Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Sacred Scriptures in which we are challenged as Christians to be ever more ready and willing to devote our effort and works for the sake of those who are in need of our help. For ultimately our faith cannot be kept within us alone, but instead we must share this faith which we have, and make use of whatever blessings God had given us, for the good of each other.
In the first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jonah, of the time when God called Jonah to be the instrument of His will, to deliver the message to the people of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, that their city together with the entire inhabitants would be destroyed because of the great sins which the Assyrians had committed. But Jonah refused to obey God, and instead he tried to flee the Lord to a faraway land.
Jonah ran away because he was hesitant, and he was unwilling to do what the Lord had wanted him to do. Instead, he tried to do his own will, and fled to the faraway land on a ship. Yet, God reminded him in His own way, that no matter what he tried to do, if the Lord had willed something, His will shall be done. Thus, when the storm came upon the ship carrying Jonah, the shipmen had no choice but to throw him into the water, and a great whale took him in its belly for three days and nights before releasing him on the shore.
Eventually, Jonah continued on and did what the Lord had asked him to do, and as a result, through his warning of the doom awaiting the city and people of Nineveh, the whole city repented from their sins, from the king to the least among the slaves and inhabitants, and showed true and sincere remorse before God. And God stayed His hand, sparing the population of Nineveh and the city the destruction He had planned for them.
Had Jonah continued to refuse to obey the Lord, the city would not have turned away from its sins, and God’s punishment would still be carried out even though it might have gone unannounced. And many more people would have been damned because of the failure of one man to do what he could have done to avoid the catastrophic outcome. And it is a similar case which the Gospel passage today also presented us.
In the Gospel passage, we heard the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, a parable which the Lord Jesus spoke to the people, including the Pharisees, to show them that it was in doing what was pleasing to God, that a man is considered to be righteous, as exemplified in the person of the Good Samaritan. It will also be good if we can understand the nuances and the context of the story as told by Jesus, as we can then truly understand why the Lord Jesus came up with such a parable.
The Jewish people, especially the priests and the Pharisees often looked down on the Samaritans and criticised them as pagans. On the other hand, they looked on themselves as pious and holy, as those whom God had chosen out from the many nations to be His people, and they were fiercely proud about that fact. However, their pride and their stubbornness ended up becoming the sources of their downfall.
In the story that Jesus told the people, three people passed by the man on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, who was attacked by bandits and left to die on the road. The priest and the Levite passed by without stopping to help the poor man, who without any help would surely end up dead. Instead, it was a Samaritan passing by, who stopped and showed compassion on the man.
Jesus was not glorifying the Samaritan or chastising the Jewish priest or the Levite by the fact of their background and race. Rather, through the story, He chastised the inaction of the people who were supposed to be holy and pious, in their mind. Those people were perfectly capable of helping the man, and yet, they ignored him and walked past by. The Samaritan was praised because of his action, and the fact that he ignored the prejudices existing between the two peoples, that a Jew ought to have no interaction whatsoever with a Samaritan and vice versa.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these that we have heard today are reminders for us that as Christians we should not be idle or be lukewarm in our faith. We cannot be passive as Christians, or thinking selfishly only about our own salvation and not be concerned about others. Instead, we have to actively reach out to others, just as our Lord Jesus taught us to love our brethren, and commanded us just as He had commanded His disciples to preach the Good News to all the peoples.
Perhaps we should follow the examples of the holy saints whose feast we celebrate today. St. Denis and his companions were the holy martyrs of the Roman Empire’s persecution of Christians during the time of the Emperor Decius. He was the Bishop of Paris, and together with his companions in martyrdom, were arrested because of their Christian faith. As they refused to recant their faith and abandon the Lord, they were persecuted and tortured.
In the end, they were martyred by beheading. But miraculously, it was told that St. Denis continued to preach to the people around him after his head had been separated from his body. Many people were inspired by this action, a miracle of God that strengthened the hearts of the faithful and stirred the faith in many others who witnessed the miraculous spectacle. St. Denis preached for several more miles before he died.
Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was a renowned priest and hardworking servant of God, who went out of his way to help educate the youths in his areas of work about the faith and spread the devotion to the Lord, through the dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as the popular Forty Hours devotion to the Lord. Through the works of St. John Leonardi, many people were turned from their sins, and became righteous and worthy of God.
As we can see, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the servants of God must be active in their faith, and must be ready to stand up for the Lord whenever it is necessary. And as we heard today from the Scriptures, there are truly many opportunities around us in which we are able to do our part to contribute as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord and walk in His ways.
Let us all therefore, heed the call of the Lord, and do our best in order to devote our time, effort and attention to those who need us. Let us all renew our commitment in faith to God, so that we will always be ever faithful to Him, and be zealous in how we live our lives just as the holy saints, St. Denis and his companions, and St. John Leonardi had lived theirs. May God bless us always. Amen.