Monday, 24 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the account of the liberation of Israel from the Book of Exodus, at the time when God brought His people to the Red Sea, pursued by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, intent on reclaiming the Israelites who had once been their slaves. But God certainly did not want to see His people to be enslaved once again by the Pharaoh, and therefore, He showed forth His might, opening up the Red Sea before His people and destroyed the chariots and armies of Egypt in the middle of the sea.

That was the sign which God had shown His people, who trembled and complained at the seashore as they saw the chariots and armies of the Egyptians coming upon them. They still did not have faith in God, even though they had seen many times, how God sent ten great plagues against the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, while the people of Israel were safe from all those plagues and troubles.

God had showed His signs and wonders many, many times, and yet they still refused to completely place their trust in Him. They still trusted in their own human intellect, wisdom and power instead of trusting in the power of God's love and providence. The very same attitude was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as we heard it ourselves in the Gospel passage today.

They demanded signs from Jesus, to show them and to make them believe that He was indeed the One, the Messiah promised by God. But those same people had been observing what Jesus had done, and they had even followed Him and encountered Him in many places, witnessing what He had done among the people, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, and casting out demons from those who were possessed.

And despite having seen and witnessed all of these occurrences, which mankind, all their intellect and knowledge were incapable of explaining the rationale for those miracles performed by the Lord, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to believe in Jesus, continuing to doubt Him and in harassing Him and His disciples, asking for more signs and miracles. In fact, they even accused the Lord of having cast out the demons and performing those miracles by the power of the princes of demons.

In all these, we can see how if mankind hardened his heart against God, no matter what they have witnessed and seen before them, all those miraculous experiences and wonders will not sway them to believe or stir them to have faith in God. The Pharaoh himself had seen how mighty God's power was and how great the terrors and sufferings which had been imposed on him and the Egyptian people, and yet, because he hardened his heart before God, he ultimately refused to back down and chased the Israelites right to the Red Sea.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were blinded by their pride, their trust in themselves and in their ways, believing that only their ways and methods were correct. That was why they were not able to bring themselves to believe in what Jesus had taught and preached. Despite all that they have seen, they still thought that it was impossible for them to be mistaken in their ways.

Now, brethren, let us now look into ourselves and find out how our lives have been thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God and place our trust in Him? Or have we been stubborn in our lives, refusing to listen to God? He has showed us all His love and kindness, through all of His works, and culminating in nothing less than His own crucifixion, the time when He died on the cross. That is the sign which He mentioned to the Pharisees, the sign of Jonah, and as He gave to us the ultimate gift of His love, He is calling us into a new life, blessed with faith.

Through His death on the cross, He became and example to all of us, showing us just how much God had done for our sake, for our liberation from our sins and wickedness. Instead of being stubborn and refusing to appreciate God's love, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, we should embrace God's love, and allow Him to come into our hearts, in order to transform us completely, from beings of hatred and darkness, into beings of light and love.

Let us be humble before God and seek to serve Him through all the things we say, act and do. This is what all of us as Christians must do in our respective lives. And therefore, it is perhaps good that we should heed also the examples of St. Charbel Makhlouf or St. Sharbel Makhluf, a holy saint and servant of God whose feast day we celebrate on this very day.

St. Sharbel Makhluf was a Maronite Christian, who lived in a place now known as Syria in the present day. St. Sharbel Makhluf was inspired by the examples of some among his family who devoted themselves to the Lord as priests and religious, and he followed suit in his own devotion to the Lord. He entered the monastery and led a truly righteous and devout life.

He was renowned for his holiness and dedication to the Lord. He inspired many other people to follow in his footsteps and to persevere in their faith, even in the face of persecution and temptation to abandon their faith in God. And therefore, God made him an example to many people, not just during his lifetime, but even also after his death. Many miraculous deeds and amazing, unexplainable things happened at his tomb, and many miracles were attributed to St. Sharbel Makhluf, a holy servant of God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on have no more reservations or doubts in our hearts, but give ourselves wholeheartedly to God, as St. Sharbel Makhluf had done. Just like him, if we give ourselves completely and trust the Lord fully with sincere devotion, then the Light of God Himself will shine through us, and we will rejoice because we have found our true joy, none other than God, Who provides us with everything we need.

May the Lord empower us all to live faithfully in accordance with His will. And may He help us to remain humble and to remain open to His love, and not to be filled with greed and pride, that we will not end up being stubborn and resisting God's love because of all the ego and the temptations which the devil is actively trying to place in our path towards the Lord. May God be with us all, and may St. Sharbel Makhluf intercede for our sake before Him. Amen.

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