Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures which spoke to us about the Lord and His truth, which He has revealed to us all through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. And this truth has been passed down to us through His Apostles and disciples and through His Church, and defended by many who had devoted themselves to the Lord and remained faithful despite all the oppositions and even persecutions they encountered.
In our first reading today we heard of the story of the persecution of the Apostles, who were opposed by most of the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council who were also opposed to their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. The Sanhedrin and many of the Pharisees had tried hard to clamp down on the activity and the works of the Apostles who were then rapidly gaining converts to the Christian faith among the populace. They even put the Apostles under arrest and wanted to try them and condemn them, but God sent His Angel to free the Apostles.
The Apostles remained firm in their faith and despite the efforts of their opponents and oppressors to stop them from doing their works and from proclaiming the truth, the Apostles did not fear all the threats and persecutions, and as they bravely said before all the Sanhedrin that they would rather obey Divine authority and the Lord’s commandments rather than to listen or obey to human authority especially when that authority ordered them to do what is obviously and completely contrary to the Divine mandate and instructions.
And their words there before the Sanhedrin matched what the Lord Jesus Himself told the Pharisee Nicodemus, in their secret meeting, when the Lord spoke of Himself as the One Whom God had promised us mankind as the Saviour, and because He was sent from above, He spoke of things that are heavenly in nature and from God, and His truth was known to only those who were willing to listen to Him and believe in Him. And that was what the Apostles had also spoken and preached before the people of God, which the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin had also heard and yet refused to believe.
And the Lord also put it very plainly that those who believe in Him will have eternal life through Him while those who do not believe in Him will not. And thus, this is why the Apostles having been called and sent out to the world to carry out the will of God refused to stop their works just because of the unreasonable opposition from the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin on the account of their jealousy and personal hatred and agenda against the Lord. They had been sent on the mission to save countless souls, and they would want to see it through to the very end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord had asked us to do as part of our Christian calling. We have been sent out into the world like that of the Apostles, continuing their works and doing what we can to bring God’s truth to all of the peoples for the salvation of souls. Are we all willing to commit ourselves to the Lord in that way? And are we willing to commit our time, effort and attention to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and with our strength?
Today we also celebrate the feast of St. George and St. Adalbert, two devoted servants of God and holy martyrs who have given their lives in service to God, toiling and doing what they could through their lives to be inspirations to all the faithful. St. George was a Christian soldier, a member of the Praetorian Guard or the personal guards of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, while St. Adalbert was a Bohemian bishop and saint, who was involved in the works of evangelisation and in establishing the Church in various places.
St. George was a member of the elite Praetorian guards who guarded the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his great persecution of Christians living throughout the Empire. And especially among the members of the army and the Praetorians, Christians who had to practice their faith in secret had a truly difficult time. But St. George stood firm and refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor as required by the law and by the order of the Emperor himself, and as such, publicly declared himself as a Christian.
Suffering greatly from the torture, pain and the persecution, St. George endured it all and remained true to his faith, refusing to recant his faith even under the pain and certainty of death. It was told by tradition that St. George was beheaded on the city wall of Emperor Diocletian’s capital in Nicomedia, and afterwards, many people began to venerate St. George, inspired deeply by the saint’s great and deep devotion to the Lord and for his righteousness and courage.
Meanwhile, St. Adalbert was the Bishop of Prague in what is now Czech Republic, ministering to the people of God at what was then the frontier of Christendom. Many pagans still lived in the area of St. Adalbert’s diocese, and the Church there was still being established. St. Adalbert had to face much difficulty and opposition from those who still held on their pagan ways, and his opposition to the pagans’ practice of slavery and polygamy among others earned him enemies within the nobles and courtiers.
But St. Adalbert remained firm in his faith and in his conviction to serve God and His people. He continued to fight for the Church in those difficult and challenging moments, and endured all sorts of tribulations in the process. In the end, he left behind his diocese and stepped down as bishop, and set out as a missionary to the still pagan Prussians in what is now eastern part of Germany and Poland. It was there that St. Adalbert was martyred for his faith after attaining some successes among the pagans.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can indeed see how these faithful and holy predecessors of ours have inspired so many of us to follow in their footsteps in how we ought to be faithful to God and serve Him through our lives. We are all called as Christians to continue on the works of the Apostles and the saints, and we are called today to reflect on this calling. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to God in this way, brothers and sisters?
Let us all draw ever closer to God and find our strength in Him, seeking to be ever more faithful and devoted to Him as the Apostles, and also St. George and St. Adalbert had shown us through their lives and works. May God give us the strength to persevere and to give our very best in our service to Him, in each and every single moments. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.