Almost nothing is historically certain about St. Sebastian except that he was a Roman martyr, was venerated in Milan even in the time of St. Ambrose (December 7) and was buried on the Appian Way, probably near the present Basilica of St. Sebastian. Devotion to him spread rapidly, and he is mentioned in several martyrologies as early as a.d. 350. The legend of St. Sebastian is important in art, and there is a vast iconography. Scholars now agree that a pious fable has Sebastian entering the Roman army because only there could he assist the martyrs without arousing suspicion. Finally he was found out, brought before Emperor Diocletian and delivered to Mauritanian archers to be shot to death. His body was pierced with arrows, and he was left for dead. But he was found still alive by those who came to bury him. He recovered, but refused to flee. One day he took up a position near where the emperor was to pass. He accosted the emperor, denouncing him for his cruelty to Christians. This time the sentence of death was carried out. Sebastian was beaten to death with clubs. He was buried on the Appian Way, close to the catacombs that bear his name.
Another legend describes Sebastian's effectiveness in bolstering the courage of those in prison. Two men under sentence of death seemed about to give in to their captors. Sebastian's impassioned exhortation to constancy not only confirmed the two in their original convications but won over many other prisoners in the jail. Again, this particular story may not be historically accurate. But it is true that all saints witness to Jesus both by word and action.
The fact that many of the early saints made such a tremendous impression on the Church—awakening widespread devotion and great praise from the greatest writers of the Church—is proof of the heroism of their lives. As has been said, legends may not be literally true. Yet they may express the very substance of the faith and courage evident in the lives of these heroes and heroines of Christ.
Patron Saint of:
Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
Dear Lord as I come to you today
Fill my heart and my whole being
with the wonder of your presence
Lord, may I never take the gift
of freedom for granted. You gave
me the great blessing of freedom of
spirit. Fill my spirit with Your peace and
Knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I look honestly over the last day, its events and my feelings.
Do I have something to be grateful for?
Then I give thanks. Is there something I am sorry for?
Then I ask forgiveness.
The Word of God
Reading 11 SM 15:16-23
Samuel said to Saul:
"Stop! Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night."
Saul replied, "Speak!"
Samuel then said: "Though little in your own esteem,
are you not leader of the tribes of Israel?
The LORD anointed you king of Israel and sent you on a mission, saying,
'Go and put the sinful Amalekites under a ban of destruction.
Fight against them until you have exterminated them.'
Why then have you disobeyed the LORD?
You have pounced on the spoil, thus displeasing the LORD."
Saul answered Samuel: "I did indeed obey the LORD
and fulfill the mission on which the LORD sent me.
I have brought back Agag, and I have destroyed Amalek under the ban.
But from the spoil the men took sheep and oxen,
the best of what had been banned,
to sacrifice to the LORD their God in Gilgal."
But Samuel said:
"Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the LORD?
Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission than the fat of rams.
For a sin like divination is rebellion,
and presumption is the crime of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
he, too, has rejected you as ruler."
Responsorial Psalm PS 50:8-9, 16BC-17, 21 AND 23
R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold."
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?"
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
"When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
Gospel MK 2:18-22
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
"Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them,
"Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."
Do I notice myself reacting as I pray with the Word of God? Do I feel challenged, comforted, angry? Imagining Jesus sitting or standing by me, I speak out my feelings, as one trusted friend to another.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Meditation: 1 Samuel 15:16-23
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Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr
Obedience is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22)
If you've ever had to wrestle toddlers to get them fed, dressed, into car seats, and then into church, you understand what a sacrifice it is just to make it to Mass. And then comes the hard part: that special "toddler rodeo" where you and your spouse bounce them around to keep them quiet. Sometimes you wonder if it's worth going to Mass at all!
There may be times for us all, in the cold of winter or as we face the aches that come with age, when getting to Mass is a challenge. But we push ourselves out the door and into the pew, and we feel good that we are doing what God wants us to do.
