Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Doctors of the Church)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about obeying the Lord our God, listening to Him and following His laws. We heard about Jesus our Lord rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law because of their faith and what they showed in their way of life, which had been found wanting by God. He therefore warned them not to follow the Pharisees in how they lived their lives.
It is also a reminder for all of us, that as Christians, we must be true believers of God, not just in mere words and actions, but also deep within our hearts, committing ourselves wholly and completely to God without reservation, and without any ulterior motives as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. They did not truly obey God because they truly loved Him, or else, they would not have done all they had done for fame and praise, and they would not have rejected Jesus too.
Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is because they who had been appointed as stewards and leaders of the people have gone astray in their ways, following their own human desires rather than the ways of the Lord. They acted in ways so as to preserve themselves, and put their own desires above all else. They prayed to God in open and public places so as to be seen and praised for their deeds, more so than they loved the Lord with sincere heart.
They made the Law into a mere formality, as customs and regulations to be followed. And they themselves could not fulfil the entirety of the rules and regulations established throughout the history of the Jewish people, but they imposed them harshly on the people without mercy. They punished and looked down on those who they deemed to be not as devout as they were in fulfilling God’s commandments.
But God wanted to remind us all that obeying the Law without understanding them is meaningless. And there is no value or virtue in doing all the things we are supposed to do, but then we do not know what they are meant for. If we are like the Pharisees, then we are no better than the king of Israel, Saul, who once disobeyed God, for sparing the Amalekite king and his sheep and goats, under the pretext that he would give those to God as sacrifices.
And Samuel the prophet and judge rebuked Saul harshly with the words and will of the Lord. He reminded that unfaithful king that what God wanted was love and devotion, and not sacrifice. A sacrifice offered out of selfishness and disobedience has no meaning, just as the Law of God obeyed without understanding and true love for God.
And as we reflect on these, let us all also take note of the example of this saint, whose life has been exemplary to many of the faithful, and which certainly can be an example for us all as well. St. Ephrem the Deacon was a renowned religious and servant of God, who was also known by his name of St. Ephrem the Syrian, as he lived in the region known as Roman Syria at that time.
St. Ephrem lived at a time, when the Christian faith was just tolerated and protected by the Roman Emperor Constantine. And at that time of great changes and challenges, St. Ephrem was appointed and ordained as a deacon of the Church, serving the people in those regions. St. Ephrem however also contributed in various other ways to the Church. He wrote many writings and composed many hymns and songs, some of which survived even unto this day.
He devoted himself wholly to God and to His people, even amidst challenges from the pagan Persians who threatened the city where he lived in and where his flock lived, and he served the Lord faithfully, and persevered even amongst the heretics and those who have been deluded by the false teachings, to call them back from the darkness and into the light, often by using hymns he made and through his writings and preachings.
He showed us the example of how to truly believe in God and have faith in Him. It is not just by obeying rules, regulations and customs that we believe in God, but rather through love, care and concern for our fellow men, as St. Ephrem had done. We should love God genuinely from our hearts, and surely we will be transformed in our actions, and through our actions, to be loving and obedient children of God.
Let us all follow in his footsteps and be ever more faithful to God, truly giving Him our love and devotion, not just mere lip service but true commitment and dedication. May God bless us all and guide us to Himself, that we may find Him and be blessed by Him forever. Amen.