Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard from the Acts of the Apostles, an excerpt from which our first reading was taken, about the experience which St. Peter the Apostle had received, when he was called by God to visit an influential Gentile, or a non-Jew named Cornelius. St. Peter initially received a vision from God, of animals from various kinds, which are not counted among those considered clean by the Jewish dietary laws.
God commanded St. Peter through His voice, to eat those animals, which St. Peter refused to do so, because he had been obedient to the Jewish dietary customs and would not want to do something contrary to those rules and laws. But God rebuked St. Peter and said that, whatever He had deemed to be clean and worthy, St. Peter should not have considered as unclean.
This vision repeated for three times, and which came to his mind once again, as St. Peter came to the house of Cornelius and his family, who believed in God and were baptised as Christians after having heard the Good News. Then St. Peter realised what God’s true intention was when He showed him the vision three times. It showed him that God, ultimately loves each and every one of us, regardless of who we are and what our background is, regardless of our race or language, appearance or by whichever parameter we often categorise ourselves with.
He is our Shepherd, Who knows each and every one of us, as He mentioned it in our Gospel passage today. And He has called all of His sheep to Himself, and leading them to the right path towards salvation. He desires nothing else for us other than our reconciliation and happiness in Him. And to Him, every one of us are equally beloved and dear to Him, unlike the Israelites at the time of Jesus, who thought that the Lord loved them alone over all the other nations.
Indeed, God has called the Israelites first from among all the other nations. They were His first chosen people, but that time, God wanted to reveal the truth about Himself, that all people, from all races and from all sorts of origins and backgrounds are His, and they are dear to Him. He has thus called on all of them to come to Him, to be reconciled and to be reunited in one flock, led and guided by Him, the Good Shepherd of all.
And to them, He sent His disciples, such as St. Peter, and especially St. Paul, the Apostle who had the most interaction with the Gentiles. Through these devoted servants and messengers, He turned the hearts of many of them to Him, and many were called to the faith, just as Cornelius and his family had shown us. Those Gentiles showed great faith, just as much and in fact even more than the Jews themselves, and they received the same gift of faith and the Holy Spirit as well.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to remember the missionary nature of our faith. All of us have received this faith from someone else, be it from our own parents, or from someone who have instructed us in the faith. And they, in turn, have received the faith from others as well. Ultimately, all of us received our faith from God, through His Church, by the works of His Apostles and disciples, by which we have received the Good News and therefore made to share in His inheritance.
And many of these servants of God have suffered and died, just as the Apostles had, in order to bring us the faith and the Good News. Among them, today we remember two faithful saints, St. George and St. Adalbert, both of whom were martyred for their faith, and became source of great inspiration to many of the faithful throughout the ages. They have done all they could in order to bring God’s salvation to His people, imitating the example of He Who is the Good Shepherd.
St. George was a Roman soldier who served under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly intense persecution of Christians. St. George himself was secretly a Christian, and when the Emperor commanded a universal persecution of all Christians, their arrest and torture, and for all the members of the army to sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods and to the Emperor, St. George was said to have resolved to remain faithful to God, and embraced the likely fate of his own martyrdom.
St. George openly declared his faith before the Emperor, who in his outrage, sent St. George to be imprisoned and tortured, hoping that he would abandon his faith after having been subjected to torture, suffering, as well as persuasions and temptations. It was told that the Emperor even sent a beautiful young woman to seduce St. George, but it backfired, as the young woman was instead converted, after having been convinced as such by the holy saint.
In fact, it was told that the Empress herself was so touched by St. George’s faith that she herself became a convert, and henceforth known as St. Alexandra of Rome, martyred together with St. George for their faith in God. The Emperor was particularly angered by the fact that even his wife had been persuaded and convinced to accept the Christian faith.
Meanwhile, St. Adalbert was a faithful and devout servant of God, who in his capacity as the bishop of Prague in what is now Czech Republic, went to evangelise among the pagan peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. He was devoted to the mission entrusted to him, and despite challenges and opposition from those who disagreed with his ways, St. Adalbert persevered faithfully and his flock benefitted greatly from his commitment and hard work.
St. Adalbert devoted himself to missionary work, and many people were baptised under his work. Many souls were saved from certain damnation by his works, calling men to repentance and to be forgiven and reconciled with God. However, he did not have his work easily done before him, and instead, he encountered many challenges and opposition, not least from the pagans themselves, many of whom refused to be converted to the true faith.
That was how St. Adalbert met his martyrdom as he went on to preach to the Baltic pagans, many of whom refused to welcome him and accept the Lord as their Saviour. But, his perseverance and hard work won him the admiration of many among the faithful, as well as many others who walked in his footsteps throughout the years. As we can see, St. George and St. Adalbert have both shown us, how we can be faithful to the Lord, in the mission entrusted to them.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, have been entrusted with the same mission. The Lord wanted all the people, all of mankind to be reconciled with Him, and there are still many out there who have not yet received the Lord and His Good News, and many still have rejected Him and wandered off His path. It is now up to us, to continue the good works that the Apostles, and the saints, St. George and St. Adalbert had begun.
May the Lord be with us and guide us in this journey, so that we may be able to find our own way to Him, and be able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission and cause He has entrusted to us. May the Lord bless us all and our endeavours, now and always. Amen.