Saturday, 22 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard a key message from the Scripture passages and the Gospel we heard today, namely that each and every one of us Christians have been given gifts from the Lord, and we have the responsibility to cultivate those gifts that we may bear rich fruits of the gifts God had given us, and thus become the source of grace for all who have come into touch with us.

It is a reminder for us all, that we as Christians cannot be passive, and neither can we be ignorant of what we need to do, our roles in this world. For indeed, as we all should be aware of, we are saved not just by saying to the Lord, “Lord, Lord, I believe in You.” But also through an active and genuine faith, meaning that we practice and do things as how our faith in God had taught us and shown us.

A faith that is not practiced nor lived to its fullness is a meaningless and empty faith. Faith must be vibrant and genuine, and not merely an empty proclamation or declaration. It was what the Lord wanted to tell is in the Gospel today. He mentioned about people who died in a terrible accident, and how these compared to the others who died in normal circumstances.

It was not due to their fault that they have suffered the kind of terrible death they endured, but even though it was not so, but everyone ultimately will face death at the end of their lives. It is God alone Who knows how and when we will meet the end of our earthly existence, but then what truly matters will be the deeds and actions we have done in this life we have, be it short or long, and regardless of how we meet our end, which God alone knows.

There is nothing that we have done, or which we have not done, that the Lord will not know and find out through His most omniscient understanding and knowledge, He Who knows everything, even the very deepest secrets that we mankind have hidden from Him, and from one another. But this is where what we do with our lives make a difference with us.

It is here that Jesus used the example of the fig tree in His parable, in order to show the fate of those who were faithful versus those who have not been faithful to God in their ways. The fig tree represent each and every one of us, while the owner and master of the field is the Lord our God. And as fig tree bears fruits that are sweet and nice to be eaten, when the owner planted the fig trees he must have been looking forward to collect those sweet fruits, and either eat them or sell them for profit.

But he was not happy when the fig tree was found to be barren despite what must have been the best of conditions it had been planted in, the best soil, sufficient water, sunlight and all that the plant needs in order to grow well and bear many fruits, sweet and good. But instead, there were none at all. Imagine then, how is this a parallel to us. We have been given many gifts by the Lord, but are we utilising them and cultivating them in our own lives?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul in his letter to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus reminded them and from them to each and every one of us, that from God, the Holy Spirit has been given to us all who believe in Him, and from the Spirit we have received a rich multitudes of gifts, which were given to us. And he mentioned that to different people, different gifts have been given.

It is a reminder to each and every one of us, members of the Church, that we have our respective roles to play, to contribute and do what we can in order to fulfil our parts as God’s people and servants. Fulfilling God’s will is what made us all to grow in strength and faith, and therefore to bear the rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, faith, hope, joy and many others.

And perhaps, we should follow the examples of the great saint whose feast we are celebrating on this day, one whom many of us are familiar with, our own Holy Father for many years, the leader of the Universal Church, Bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter the Apostle, the Vicar of Christ, Pope St. John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, and one of the great figures of the last century.

He was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Krakow in the year 1920 of our Lord, and he had a loving family who cared for him, but he had a rough early years of his life, when one by one his family members were taken away from him. His elder brother passed away due to sickness, his mother also passed away, and eventually during the great conflict of the Second World War, he also lost his father.

But despite the personal tragedies, the difficulties he encountered, and the very fact that his own nation was obliterated and millions of others suffered because of the great war that had happened at that time. He himself brushed against death in many occasions, and had to endure great hardships at that moment of suffering. But that did not stop him from pursuing the path to which God had called him, that is the path of service, the path of priesthood.

Karol Wojtyla was eventually ordained a priest after the war, but just as one problem ended for his country and fellow countrymen, another even bigger problem came to the fore, when Communism came to power in Poland, causing great difficulties for the Church and the faithful in Poland and in other parts of Eastern Europe under the atheist Communist rule.

Nevertheless, he persevered through, and having been made first as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and then succeeding as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope St. John Paul II, led the people of God in persistence and perseverance against the many forms of discriminations and persecutions that they faced.

When the Communist authorities banned and prevented the construction of a new church building in the suburb of Nowa Huta of Krakow, which the authorities intended to be the first town without a church, in opposition to the Church and a new way to oppress it and the faithful people of God. Archbishop Wojtyla refused to budge and led a silent but real opposition against it, and championed the establishment of a church despite the persecution and challenges.

And he continued to devote himself to serve the Lord’s Church and His people even as he was made a Cardinal and thus a Prince of the Church, and then later on was elected as Pope and successor to St. Peter the Apostle and thus leader of the entire Church in 1978. His many works as Pope, his dedications in bringing down the tyranny of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and the world, and his contributions towards peace are truly remarkable.

We all knew of his deeds and contributions both to the Church and to the world. And we have to take note that he is just a man like us, and as I have mentioned earlier on, he did not exactly had an easy life, and he lost most of his family early on in his life. And yet, all of those did not stop him from doing so many good works that throughout his life, and impacted the life of so many others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if Pope St. John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla had shown to us how to be a fruitful son of God, bearing rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, making use of the many gifts God had given him, then we too can also do the same as well. And each of us can contribute in our own ways. Many of us will continue to do as what we have done in this world, the laity, who help the Church in numerous groundwork, while some of us may be called by the Lord to serve Him and His people as priests and religious.

May the Lord help us to realise our vocation in this life, that we may give our best and devote our whole life in full hearted commitment to the Lord and to His ways, and may He bless us and keep us forever in His grace, deliver unto us the fullness of His blessings. Amen.

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