected to the Papacy, he dedicated his time and effort to mediate between both sides, as both were unwilling to give grounds and concessions to the other. In the end, Pope St. John I managed to gain a compromise, only for the Gothic king to arrest him and put him in prison, suspecting the Pope of cooperation and collusion with the Roman Emperor and the Nicene party. He died in prison a martyr not long afterwards.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of Pope St. John I, in his courage and dedication to follow in the path set before him by the Lord. Despite the challenges and the risks he knew that he had to face, much like St. Paul and the Lord Jesus before him, he embarked on the mission entrusted to him nonetheless, and fulfilled faithfully all that he had been called to do, as a true Christian, a true follower and disciple of Christ to the very end.
Are we willing and able to do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all called to follow in the footsteps of those who had gone before us, and to bear our Christian faith in words, deeds and actions, in even the smallest things we do in life, from now on, if we have not done so yet. Let us hence seek the Lord with renewed zeal and vigour, and with the same energy and strength let us reach out to our fellow men, bearing witness of our Christian faith, at all times.
May the Lord be with us, being our Strength and Guide, through the Holy Spirit He has sent to us, to invigorate and empower us to be ever genuine and faithful Christian, always and forevermore. Amen.