Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard about the Church of God, established by the power and the authority of God in this world. The Church of God was established by none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord Himself, Who is also the Head of the entire Church. And He established it on the foundation He has built through the Apostles, entrusting everything to His Apostle St. Peter, whom He made to be His Vicar or representative in this world.
And what is the Church of God? Does it refer to the buildings or the structures which we have built as places of worship, in our churches and chapels, in our Cathedrals and Basilicas? No, brothers and sisters in Christ, for the Church of God refers to each and every one of us who believe in God, who have made the profession of faith and then have been baptised and brought into the full communion with the entire Church, with all the other people faithful to God.
That is the meaning and the real nature of the Church of God. And the Church of God is not just a meaningless or empty being or organisation, for as we heard in the Gospel today, to His Church, God has granted the power and authority over souls of mankind, the power to forgive sins and the authority to open the gates of the kingdom of heaven to whoever it deems to be worthy and close it from all those whom it deems to be unworthy.
The Church has been given a great authority and with it comes a great responsibility. This authority has been granted to the Apostles as the leaders of the Church, who are the pillars of the Church and whose centre is the faith of St. Peter and his successors, who are our Popes as the Vicar of Christ. The Church is the guide for all the faithful, the means through which God calls all of His people to return to Him.
The Church is often compared to a boat or a ship, which is why our churches are also a representative of a ship, and the reason why the centre passage and main body of the church buildings are called nave, from the word navis or ship in Latin. When all of us are gathered together to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we all symbolise and continue to remember this link to all of us being gathered together in God’s Ship, His Church, as we journey together through the storms and troubles of this world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, however, at this time, the Church is often under attack from the world, from all those who resist the works of God and from all those who refused to listen to Him and those who did not understand the works of God which He has done through His Church. There are many of those who did not understand the purpose and the meaning of the Church, and many are misled by the falsehoods and the lies of the devil. He is always active seeking to undo the good works of God and His Church.
Indeed, if we recall the earlier days of the Church, during the time of its earliest existence, we remember how the Church and the faithful were even persecuted for their faith, and they had to suffer greatly for what they believe in the Lord. It was truly a very difficult time to be a Christian and as a member of the Church. And by our human logic, all of them should have saved their own selves and seek to safeguard their own lives by abandoning the Church and its teachings, leaving behind the comfort of God’s salvation for the false comfort of money, worldly glory and possessions.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, is it not then the same with many of us living in this world today? In our world today, we may not encounter the same kind of persecutions as what the early Christians and martyrs have experienced. Yet, many of us may not realise that there are still many of the faithful who are persecuted daily for being the members of God’s Church and for keeping their faith in Him alive without compromise. And they did not give up their faith, while many of us grumble and groan at the thought of going to the Holy Mass each and every Sundays.
And many of us readily give in to the temptations of worldliness, and all of the persuasions with which the devil is trying to lure us away from the path towards God’s salvation by snatching us away from the hands of God’s Church. Why is that so? That is because our faith in God was not strong enough. And we also need to ask ourselves, whether we have been truly faithful to God, in all words, actions and deeds, or if we have been lukewarm all these while. Which of these two categories do we belong to?
Yet, at the same time, all of us cannot and should not come to the conclusion that God’s Church is a perfect Church for the perfect. Yes, the Church is divine because it was founded by God and given the authority over souls and to forgive sins through its priests, but at the same time, it is also made of us humans, who are members of the Church and who are also sinners. Even the Apostles themselves were sinners as well, and we knew how St. Peter even denied the Lord three times at the time of His Passion, and the other Apostles also fled from the Lord.
Through the Church, all of us are called together by God, and lifted up from the darkness of this world, that together, as the whole Church likened to as a large ship, we may persevere through the challenges and difficulties in this world through our faith and obedience to God, by following the teachings of the Church, which itself have received from the hands of the Apostles, who received it from none other than the Lord Himself.
Therefore, let us remember, that as Christians, all of us are not just those who are concerned about our own salvation, but also the salvation of all the peoples, by our work and commitment, by our contributions to the Church of God, by which we may bring greater glory to God and perform His works among His people. And through the Church, we are going through this journey of faith together, no longer staying on and living in a state of sin, but through a conscious effort seeking for change and conversion, that while we were once sinners, we may become worthy of God through repentance and good deeds.
Let us today as we reflect on the Scripture passages we have just heard, and through all the discourse I have just spoken about, think of what are the things and ways in which we as Christians can contribute more, as members of God’s Church, that we will be able to stand firmly and faithfully amidst the challenges facing us, that following in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, we will no longer be lukewarm in our faith, but from now on, give our hundred percent to the Lord.
Let us no longer take our faith and the Church for granted, but instead, work together as His one united Church, as one people of God, seeking to do God’s will and fulfil what He has commanded us all to do, that is to become His witnesses and bring forth His Word to all the nations, and bring them to the salvation of God in His Church. This is our mission, and this is what we need to do. Let us be inflamed by zeal in our lives, that our faith will be true and living for all to see, that all those who see us, hear us and witness us, they may also believe in God.
In that way, we will be fishers of men, and many more souls will be saved, and not even the gates of hell can stand against God’s Church and all the multitudes of those who have been saved. Let us all now pray for all of our sake, and for the sake of God’s Church: May the Lord bless us all and guide us all in this journey of faith, and bless His Church in this world. May He bless our Pope, the successor of St. Peter, that he may continue to lead us all, leading us to Christ, with the help of the bishops and the priests, those who have been called to follow the footsteps of the Apostles and the servants of God. Amen.