Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day what we heard from the Scripture passages spoke a very clear message to us, reminding each and every one of us that our faith cannot be kept on the basis of our words and promises alone, but must be true actions and real, genuine showcase by those same actions, showing that we are not making empty and meaningless promises without any backing by our dedication to do what we say we will do.
First of all, now let us all look into the context of the Scripture passages today from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah and from the Gospel passage. The essence of what we have just heard is truly about how the people of Israel have always looked highly upon themselves, and in pride and boasting, they have always boasted of having been the chosen people of God. Similarly, the Pharisees, elders and the teachers of the Law all have pride in themselves as those who were educated and seen as the guardians of the laws of Moses.
However, in their pride, they have become boastful and conceited, and they forgot what it truly means to become faithful disciples and followers of the Lord. They have misused their position, power and authority for the wrong and wicked purposes. And for the case of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, while outwardly they seemed to be faithful and devout, but in truth, as Jesus Himself had pointed out, they were only serving their own purposes.
As we have seen as well, the Israelites put a great pride in being the descendants of Abraham, but they were not always faithful to God, and indeed, in many occasions, they abandoned Him for the allures of the pagan gods and idols such as Baal and Asherah, succumbing to the temptations of worldliness and refusing to obey the Lord, just as they had done when they worshipped the golden calf at Mount Sinai, just after God had liberated them from Egypt with His great power.
They often looked down on the pagans and those they deemed as sinful people, those who were tax collectors, those who were afflicted with diseases and afflictions like leprosy, paralysis, and those who were possessed with evil spirits, those who were prostitutes and very poor in the society. But they themselves were sinners, just as much as those people they have despised.
And while they were all talking and preaching about repentance and following the laws of God, they did not do what they have said and preached. Instead, they did the opposite of what they were preaching. That was why in another occasion, Jesus also rebuked these people by saying that while the people of God should listen to their words, they should not imitate what they were doing.
Then this is where it comes to us all as Christians. We profess our faith in God, but do we do as what the Lord had asked us to do? Have we acted in accordance with God’s laws and commandments? Or have we instead chosen to do what we like to do and ignore or reject what we do not like to do? Have we become like those who chose what they want to do because it is convenient to them and good for their standing in the world?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians and those who believe in God, we cannot pick and choose what we want and do not want to do, but instead we have to believe completely in the entirety of God’s ways and commandments, and we have to do something about it, that is to act in accordance to those ways. If we do not do so, then we will bring about scandal to our faith, as many others had shown, those who preached and talked one thing but acted in a different way.
Who will believe us and follow our lead if we do not practice what we preach? As. Christians, it is important for us to spread the Good News of God to other people, but if we are only all talk and have no action to back these up, then no one will believe in us. Instead, what we will receive is a rebuke from the Lord much as He had rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy.
Perhaps we should also heed the examples of today’s great saint, the holy martyr St. Lucy or St. Lucia, a renowned Roman martyr and virgin, who died defending her honour and faith in the Lord, refusing to compromise on her beliefs and ways, rejecting wickedness and sin even in the face of suffering and death. St. Lucy was born in Syracuse in southern Italy and spent her life there during the years of the great persecution of the faithful under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
She was born of a noble family, and vowed to remain in the state of holy virginity throughout her life. She persuaded her mother to donate much of her family’s wealth and possessions to the poor and the needy, as those who were generous and loving will receive the good graces from God. But this came to the attention of the local governor who persecuted her and forced her to offer sacrifices to the Emperor, which she refused.
And when the governor punished her to be defiled in a brothel, the soldiers sent to arrest her and bring her there were not able to move her, even when the whole company tried to pull her away. She was tortured and made to suffer greatly, but she maintained her faith and composure till the very end, and she foretold that all the persecutions of the faithful would cease soon, which did happen just a decade after her martyrdom.
Through the courage and the faith of St. Lucy, all of us should have seen how we ought to live out our lives in faith. Yes, we should devote ourselves to the Lord with true and real actions and not just with words. Let us all be charitable and be caring and loving to the poor and the needy, and be courageous to stand by our faith in God when the time and occasion rises to do so.
We should not be easily swayed by the temptations of the world, by the temptations of the flesh and of pleasure, but instead, let us all work together to become ever more devoted and good servants of our Lord in all of our words, actions and deeds. May St. Lucy be our intercessor before the Lord, praying for our sake that God will always bless us and guide us. Amen.