First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

In July of the year 64, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire.  Some people blamed the tragedy on the mad Roman Emperor Nero, who shifted the blame on to the Christians in Rome who were rounded up and executed in the first great persecution of the Church.  Wherever the Gospel was preached the Church met with opposition and yet no power on earth can stop the work of the Holy Spirit.  The witness of the Apostles and the blood of the martyrs are the foundation upon which the Church is built.  We are the heirs of the Apostles and martyrs; let us pray for the grace to witness as they did.

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Our Lord had just come down from the mountain and was surrounded by huge crowds.  Excitement was in the air as they strained for a view of this new teacher.  “Where did he get such wisdom? How is it that he can drive out demons and heal the sick?”  Some may have felt overwhelmed by his call to love even their enemies and to seek his kingdom above all else.  But still they felt drawn to him and to his message.

In the midst of this crowd, a solitary man came and knelt before him, begging for his help.  Because he had leprosy, he was an outcast.  But he also recognized the significance of this preacher and wanted to press his case. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean”.  Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and cured him with a touch.

What makes this story so memorable?  Certainly the man showed great courage to push through the crowd—a crowd that would have literally avoided him like the plague.  Like the others, he was moved by Our Lord’s teaching.  But there was more.  At some moment during Our Lord’s sermon, this man came to a realization of who this preacher was and what his words meant: he was face-to-face with the Messiah.  Full of confidence he moved forward with his simple request, convinced of Our Lord’s power to heal and save.

We have all experienced that moment of light where Jesus speaks directly to us, and it’s something we will never forget.  Time and circumstance can never remove its power.  Like the leper we recognise that Jesus is a preacher without compare, a healer, a prophet, and the exalted King of kings.  He is our Saviour, our Lord, our most intimate friend.  Speak to him when you receive him in Holy Communion and, like the leper, lay your soul before him.  He knows you and wants to lift you up into his presence.

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