Saturday, 13 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings today spoke to us about what we ought to be doing in order to find righteousness and salvation in our God. And that is for us to abandon our sinful ways and our wicked past, just as what the Lord told His people through His prophet Ezekiel, telling them that while the righteous enjoy the favour of the Lord, but the wicked and those who refused to obey Him, shall receive punishment due for them.

And in order to find righteousness and justice in God, we will have to learn to distance ourselves from all the things that are wicked and that are against the Lord’s ways, as God Himself announced to the prophet Ezekiel, that His faithful people ought to distance themselves from things that can cause fornication and corruption of the body, heart, mind and soul. That means, we should avoid unjust attitudes and behaviours, avoid greed and unbridled desires, avoid all the things that bring us into the trap of sin and thus into our downfall.

Why is this something so important for us to take note of, brethren? That is because, by our nature, we have that tendency to be swayed by our needs and wants, by our desires and by our attachments to the world and its goods. It is easy for us to lose our way going forward as we are presented with many options, many of which lead not to the Lord but instead towards the devil and his false ways.

In the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to His disciples to point out to them that very simple fact which we often forget in life. That if we want to follow the Lord our God, then our focus cannot be on other things beside Him. We have too many attachments and concerns in life, and that is a singular most important reason why so many of us were incapable of being devoted and committed servants of our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to heed what Jesus our Lord said to us in the Gospel, that we have to be like that of little children if we are to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And no, it does not mean that we should become childish in our actions and way of life, but rather, we must be as children are when they believe in something and be like them in our faith towards the Lord.

If we have seen children before, talking to them and working with them, we should realise that they are truly clean slate, pure and innocent, untainted by the many concerns and attachments to the world. And these are exactly the very reason why many of us met our downfall and falter on our way to the Lord, as our burdens, the burdens of our attachments weighed us down and held us back.

Are we able to believe in the Lord just as the children had believed? The faith of a child is pure and true, and when they believe in something, they will hold on to that faith and to that belief. Whereas many of us are easy to turn away our beliefs and faith, for something else, just as what many of us did, ditching the Lord behind for the gain of our own flesh, the pleasures of that same flesh, and for the tempting gains of money, fame, possessions and worldly glory.

Let us then look at the examples of the two holy saints and servants of God whose feast we are celebrating on this day. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were renowned elders and leaders of the Church at the time of the early Church, during the time when the Church was still under the persecution and attack from the Roman Empire and its government.

Pope St. Pontian was the leader of the Universal Church at that time, while St. Hippolytus was supported by some segments in the Church to become the Bishop of Rome in opposition to Pope St. Pontian. The struggle and tension between the two of them were quite bad for some time, with both sides accusing each other of trying to divide the Church and the faithful.

But in the end, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus agreed to lay down their differences for the sake of the faithful and the Church, and it also happened during the time of a particularly vicious and cruel persecution of the Church by the Roman Emperor Valerian. They were both arrested and put into great suffering and were exiled, where eventually they were martyred for their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the example of these two saints, we can see how our human desires and wants can become great obstacles on our journey and path towards the Lord. These can cause divisions and intrigue to arise among the faithful and in the Church. And certainly, from what we have learnt, we should also endeavour to reject the temptations of the flesh, the allures of the world, and instead, do what we can in order to help one another to find our way to the Lord and to His salvation.

Let us all cultivate and strengthen our faith, so that it may grow stronger in us, and with stronger faith, may all of us be united ever more closely and intimately with our God, and in all the things that we say and do, let us do them for the greater glory of God. Amen.

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