Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about how difficult it is for us to go to the kingdom of God and receive God’s eternal grace, as Jesus our Lord Himself put it, that the way is narrow, through a narrow gate, which is in fact the reality of our faith and our lives. That may come as a shock to many of us who think that as long as we are Christians, and as long as we belong to the Church, then we are guaranteed our salvation.
No, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not the reality. Indeed, salvation comes only through the Church, but it does not mean that if we have belonged to the Church and then does nothing or even worse, by committing sin, then we are still assured of our salvation. In one occasion, the prophet Ezekiel mentioned in his book, that the Lord said that if a righteous man should sin before the Lord, then he shall be judged by that sin he had committed.
What does this mean, brothers and sisters? It means that all of us as Christians cannot be ignorant of our obligations to live a good and faithful Christian life, according to the will of God and obeying the commandments which the Lord had given us, the commandments to love God and to love our brethren in the same manner that we have loved ourselves.
We must be faithful as Abraham, our forefather in faith, had been faithful to the Lord. In these days, the first readings of the Liturgical Year cycle are taken from the Book of Genesis, telling of the story of God’s work and grace among His people, and particularly we are now focusing on the example of Abraham, the forefather of many nations and one of the great servants of God.
Abraham himself did not have it easy in life, as did the many other servants of God, as many of them had to endure persecution and challenges in their life, because of their righteousness and commitment to the way of the Lord. But nevertheless, they remained faithful, and Abraham in particular, remained faithful to God’s promise to him, that He will bless him and his descendants, because of his commitment to the Covenant which He had made with Abraham and his descendants.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the path of the Lord is not an easy one for us to take, for it is often that when we choose to follow Him, there will be opposition and challenges, even coming from those who are close to us, from even our families, relatives and from the society. But are we ready to stand up for our faith and truly defend it, not with violence, but through genuine living of our faith, by the outpouring of the Christian love which we ought to show our fellow brethren.
Perhaps all of us should follow in the example of St. Cyril of Alexandria, the holy bishop and Patriarch of Alexandria, who lived and worked during the difficult time in the history of the Church, during its early days, when the Church, especially in Alexandria in Egypt, were divided against each other, splintered due to the many competing teachings and heresies.
St. Cyril of Alexandria was involved in great dispute against prelates and leaders in the Church who advocated heresies against the true and orthodox faith. He rebuked and opposed the heresy of Nestorianism, led by the powerful Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, who enjoyed the backing of the Imperial family. He was involved in quite a number of tensions because all of these, and had to even face persecution and rejection for a while.
But St. Cyril of Alexandria did not give up despite all the difficulties and challenges, and he continued to fight for the sake of the true faith, which eventually prevailed over the falsehood of the heresies. Had he not done what he could to stop the spread of the prevailing heresies, countless souls would have fallen away from salvation, and many more people would not have been able to go through the narrow gate to God’s salvation.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we strive to help one another to reach out to the Lord? Indeed, it is not an easy path for us to tread, but it is thus also very important for us to help one another, for if we work together, as fellow brethren in the Lord, as fellow disciples of God, then we will have a better path for us forward, as we shoulder one another on our journey towards God.
Let us all be exemplary in all of our words, actions and deeds, so that through all of these we may inspire more and more people to turn away from their sins. Remember, that while the Lord is ever loving and ever merciful, but at the same time, He is always despising our sins and wickedness. And should our sins remain with us without repentance, we shall be rejected and our lot will be suffering in the eternal darkness.
Let us all turn towards the Lord, and inspired by the zeal and examples of St. Cyril of Alexandria, the faithful defender of the faith, let us live genuine and active Christian lives from now on. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.