Today we honour the memory of Saint Blaise, who was Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia. By order of the Roman Emperor Licinius he suffered martyrdom in 324 by being strangled. We don’t know much at all about Saint Blase but his cult became very popular because many cures were attributed to him. Since the sixth century Christians have had their throats blessed on this his feast day.
Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat, and from every other illness. In the name of the Father and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
Whether we were born into the Catholic faith or converted to Catholicism, we most likely have people in our lives who inspired us or encouraged us in our journey of faith. And that’s a really good thing.
In his first encyclical, Pope Francis wrote: “It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus. But how is this possible? Persons always live in relationship. We come from others, we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by our encounter with others” (Lumen Fidei, 38).
Today’s first reading has a couple of things to say about how we can honour these influences in our lives.
First, we need to remember those people who have been part of our own “unbroken chain of witnesses.” It may have been a teacher or a parish priest, or a religious; it may be a favourite pope or a saint. Or it may be your parents or a neighbour, or a parishioner. What was it about their witness that enlarged your faith, or helped you trust in God more deeply?
The second step is to imitate their faith. Just how have these people influenced us? Once we recognise that, and put it into practice in our own lives, then we ourselves will become an inspiration to someone else.
That’s the way faith works: we all influence each other, both for good and for bad. We can also corrupt or put people off by our false witness and our bad example. And so, let us seek to be a positive influence upon others. Just as our lives were shaped by people who inspired us for good, so we can be a link in someone else’s “chain of witnesses.” This is how the Gospel is spread, and how the Church continues to grow.