Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate together the feast of a famous saint and martyr, St. Januarius, also commonly known today as San Gennaro in his native region of Naples in southern Italy, where he was Bishop during the time of the Roman Empire in the early days of the Church. St. Januarius was renowned especially for the miraculous appearance of his blood, which is his most precious relic housed in today’s Cathedral of Naples, which liquefy every year during his feast day, that is today and on other special occasions.
St. Januarius was a bishop of the Church supervising the area around Naples today in Italy, who died during the intense persecution of the faithful and the Church by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, in one of the most severe and terrible oppression against the Christians at that time. Many countless thousands, tens of thousands and even more of the faithful suffered grievously for refusing to betray their faith to the Lord.
But St. Januarius did not fear the persecution and opposition of the world. To him remaining faithful to the Lord was far more precious and worthy than to succumb to the demands and wishes of the world and to save one’s life. For him, he rather remained faithful and true to God and suffer, and he did his best to help the flock of the faithful which had been entrusted to him as their shepherd and guide.
He hid many Christians and helped them to get away from their pursuers and prosecutors. He did so even though doing that would mean risking his own life to help many others to escape from suffering and death. His actions represented true and genuine Christian love which many of us would do well to follow and emulate in our own lives. He eventually was arrested and tortured, put to great suffering and eventually dying for the sake of the Lord and His faithful.
The examples, the courage and the good works of St. Januarius continue to inspire many people throughout the ages, even until this very day. Many aspired to be like him in their faith and in their dedication and commitment to the Lord. St. Januarius showed us how to be a good follower and disciple of the Lord, that is not just through words and proclamation of faith, but also through deeds and actions anchored upon God’s love.
In today’s Scripture readings, we heard about the faith that Christ our Lord had shown and which He had testified before all the peoples, even before all those who had betrayed Him and considered Him their enemies. And in this, Jesus showed us how His great love and faith has brought upon so many good fruits that benefit all of us. This is related to the parable of the sower, which our Lord Himself revealed to His disciples to teach them about the faith and what we ought to do about it.
The seeds represent the word of God, the faith that had been given to us, planted in each one of us as a soil for the growth of that faith. But, as we heard in the parable, there were many different outcomes for the seeds that were sown. Some of the seeds fell on the roadside, and immediately many birds of the air picked them up. These represent the faithful who received the faith, and yet they did not internalise them, and therefore, when Satan came to tempt them, they easily fell into temptation and sinned.
Then, there were those seeds that fell on the rocky ground, where the seeds failed to grow roots and die, and also those seeds that fell on the ground and grew, but they grew with the weeds and thistles that choked the life out of them, and those seeds eventually died too. These represent those whose faith have not found great roots in their hearts, and the concerns and worries of this world, the temptations of wealth, possessions, fame and worldly glory overcome the faith they had, and they fell into sin and darkness once again.
Only those seeds that fell onto the rich and fertile soil that ended up growing healthily and generously, until they bore so many fruits, and produced many, many more times than what had been planted before. This is because, when the words of the Lord landed on the rich soil of someone’s faithful heart, it blossomed and went out with a great force, and we know how even a small ripple of water can trigger many other ripples of water, as a small action of love, by one who is faithful can result in so many people that can be touched and saved.
Such was indeed what St. Januarius had done. By his courage and bravery to stand up for his faith, and by his dedication to his flock of the faithful, through his martyrdom, even though he died for his faith, but through his examples and life, he inspired countless others to be righteous and just in their own way, abandoning sin and living righteously according to the will of God.
The saying is indeed true, that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. With the inspiration from the undying and strong faith of the martyrs of the faith, many were inspired to take up their own crosses and followed the Lord to their salvation. We too should walk in their footsteps and follow them on the path towards God and His salvation for us. May Almighty God be with us always, and may by the intercession of St. Januarius and his fellow saints and martyrs, all of us may be brought closer to God and to His grace. God bless us all. Amen.