January 20, 2022
by George Butterfield
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 314

Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
Psalm 56:2-3, 9-10a, 10b-11, 12-13
Mark 3:7-12

Praying Ordinary Time

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

Today is Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time. It is also the day on which we celebrate St. Sebastian and St. Fabian. Both saints were martyrs. St. Fabian served as the pope.

St. Sebastian joined the army because he thought it to be a good place for assisting the martyrs. He rose in the ranks. They did not know that he was a Christian. However, his faith was contagious, and he converted many of the people around him, not only men in the army, but other influential leaders. Eventually his faith became known to everyone, and this led to attempts on his life. He is probably best known for being shot full of arrows. Although this attempt to kill him did a lot of damage, it didn’t kill him. After being nursed back to health, he went back for more by publicly criticizing the emperor for his treatment of Christians. This time the executioners were successful; they clubbed him to death. St. Sebastian has become the patron saint of soldiers and athletes, especially archers. Don’t you love it? He was shot full of arrows, so he is the patron saint of archers. What stands out about him to me is that he was a man without fear. He simply wasn’t afraid to die for others or for his faith.

The story of St. Fabian is even more fascinating to me. In the year A.D. 236, the pope had been martyred. At that time, papal elections were done in public. Fabian lived in the countryside outside of Rome and no one had him in mind for the new pope. He came into the city to sit in the assembly, probably wanting to simply check things out. Maybe it was just an opportunity to have a night or two out on the town. He probably never imagined that he could possibly be elected. (Seriously, a pope named Fabian?) During the proceedings, a dove flew around over the people and eventually landed – on Fabian’s head! Comparing this to the descent of the dove upon Jesus at his baptism, Fabian was elected pope. Here is what amazes me: in his fourteen years as pope, he was a really good one. He, too, was martyred for the faith on January 20th, A.D. 250.

I have a friend who, against his will, was nominated with several others to become the new leader of a religious community. I warned him to keep his eyes open for doves during the election. Perhaps he should use a hand-held fan and fan over his head? No doves descended but he was elected anyway. I have concluded that God has an amazing sense of humor. I also think that this way of choosing a new leader may be as effective as the methods we tend to use, but I digress.

St. Fabian is such a contrast to King Saul. King Saul is given a great victory primarily because of a shepherd boy and he immediately turns on him and wants to kill him because of jealousy. The more jealous he becomes, the more egregious is his behavior. His own family doesn’t understand it. The shepherd boy just wants to serve his king, but the king is so lacking in self-esteem that he cannot allow any popular praise for the boy. St. Fabian is so not like Saul. He becomes known for humility and hard work. He accomplishes so much but his most impressive feat, to me, is that, when he dies, everyone praises him, even those folks the Church considered heretics.

Praise God for that dove!

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