Tuesday, January 19, 2010


“St. Sebastian”
by Sandro Botticelli,


Biographical Information about St. Sebastian[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Sebastian

Readings and Commentary:

1 Peter 3:14-17

Even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you.
Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them,
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
Commentary on
1 Pt 3:14-17

St. Peter exhorts the churches, to which his letter is addressed, to be courageous in their faith and to be fearless in the face of persecution. If they are attacked and suffer because of doing what is right, they are blessed (see also Matthew 5:10-11 and Isaiah 59:9), and need only keep the hope of Jesus alive and holy in their hearts. Their attackers will be shamed in such actions because they do evil to the innocents.

Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear and be glad.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.
Commentary on
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving and a favorite for celebrating the heroic virtue of the saints. The psalmist, fresh from the experience of being rescued (Psalm 34:5, 7), can teach the "poor," those who are defenseless, to trust in God alone. This psalm, in the words of one being unjustly persecuted, echoes hope for deliverance and freedom. The Lord in his faithful love always hears those who call to him for help and salvation.

CCC: Ps 34:3 716; Ps 34:8 336
Matthew 10:28-33

Jesus said to the Twelve:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father."
Commentary on
Mt 10:28-33

Jesus concludes his instructions to the Apostles as he sends them out. He tells them not to fear the persecution he has told them they will face. This lack of fear should be absent because, while the body may be killed, their souls are safe with him. He concludes this passage telling them that the Father is watching over them and they have nothing to fear.

CCC: Mt 10:28 363, 1034; Mt 10:29-31 305; Mt 10:32-33 1816; Mt 10:32 14, 2145

Little is known about St Sebastian except the fact that he was martyred early on in the persecutions of Diocletian. St Ambrose knew of him and states that he was already venerated in Milan in the fourth century. One of the seven chief churches of Rome was built over his grave in 367.

All else (his youth, his martyrdom by arrows) is unsubstantiated, some of it dating from more than a thousand years after his death. But what we know is what we need to know. For the Christians of the fourth century the important, the true, the sufficient fact about Sebastian was that he was a Christian martyr, and they venerated him as such.

Oh happy St. Sebastian, even though so little is known of your faith and works, your martyred death, your fidelity to God in the face of torture and pain provides the followers of the Savior you loved with courage and hope as well. Even though we do not know the details of your life and works other than by hearsay and legend, you inspire us to be like you, courageous in the face of persecution, fear and hatred.

Sacred scripture reminds us that we are sent into a world that will not welcome us. We are sent by the one who showed us with his own death and resurrection what our sending may mean. Yet, like St. Sebastian, we know there is the promise, the promise that even in the face of trials and falsehoods thrown at us, we are being watched over and supported by the one who created all things and who loves us so intensely that His Only Begotten Son was offered as sacrifice for us.

Today we invite the prayers of St. Sebastian, a martyr who won the white robe of salvation and even now rejoices with all the saints. We ask that his prayers support us as we follow the same Lord, Jesus Christ.


[1] The picture is “St. Sebastian” by Sandro Botticelli, 1474
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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