(1 Corinthians 4: 9-16)
Today we are celebrating the Twelve Holy Apostles of Christ. It is them who had been blessed to live close to Jesus Christ during the three years of His public mission, to see His miracles, to hear His divine teaching, and ultimately, on the day of His Ascension to Heaven, to entrust on them the continuation of His work to preach the Gospel to all nations, and baptize those who would believe in Him.
Therefore, the fact that we are all Christians, we owe it to the Holy Apostles and their successors. That is why, during the year, we honor with particular gratitude, the memory of each Apostle separately, either on the day of his martyrdom or of his falling asleep and today we celebrate all of them together.
Studying the life of each Apostle, we find that, apart from the Apostle John, who only experienced persecution and exile but eventually died peacefully, all the other Apostles suffered not only numerous persecutions, but also martyrdom. Thus, Jesus’ prophesy was fulfilled as He had told His disciples: "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).
Today’s apostolic reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians refers to these persecutions and hardships the Holy Apostles suffered. He writes:
"We the Apostles present ourselves as fools for the sake of Christ" (4: 10). That is, in the eyes of unbelieving people we are considered stupid and foolish, because they do not understand the deeper notion of our teaching. Seeing us to tolerate persecutions for Christ's sake (Whose great divinity they do not appreciate), they consider it foolishness on our part to accept all these humiliations in every place we go.
"Until this time – continues St. Paul - we both hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we live by working with our own hands" (4: 11- 12). The Great Apostle Paul in particular worked by sewing tents with his own hands, which were full of calluses as a result of the hard work he did, in order to support not only himself but also his collaborators (Acts 20:34).
And while the Holy Apostles were facing such dangers daily, and labored so hard, eager to convey the message of salvation to the peoples, many were abusing the Apostles, blaspheming them, and treating them as the rubbish of the world and the scums of society "(1 Cor. 4: 12 -13).
And, how did the Apostles face this hostility, the insults, the persecutions and tortures? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer:
"To the mockery we respond with good words, to the persecutions with patience, to the slander with friendly words" (4: 12).
Here we cannot but admire the superiority and grandeur of the Apostles, who totally imitated their divine Master, Jesus Christ, "Who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten” (1 Peter 2:23 ).
This is the wonderful example Christ's imitators, i.e. the Holy Apostles, left to us by their life, and whose memory we celebrate today.
My brothers, since we, too, live "in the valley of weeping" (Psalm 84:6), as the Psalmist characterizes this world, it is only natural that we also face hostility, injustice, slander and sorrows that are provoked by others. Yet, if we were to compare our sufferings with those of the Holy Apostles, we will of course discover that ours are minimal.
Let us, therefore, be inspired by the bright example of the Holy Apostles and let us face the hatred of others with our sincere love. Let us respond to their bitter words with our silence, their slander and lies with truth and our pure life, their insults with our tolerance, their injustices with our forgiveness, the sorrow they provoke against us with our warm prayer.
That is how we will prove to be worthy imitators of the Holy Apostles, observers of the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and recipients of His great mercy.