Today we celebrate St. Alban’s Day. Alban was a soldier in the Roman Army stationed in Britain. His exact background is unknown, but popular tradition declares him a native Briton. The Venerable Bede says he lived during the religious persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian (c.AD 304), During these dangerous times, Alban received into his house and sheltered a Christian priest, named Amphibalus, and was so struck by the devotion to God and blameless life of this man whom he protected, that he placed himself under his instruction and became a Christian. A rumor reached the governor of Verulamium (now St. Albans), that the priest was hiding in the house of Alban, he sent soldiers to search it.
Alban, hastily threw the long cloak of the priest over his own head and shoulders and presented himself to the soldiers as the man whom they sought. He was immediately bound and brought before the governor. When the cloak, which had concealed Alban’s face, was removed, it was revealed that he was not the priest whose arrest the governor had ordered. The latter’s anger flamed hot and he ordered Alban, immediately, to sacrifice to the gods or to suffer death.
Alban refused. He was whipped, but did not recant his loyalty to Jesus Christ. When the judge saw that he could not prevail, he ordered Alban to be put to death.
Alban was just a Roman soldier, a young convert to Christianity. He did not have the prestige of a bishop, priest or other Christians of importance in the church. But, everybody recognized his passion and self-less love for the priest that was saved from martyrdom and for his deep love for Christ. He was known for his simple and passionate love for other Christians and for his love for God, even to the point of his death. Alban counted the cost and found the cost worthy.
The Gospel of Matthew shares these words with us: Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:40-42)
This is echoed in our second reading today:
Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. (1 John 3:14-16)
It’s not always easy for what we feel is right, for what we feel is important and necessary; what we consider an appropriate sacrifice for our faith. Jesus has called each of us to pick up our cross and to make decisions based on our faith in situations that will test this faith, adversity that will force decisions about what our values are and what our true beliefs are; in the face of the storm when sometimes it is extremely difficult to do so, and we all face these sometimes overwhelming situations in our lives. We all do. This is when our faith is tested; where the rubber meets the road.
Alban did not forget. He paid the price for his faith. May we all follow the example of the saint that this parish is named after. St. Alban was a team player, and he had the back of the priest that taught him the ways of the Christian life. May his influence affect every area of our life? May it affect us all to the glory of God that we may know love as recorded in our reading today?
Alban is our patron saint, and may we follow his example of reaching out to all those on the margins. This involves acceptance, but it also involves advocacy, standing up against the hatred and bigotry in our world. That means we reach out to those suffering from homelessness, to the hungry and impoverished, and that we refuse to be color-blind to the fact that black lives matter, LGBQI lives matter. Loving others means that we stand up against discrimination of all kinds, whenever and wherever we may find it. It begins in our personal lives first. How can we share fearless love and radical change unless it first starts with us?
We know love by this that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. (1 John 3:16)
May we all like St. Alban pick up our cross and follow Jesus.