Liturgical Colour : Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded of God’s saving power, which He had made truly manifest, through the coming, the life, the ministry, and the death of Himself through Jesus crucified on the cross. That was truly the culmination of God’s long planned salvation for mankind, which He had promised to mankind even as they fell into sin, and even as they were enslaved by Satan through sin and death.
The Lord hates sin and all things evil, and yet at the same time, He loves all, particularly all of us, who are the greatest and most beloved of all His creations. And also especially so because we had fallen away from Him and were cast away from His presence because of our rebellion and our sinfulness, our disobedience. In fact, brethren, if we feel the loss of our Lord and desire to return back to
His loving embrace, even greater is the feeling He has for us, and the greater is the desire that He has to see us reunited completely with Him once again.
The Lord our God desires noone to be lost from Him forever through death. He desires that we do not fall into hell, but arise to meet Him in heaven. Yet, it is often we ourselves who spurned His love and rejected His forgiveness, preferring the false promises of Satan and the pleasures of the world, to the true and everlasting happiness with God in heaven.
That is precisely what the ancestors of Israel of the time of Jesus had done, those ancestors whose stories were told to us through the prophets of the Old Testament. These are the people who slaughtered God’s prophets and messengers, because they turned deaf ears to their warnings, advices, and heeding, preferring to remain in their state of sin, and continue in their life of debauchery.
That is why the Lord punished them and scattered them all over the nations, to be an example to all, as what would happen to those who stray from the path of righteousness and venture into the path of sin and evil. The Lord did this, however, not because He hates them, but in fact because He truly loves them, and yet, as a just and righteous Lord, He cannot just overlook their sins and stubbornness. He is just to all, even to those whom He loves.
These people did not have God in their hearts, and they sold themselves and their souls to the pagan gods of their neighbours, that the worship of the Lord was replaced with the worship of Baal, Asherah, and other pagan gods and goddesses. They loved not God but silver and gold, and all the pleasures this world could give.
That is why Jesus rebuked the chief priests, the scribes and teachers of the Law, and the Pharisees, because of their hypocrisy. Outwardly, they look pious and perfect, and they seemed to have obeyed the Lord’s commandments even to its smallest details. And yet, the fact is that, despite all of those appearances, their hearts do not have the Lord in them. The Lord’s words did not take strong root in them, because the faith they have is an eventual faith, depending on the Lord and His words, which they forgot after their liberation from sin.
They put their own vanity above anything else, and rebuked those whom they considered to be inferior to them. They sought the glory of men, instead of praising the glory of God. They are bad shepherds who do not love those who had been entrusted to them, and led them into darkness instead of into the light.
In this way, they are even more sinful and irresponsible than before. They who had blocked the path to salvation for many, and even tried to prevent the very Messiah, from completing His missions in this world. That is why Christ cursed them, both for their sins, for their lack of repentance, and for their apathy towards the suffering of the people of God.
Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, one of the first bishops of Antioch, a great early Christian cities, as the place where Jews and Gentiles lived together, and where the faithful lived with the Jews and the Gentiles, and great evangelisation works were done.
St. Ignatius of Antioch was a faithful servant of the Lord, who devoutly helped to spread the words of the Lord and the works of salvation, converting many to the cause of the Lord. He lived during a time of difficulties and persecutions, when the Roman Emperor at the time was obsessed with the idea that he was divine, and ordered all the people and subjects of the Empire, including Christians, to worship him as a living god.
Obviously, St. Ignatius of Antioch and the faithful refused to do so, because to them, there is only one and only God, that is the Lord our Father, who had come upon this world as Jesus Christ, His Son. This is the only God that both St. Ignatius during his time and we today profess as the only one we will worship, and this brought about a great wrath of the Emperor, who arrested St. Ignatius and many Christians, bringing them to Rome to be martyred in the Colosseum.
Despite being captured and knowing of his fate of martyrdom in painful death, St. Ignatius continued to care for the sheep entrusted to his care, sending letters and encouragements to the people. St. Ignatius was brought to Rome, the capital of the Empire, and was tortured and then thrown into the arena of the Colosseum, to be fed to the lions and the beasts. Despite all the sufferings, St. Ignatius remained faithful and encourage all the fellow Christians being tortured to look towards God and keep their faith strong, even in the face of death.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, with the inspiration of the life of St. Ignatius of Antioch, let us commit ourselves to God with all of our hearts, that we will not go astray from the path He had prepared for all of us. That we will, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, be brave and courageous in standing up for his faith in God and be fully dedicated to the service of the Lord, never fearing any man nor any powers of the world, with God foremost in our heart. God bless us all. Amen.