Monday, 7 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to the story of how the people of God, the Israelites, complained against the Lord and His servant Moses, for having brought them out from the land of Egypt, where they were enslaved by the Egyptians for many years. God saved them all through His mighty power, and through Moses, His servant, He led them out of the land of their slavery into the desert and journeying towards the Promised Land.

But the people were not accustomed to such a journey, and despite all the things that God had done before them, and which He had done for their sake, they refused to obey Him and grumbled against Him. They did all sorts of things in opposition to God, including even in raising up a pagan idol, specifically a golden calf which they claimed to be their god. They grumbled that at least in Egypt, they would be able to enjoy food and had enough to drink, even if they were enslaved.

Even though God had given them the very bread from heaven, in the form of manna, every day without fail, providing them food without end, and also clear and sweet water to drink in the middle of a vast desert, protecting them from their enemies and crushing all those who plotted for the destruction of His people, but the Israelites continued to harden their hearts and they refused to listen to Him, or to Moses.

And in the first reading which we have today, therefore, we heard how Moses reached his breaking point, the moment of his despair and helplessness, having been assaulted and pressured by all those who have complained against him and against God's laws. He was tasked to lead God's people through the desert on their journey to the Promised Land, and yet, it seemed that the journey was really not an easy one at all. He was frustrated, and went on to share his frustrations with the Lord.

This in fact ties in perfectly well with what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, when we heard about the moment when the disciples were assaulted with great waves and strong winds, as they boarded the ship on their journey across the lake of Galilee. Jesus was not with them, and the disciples were scared at the winds and the waves, their courage surely faltered in the midst of such a storm, which in another Gospel passage, when Jesus was indeed with them, they cried out to Him, fearing for their lives.

When they saw Jesus walking on the sea in the midst of the waves, they refused to believe that He was indeed Whom they had seen. Jesus had indeed walked on the sea towards them, but they thought that the One they saw could not have been the Lord, but instead a ghost. This was pretty much just as how the Israelites refused to believe in God, even though they had seen the wonders and the works of God.

These stories and lessons from the past are reminders for each and every one of us Christians, that our path in life will not be an easy one, but instead will be filled with many obstacles, challenges and difficulties. We will encounter moments of difficulty, temptations from various sources and the pressure will be exerted upon us to make us to give up this journey and struggle that we do in order to reach out to the Lord.

The story of Jesus walking on the sea in the middle of a great storm itself is rich in representations and meanings, through which God wants us to understand better His intentions for us. The disciples represent all of us the followers of Christ, all Christians who have been gathered together, in the Church of God, which is often represented as a boat or a ship. The great waves and the winds represent the challenges and the forces arrayed by the world against us.

It is easy for us to stumble and to panic, if we do not have a strong faith in the Lord, as the Israelites at the time of Moses, and the disciples of the Lord Jesus had done, when they were faced with difficulties and challenges from various sources. But the Lord is in fact always with us, guiding us and journeying with us, only that we often did not realise that He had done so.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because we are too focused on ourselves, on our needs and desires, on our own personal human ambitions and wants, which resulted in our inability to shake off the temptations of the world, which Satan always constantly place on our path in order to tempt us into sin, and therefore, to disobey God.

There will always be storms and obstacles in our path, but if we keep our faith in God strong, we will be able to persevere through and find our way forward to Him. This is where we should seek to learn from the examples of the holy Pope St. Sixtus II and his fellow companions, martyrs of the faith and defenders of the Church of God, and St. Cajetan, a holy and devout servant of God, a holy priest of God.

Pope St. Sixtus II lived during a turbulent time of the Church, at a time when the faithful and the Church were persecuted terribly by the Roman authorities. The Roman Emperor Valerian declared a wide-ranging and massive persecution of the Christian faith, and Pope St. Sixtus II led the faithful through that difficult time. It was told that he and many other priests, deacons and the faithful were arrested, imprisoned and eventually ended in their martyrdom, refusing to give up their faith.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was a renowned priest who was remembered for his hard works among the people, especially his efforts to help the people who have financial difficulties, establishing institutions that champion the cause of the poor, and place the needs of the less fortunate ahead of profit-seeking and greed. He ministered to the poor and the needy, showing to all of us what each and every one of us can do in order to become better Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the faith and dedication of the holy martyrs, Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions, as well as the generosity and charity shown by St. Cajetan, the holy priest of God should inspire each and every one of us Christians to live more and more faithfully in accordance with the will of God, obeying His laws and commandments, and placing our trust in Him.

No matter what, our faith in God must remain strong, for He is ever faithful and loving towards us. Let us all no longer be deterred by the challenges and obstacles we may encounter in life, and let us no longer be dictated by the whim of our human desires and greed, but instead, let us walk only in the path of God from now on, letting go of those things that have hindered us all these while, and find our way to God through perseverance and hard work.

May the Lord help us in our endeavours, and may He bless our works. Let us ask the holy saints, Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions, and St. Cajetan for their intercession before God. Pray for us, o holy saints, that we may overcome our obstacles in life, and persevere in faith as you all had, that one day we may glorify God together with all of you in the eternal glory of heaven. Amen.

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