Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after we have heard all of our readings and passages from the Sacred Scriptures, it is clear that the message the Lord has given us through His Church is that, all of us as Christians must remember that being the followers of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, is something that is not trivial and which will often require from us time, effort, commitment and even the willingness to suffer and to endure persecution in the midst of us living our lives with faith. Persecution has been part and parcel of the lives of many Christians from the very beginning, and that is true even right to this very day.


In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah detailing to us what happened to the prophet as he was almost brought to death’s door as his many enemies, the officials of the kingdom of Judah, rose up against him and demanded the king to punish him to death for all that he had said and done in delivering the words of God’s truth, but which his enemies used as accusations to persecute him and to remove him, using accusations such as him being a traitor to the nation and to the people for his works, so that he would be put to death. It was then that the king told the men that they could do all they wanted to Jeremiah.


Contextually, Jeremiah brought God’s words to the remnants of Judah, who was then rebelling against the rule of the king of Babylon. Jeremiah warned the people of the impending destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, the city and its Temple, and how many of them would be brought into exile far away from their ancestral lands. All those things were due to the people’s own disobedience against God, their stubbornness in refusing to listen to Him and to the prophets and messengers whom God had sent to them to remind them of their obligation to follow the Law. They had closed their hearts and minds from God and refused to listen to His call.


But Jeremiah had help from God, as He sent some who were sympathetic to Jeremiah and his cause, and helped him to get out from the cistern in which the enemies of Jeremiah had hoped that the prophet would die from drowning and hunger. Not only that, one of them would also house and protect Jeremiah, even as the whole kingdom and city eventually fell just as Jeremiah himself had prophesied, and protected him from harm’s way. Nonetheless, we have heard just how terrible was the persecution and the challenges that Jeremiah had to endure in the midst of his ministry and work.


In our second reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle spoke of how many of the witnesses of the Lord and His truth had suffered because of what they believed in, and the author also encouraged all of them by telling them to look upon the Lord Jesus, their Lord and Saviour, Who has suffered Himself as He faced rejection and persecution from the world, from His enemies and from all those who refused to listen to Him. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorted all of his target audience to be faithful and strong in enduring those challenges and trials, remembering how the Lord Himself suffered, and how they were all suffering the same thing together with the Lord. They were not alone in their suffering.


There had been many saints and martyrs, most prominently during the early days, weeks, years, decades and centuries in the history of the Church, when the Church and the faithful were still facing a lot of hardships, having to proclaim the truth of Christ, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation against the various oppositions and hurdles from firstly the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin composed of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and other most influential members of the Jewish community, many of whom were against the Lord Jesus and His teachings. There had been many early persecution against Christians by the Jewish authorities, and before his conversion, St. Paul the Apostle as Saul was one of the leaders of these bitter and harsh persecutions.


In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord Jesus Himself, how He revealed before His own disciples that becoming His followers would not mean having good and peaceful lives. Instead, His teachings and truths would more likely than not bring about hardships and challenges, divisions and misunderstandings to arise even between close family members, relatives and friends. The Lord highlighted that fact, saying how family members would even rise against each other just because of their differences in opinion regarding the Lord and His truth. This would in fact presage how quite a few of the martyrs came to be because they were persecuted by the members of their own families, for refusing to abandon their faith in God.


That is the reality for us as Christians, as the followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in following Him and dedicating ourselves to Him. Our Christian faith and truth often come at odds against the acceptable norms and practices of the world, not only back then during the early years of the Church, but also even throughout history right up to this very day. There are still areas and parts of the world where believing in God and to be Christians may mean great sufferings and even high chance of death, from persecution and other reasons. We must never take our faith for granted, especially if we live in places where being Christians are acceptable and comfortable, or where everyone are Christians.


The Lord has revealed to us that more often than not being Christians require us to make a stand, and even at times we may have to go against those who are closest to us. But that is the reality and nature of the world, as not everyone readily accepts the Lord as their Saviour and King, while others may also be more lukewarm in their faith, accepting the ways of the world and as a result, also find our way of living our faith through life to be incompatible and unsuitable. Frictions and difficulties, disagreements and divisions are often then unavoidable, at times even when we have tried to avoid that from happening.


That is why this Sunday as we listened to these readings from the Scriptures, all of us are invited to reflect and discern on our lives as Christians. Have we as Christians been truly faithful and dedicated to God as we should have? And have we lived our lives in accordance to the Law and commandments that God has revealed and given to us through His Church and His servants? If we have lived our lives more in conformation to the world’s expectations and ways, then perhaps it is time for us to reassess the way how we lived our lives so that we may grow to be better and more committed Christians.


Let us all also keep in mind all of our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering just because of their faith in God. May their courage and commitment to God just as what the saints and martyrs had shown us, continue to inspire us to live our lives ever more worthily in God’s path. Let us all remind one another that God is and will always be with us, His faithful servants, by our side at all times that we may be strengthened and inspired to do more for the glory of God. May all of our actions, words and deeds also always therefore be exemplary, that we may strengthen one another in faith, and perhaps even inspire more people to come to believe in God. Each and every one of us also share the same mission and expectation as God’s followers and disciples to proclaim Him and His truth to the people of all the nations.


May the Lord therefore continue to guide us and bless us, and may He strengthen and encourage us in faith that we may always be faithful to Him to the very end. May He bless our every works and good efforts, and our every dedication to His cause. Let us all strive to be ever more committed to the Lord and be good Christian role models in our everyday living, now and always. Amen.