Sunday, 21 August 2016 : 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard both the message of hope and also a warning from the Lord our God. We heard about how the Lord promised His people the salvation and liberation He would give them all, who have suffered from exile and troubles, as He revealed it to them through His prophet Isaiah in the last chapter of his book, as the portent and premonition of the future.

Through those reassuring and encouraging words, God wanted to remind His people that He would not abandon them to the darkness, no matter how bad the situation was. However, it does not mean that they could just continue to sin in the way that they have sinned, or to continue the wickedness they have committed in life, by selling themselves heart, mind and soul to the pagan gods and idols, to the fornications of the body and the soul.

God reminded us about this through what He said in the Gospel today, on the parable of the narrow door. He reminded His people that the door to the kingdom of God is a narrow one, and we should not take for granted that we are saved that we may do things as we like, or to think that God will overlook our trespasses and wrongdoing. For ultimately, while He is indeed a loving and merciful God, but He is also a just and jealous God, Who does not hold back His anger against the sins we committed.

That said, He hated the sins we committed and not we ourselves as human beings, His own creations. He loved us all as His children and His people, but when we err and when we refuse His love and mercy, how else could He be not angry with us? It is our own actions, our own stubbornness and all the rejections and refusals we have made against Him has been our undoing thus far.

And we should not think that we have all the time in the world to be doing what we wanted. Some people had that misconception, thinking that it was alright to do all they wanted in life, even sins and debauchery, fornication and corruption of the mind and soul, thinking that they could just ask the Lord for mercy at the last hours of their lives, and God would forgive them.

In the first place, God may call us back to Him at any time He wishes, for we do not control when we shall die, as it is under His authority alone. Our time may suddenly be up, and we do not know it. If we are astute and wise enough, then we can clearly see the dangers of delaying, of waiting and doing things that kept us away from getting closer to the salvation found in God alone.

We should heed God’s warning that all those who are found to be unworthy of Him shall suffer in the darkness and in nothingness for all eternity. Shall we want such a fate to be ours? Shall we want for such an eternity of regret and pain to be ours? We who are still breathing, living and walking on this world have that ability, that choice to make a difference with our lives, and indeed, the ability to change our fate, but only through a real and thorough transformation of our entire being, from a being of darkness to be a being of the light.

We, like the Israelites of old, live in moments of exile from God. Truly, all mankind have been sundered from God by the very sins which we have committed in this earthly life, and by the disobedience shown by our ancestors. We were destined to perish and to be condemned, but God had another plan for us. His love for us is so great that it is impossible for Him to let us perish in darkness and sin, unless it is we ourselves who want such a fate.

Through Christ He has opened a path to our redemption, by calling all of us back to Him, to regret our sinfulness and embark on our path towards repentance and thus forgiveness. This path is not an easy one for us to take, for it requires commitment and dedication from us, that we may find our way to Him and not be lost because of us being distracted by all the temptations and other things that are obstacles in our path towards Him.

And He has also sent us holy people, those whom He had chosen from among us sinners, all those who have left behind their sinfulness and devoted themselves to the way of the Lord, obeying His laws and walking in the light, that is the saints. And probably, all of us can learn much from the holy saint whose feast we are celebrating today, that is of Pope St. Pius X, the holy Pope of the Eucharist.

Pope St. Pius X, one of the Popes of our recent memory, having lived and worked approximately a century or so from our own time, was born into a poor family living in the northern region of Italy, in the area known as Mantua, as Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto. He was born into a poor family of many children, and yet his parents placed great importance in his education and good upbringing.

He grew up with good upbringing in the faith, excelling in his studies and then also growing deeper in his desire to serve the Lord through the priesthood. Eventually his family’s support and permission, he became a priest and began to minister to the people of his rural and poor area, caring for them and showing them the way to God’s love.

It was told that he was very angry for some people after they did not show proper reverence in his parish church during the Holy Mass, but at the same time he helped these wayward people to find their way through patience and also through hard work. It was exactly as what St. Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews that is our second reading today mentioned, as the love of God our Father is a tough love as what Pope St. Pius X exhibited to his parishioners.

Even when eventually he was appointed as the Bishop of Mantua and as the Patriarch of Venice, he continued to be humble, remembering his roots, and continued that same commitment he had for the poor, the sick and the least among his flock. And as Pope St. Pius X, the leader of the Universal Church, he helped to reform the faith and the Church.

He was particularly renowned for his efforts to return the sense of the sacred in the celebration of the Holy Mass by promoting the use of Gregorian Chants in the Mass. He also advocated for the reception of the Eucharist starting at a younger age, in order to bring the Lord closer to His people at even younger age that they may grow to love the Lord all the more ever more devoutly.

In all these, we saw the examples of a great saint whose life has been filled with good deeds, but we too are capable of the same deeds as well, for all saints were themselves sinners like us, but what matters is that they decided to change their way of life and follow the ways of God. We too can emulate the examples of Pope St. Pius X and be devoted to the Lord as he had devoted himself.

May we grow to love our loving God all the more as we continue to live our earthly existence day after day. May we not fear God for His ways of disciplining us but instead grow to understand that He cares for us and He wants us to be freed from our bondage to sin and eventually be reunited with Him in perfect love. May God bless us and our endeavours, henceforth, now and forever. Amen.

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