Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the opposition which the Jews and the Pharisees showed to the works of St. Paul and the other Apostles as they went about to preach about the Lord. These people were not happy that the Apostles were preaching their teachings and were gaining plenty on followers, many people who abandoned their old ways and listened to the truth, believing in Jesus and became members of the Church.
And in addition, those Jews and influential Pharisees were also irritated at the fact that St. Paul and the other Apostles, St. Barnabas and others, who preached the faith and salvation also to the non-Jews, or the Gentiles. These people at that time would refer to the Greeks, the Romans and all others whom the Jews regarded as those who did not belong to the chosen race of Israel, and also those who did not obey the laws of Moses as they did.
In order to understand this, we have to understand the dynamics of the society and the communities of the people of God at that time. The people at the time of Jesus, especially in Judea and in some other regions were divided between the Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jews. The Jewish people, or the descendants of the people of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel kept the laws of Moses faithfully, all the ordinances, rules and laws descended through the generations to them.
And the Jews often kept to themselves and observed those laws strictly, and in many occasions, many of them kept the laws without truly knowing the true intention of those laws as originally intended by God when He gave it to His people through Moses. And in the end, because of the fact that God had chosen them to be His people, they developed the superiority feelings and attitude in their dealings with the Gentiles.
How is this so, brethren? The Jews often treated the Gentiles as those who were not worthy of God’s salvation, and that they alone were worthy to receive God and His grace. And those others were not chosen by God and therefore were heathens and pagans. This is one of the explanation why the Jews were not happy when St. Paul and the other Apostles were preaching that the non-Jews could also be saved by believing in Jesus.
Even within the Church itself at that time, there were Pharisees who believed in God, who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. And yet, if we read through the subsequent parts of the Acts of the Apostles, we will see in some parts, the tension and disagreements between them and St. Paul and the Apostles based on their works with the Gentiles and about their salvation in Jesus.
In all these, we see how mankind often placed their trust in things other than God. Even though the laws of Moses were originally given to the people of Israel by God, but over the many centuries that followed, its true meaning and purpose had been twisted beyond recognition by the many different interpretations and modifications that those people throughout the ages had done to the Law of God.
And these people resisted any change or modification to what they thought was right, and they refused to believe in the truth revealed by God through Jesus His Son. And when the Apostles tried to continue the good works of God, by preaching that same truth to them and to those who have not yet heard of it, they resisted and even persecuted the Apostles and the holy servants of God.
It is a reminder for us all that each and every one of us as those who have believed in God and who have been charged with the same responsibility to preach the Good News to all mankind, will not have it easy for us to live this life in good faith. We will encounter difficulties, challenges and even persecution for enduring to be faithful and remaining committed to God and His cause.
But we should not give up or give in to the world and its demands, just as in the past, St. Adalbert and St. George, the saints whose feasts we are celebrating today, have been devoted to God and were committed to a holy life, and for the salvation of their fellow brethren, even though they were threatened with suffering and even with a painful death.
St. George the Martyr was a great soldier, a soldier in the Roman army, who served during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly oppressive attitude against the Church and all Christians. But St. George did not hesitate at all to resist the Emperor, when he pronounced the persecution of Christians throughout the Empire. And when he ordered all the soldiers to renounce their former gods and offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the pagan gods, St. George refused to do so.
Thus, St. George courageously stood by the faith which he had in the Lord even in the face of suffering and death. He faced his death without fear, knowing that the Lord would be with him, and through his examples, many others would be inspired to remain strong in their faith as well, and thus avoid damnation and destruction which is awaiting all those who refuse to believe in God.
St. Adalbert on the other hand was a renowned bishop of Prague, known also as St. Adalbert of Prague. He was a great servant of the Lord, a faithful worker who spread the Good News among the then still pagan peoples of the region known as Bohemia and Prussia, in what is now northern Germany and western Poland. St. Adalbert continued to minister to the people there despite challenges and opposition, and even when his life was threatened, he did not give up.
And thus, when he was martyred in the midst of doing his works, he did not fear and he was filled with joy knowing that, just as St. George had done before him, and just as many other holy saints and martyrs had done before him, he will be rewarded gloriously for all that he has done for the sake of the people of God, out of love for his Lord and Master.
Let us all also therefore be inspired to live faithfully as these holy saints had lived, and let us all fill our lives with good deeds and commit ourselves to God in all that we do. May this Easter season be a time of renewal for us all, that we may draw ever closer to the Lord our God, and be closer to His saving grace. God bless us all. Amen.