Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday readings we heard of the reminder that as Christians, all of us must carry our crosses in life and follow the Lord in our respective journeys of faith. We cannot be idle or be ignorant of our obligations, that we have to endure challenges, difficulties and even persecutions as those who believe in God. That was what the Lord Jesus told to His disciples as He foretold His own Passion, suffering and death on the cross, as He would be condemned by His enemies.
In that passage we heard, Jesus clearly told His disciples upfront of what was going to happen to Him, and how the chief priests and the Pharisees would arrest Him and made Him to suffer, endure the torture and humiliations, until His death on the cross, but at the same time, He also revealed the truth about His upcoming glorious resurrection from the dead, in which He would be triumphant over death and evil.
But His disciples were dismayed at what He had said before them, and they refused to believe that it was true, particularly St. Peter, who took Him aside and even berated Him for having said such things. Yet, the Lord Jesus rebuked St. Peter and warned of Satan’s influence, tempting Jesus not to proceed with His plan of salvation. Such was what Satan usually used to tempt us to break away from the way of the Lord, that is by manipulating our fears and our natural selfishness.
Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we mankind are by our nature, prideful, filled with ego and the desire to protect ourselves first before anything else. It is our nature, and our world’s customary ways that we should seek our own personal advancement and glory before we even care to look at others. And that is what the devil has been tempting us to do since the very beginning, to seek the greater glory for ourselves, and not that of God.
And Satan has done it through the world, by the force of persuasion and pressure, for us to conform to his way, and not the way of the Lord. In the second reading today, in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, St. Paul begged the people of God to live righteously and faithfully in accordance with the ways of the Lord, and not to give in to the world’s demands, that they would not be shaped by the world they lived in, but instead be shaped by the Lord’s ways.
This is therefore the challenge which the Lord presented to us all, Christians who live in this world today. Are we able to resist the temptations of the devil through this world, the temptation to satisfy our personal needs and desires, our ego and pride, our greed and all that have become barriers in our relationship with God? Are we able to dedicate ourselves to God in the manner that our Lord Jesus Himself had done, and as His Apostles and many other holy saints had done?
It is easy for many of us to forget about our priorities in life, when we are inundated with so many worldliness, with so many busy schedules and work, in our daily commitments, in all the things we do in our lives, and we end up being engrossed in our pursuit, for power, for wealth and possessions, for recognition and fame in our society and amongst our friends, for pleasures in various kinds and types, to satisfy our needs and desires.
But if we ask ourselves, what is the purpose and meaning behind all of that? How will gaining all of those things benefit us in the end? We human beings are by our nature very difficult to be satisfied, and no sooner that we have gained what we want, we will start to crave for more of what we have received. That is our natural human greed, the temptation of Satan to please ourselves and to satisfy our needs and our ego.
We have to realise that no matter how much wealth we accumulate, how great power and authority we gather for ourselves, how much fame we attain, how great a prestige and honour we have received, and how mighty we are in the sight of the people of the world, none of this will be carried by us over to the world that is to come, when we meet the moment of our death and the time for us to render the account of our lives to the One Who will judge us, that is God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have been so busy trying to preserve ourselves and attain our selfish desires, ahead that of serving the will of God, then in the end, there will be nothing for us to gain, but death, condemnation and eternal suffering. For God will reject all those who have not obeyed His commandments, all those who gave in to the temptations of the devil and all forms of worldliness, and consider them to be outcasts.
And the Lord Jesus Himself showed us the perfect example of obedience to the will of God, as even though He knew that He would have to endure great sufferings, pains and even death on the cross, for the sake of the people, many of whom did not even recognise His work among them, and even though He knew that He would die for the sake of sinners who were often tempted to fall again and again into sin, Jesus went on regardless.
Jesus was also tempted by Satan, who tempted Him to turn the stone into bread when He was hungry during His forty days of fasting, and then, he also asked Him to fall from the top of the Temple in Jerusalem, so that the Angels might lift Him up and all the peoples who saw Him might praise His miraculous deeds. And lastly, we know how the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms and the grandeurs of the entire world, trying to persuade the Lord to abandon His mission. But Jesus did not give up.
All of these should bring us to the realisation that for each of us Christians, the path forward is not necessarily an easy one. And there will be challenges, opposition and temptations that we will face, pressuring us to give up the faith. And we will face those pressures both from outside, from even our friends and families, as well as from within. Now the question is that, are we able to handle those pressures? Are we able to turn away from our pride, ego, greed and all the temptations of the world?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us Christians are not truly faithful to the Lord, and that is why we easily fall into temptation, because our relationship with Him is not strong. We are often too distracted by the business of our lives, that we end up forgetting about God and getting more and more distant from Him. This is not what each of us should be doing. Remember, brethren, that the devil is always active trying to snatch us away from God.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, remembering this fact, let us all, each and every one of us Christians pray for strength, that we will be able to persevere through the challenges and difficulties we will encounter, and indeed have encountered in our journey of faith. Let us all spend more of our time to do what the Lord had asked us to do, to love our fellow brethren, to be generous in giving our time and attention to those who are less fortunate than us, rather than being preoccupied with our own selfish needs and desires.
Let us all seek God through our actions, and let us draw closer to Him, knowing that it is in Him alone that we will gain true and complete satisfaction in life, and not in the false promises and the pleasures offered to us by Satan or his allies. Let us carry together our crosses in life with faith, always trying our best to remain strong in faith and generous in love, that God will always bless us and that He will bring us all into His eternal kingdom. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.