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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Reflection 2020-08-07 Friday 18th Week in Ordinary Time – St Sixtus II and Companions

Nahum 1:15, 2:2, 3:1-3, 6-7; Deuteronomy 32; Matthew 16:24-28
List of Prisoners at the Mamertine Prison
St Sixtus II was pope during the persecution of Emperor Valerian in the 3rd century. Valerian issued an edict that required people to participate in the national cult of pagan gods. He also prohibited assembly in cemeteries. This was clearly targeted against Christians. Despite this edict, Sixtus II was able to go about his work without harassment until August of 258 AD where Valerian ordered bishops, priests and deacons to be put to death. Sixtus II, being the Bishop of Rome and six of his deacons, were some of the first to be executed. One account has it that he was arrested as he was seated on his chair at a lesser known cemetery in Rome. One account said he was beheaded on the spot. However a more credible account says he was brought to a tribunal to be sentenced and then led to the cemetery for execution. The sign at the Mamertine prison in Rome today lists known Christians such as Peter and Paul who were imprisoned there. Sixtus and two of his deacons (Felicissimus and Agapitus) are included on the list.
St Sixtus II and his deacons show Christianity is a dangerous religion because it requires a dying to self and sometimes, literally, giving our lives. Jesus himself said this in the Gospel today: if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. A Christian’s life is one of denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus to his death, because we know that when we die with Christ, we will rise with him!
How can we be sure this will happen? The Responsorial Canticle today says God deals death and gives life. God is the giver of life and he knows when and how we will die. He is the One who restores those who trust him and removes his protection from those who reject him.
The First Reading shows us: The Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob, as well as the majesty of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined their branches. It pleases God to give us life and he gives us life. But life is achieved, not by doing what I want, but by following Jesus. It is in obedience to Jesus that we have life because when we obey Jesus, we give our lives to him. We die to ourselves so he can fill that life. But when I do what I want and reject Jesus, I live my life as I will, but I will not live the life God wants me to have.
What should we do then when we are in the midst of suffering, when things do not make sense through no fault of ours? How can I live for Christ? We offer these sufferings to the Lord. Ask the Lord to take them and sanctify them and use them for his glory. We may not see how these will help, but we believe, when we offer them to the Lord, he is pleased because even in a small way, we are dying to ourselves, seeking the Lord, and doing his will.
St Sixtus and his deacons prove the life in Christ is far more important than our life here without Christ. We are called to die to ourselves so we can follow Jesus and gain the life he plans and has won for us.
Lord Jesus, when difficulties come, let me choose you. Teach me to offer my sufferings to you. Come into my life Lord Jesus and when you are here, call me to come to you, so I may follow you. St Sixtus, pray for me, that I may have the courage to obey Jesus and hope in the eternal life he has planned for me.

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