On this third day in the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity we here in Canterbury are remembering the community of St Mary Bredin led by Rev Barney de Berry, Stephen Carter and Charmaine Muir and people of Canterbury Baptist Church led by Rev Andrew Fitzgerald.
We have the choice in our liturgy today of remembering two martyrs, St Fabian and St Sebastian, both lived and were martyred in the third century. We know more about Fabian than Sebastian. Fabian died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in AD 250. In the catacomb of Sr Callistus the stone that covered the grave of Fabian may still be seen broken into four pieces bearing the Greek words Fabian, bishop martyr.
There is nothing historically certain about St Sebastian. The legend of Saint Sebastian is a popular subject in art. There is a well know depiction of him been shot through with arrows by Gerrit van Honthorst in our own National Gallery. Both Fabian and Sebastian were willing to die rather than deny Christ.
In the gospel at Mass today Jesus went into a synagogue and cured the man with the withered hand. What is significant is that he didn’t take him aside privately and heal him. He told him to stand up out in the middle. He challenged those watching by asking them is it against the law to do good or to do evil. They didn’t answer. So he cured him there and then. Mark then says “The Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.” Jesus seemed to deliberately confront those in authority. He was not afraid of the consequences. If we are to follow Jesus as disciples then we need to be free of fear of what others might think, say or do.
Dear God through the intercession of St Fabian and St Sebastian may we remain fearless in witnessing to your Son Jesus and live for him alone.