That's getting into Mass. But have you ever walked out of Mass unable to remember the Gospel or a single point from the homily? Or maybe you hear the message but don't act on it? Sometimes even the closing command to "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life" is just too hard. You can't even be peaceful and loving in the chaotic parking lot after Mass!
In today's reading, we see that Saul has done 90 percent of what God has asked him to do. God has told Saul to exterminate all of the Amalekites, including their king, and that none of the plunder should be taken for personal use. Well, Saul destroys most of the Amalekites, but he spares the king and the best of their animals. He claims these animals are for sacrifices to God. When Samuel learns about this, he is furious. God doesn't want Saul's sacrifices. He wants Saul's obedience.
Sometimes we, too, find ourselves in the position of obeying only partway. We may have sincere intentions, but we draw a line with the Lord. Then, like Saul, we make excuses and hope to get away with it. But God wants our hearts. He wants to show us how rewarding it is to obey him fully—even if it makes us uncomfortable.
Today, examine yourself to see if there is an area of your life in which you are holding back. Ask the Lord to help you change. Decide to act on the plans God has for you. Don't stop at 90 percent!
"Lord, show me where my obedience falls short of your plans for me. Teach me to trust in you completely."
Psalm 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23; Mark 2:18-22
I encourage everyone to fast on Fridays. Why? Because it was on a Friday that our Lord was taken, let Himself be taken, Let Himself get beat up and spit at, let Himself pour out on the cross, as a message for you, there is no other way. He offers Himself and comes back anew. This is about me and you. Letting the message soak and it soaks into a sponge and not a rock. Fasting is an act that brings us closer to God. He doesn't need your sacrifice...but we do. He rather have all your 100% complete obedience, than anything...because everything else will follow. And what follows is not of this world. The Spanish reflection ended today with: "Jesus reminds us one more time with an expressive image that the faith is to be lived as an experience of joy: The friends of the groom <can not fast while the groom is with them>."
Once you experience the joy, once you know what is going on (a little more), you will ask yourself how you lived any other way. And I am speaking of a life in grace. I am speaking of living His way above all. I am speaking of never fasting because you are with Him and He is feeding Himself to you constantly. Am I speaking of the bread of Life? The body of Christ? Yes. Any other way, our way, will not contain His grace, it will leak out and ruin. Saul tried to serve God his own way, and it was not good. The same for all of us who try to make our own religion, a set of thoughts and beliefs. If they differ from the truth, they will not set well with His Kingdom. As a business manager, I get really frustrated, even this morning, a supervisor comes in late, goes parks around the building instead of coming inside, tells guys what to do from the window of his personal car not the company truck, he's not suited for work, he's not checking paperwork, he's not serving the way he is supposed to serve. It is frustrating, not good. The same with our Lord. We can not serve Him when we feel like it. We have to serve no matter how we feel. Feelings are earthly. His spirit is knowing. And this is what is expected, that we fast to the world, and feed from His Spirit. This is what lent is about, but this is what our whole life should be about...not about me, all about Him. So I encourage you as we journey on our pilgrimage in this world. Life offers a ton of distractions, stuff to lead you astray, problems, crosses, and it is in our answer to the Lord that makes all the difference. I say this because I'm speaking of myself but the faith relates to all. For example, our infant has kept me up for the last couple of weeks at night. He cries every two hours, sometimes every hour at night. Ohh, I get so frustrated because I need sleep to feel good at work. But, in the daytime, the infant is so lovable, you don't want to put him down. You see, the beauty of the cross carries a weight. Handle it right, and love it. I say this feeling good because the baby slept good last night, but only after I realized this truth through the weekend. In other words, yes, it is inconvenient, you may lose some friends or a job due to our beliefs, but this is our religion, this is our faith, this is what is carrying us through our journey to Heaven. The world needs a real live martyr, one that is a true witness to the Gospel. One that stays true means they are with the Truth and Jesus is the Truth.