Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, in the first reading, as was for the past two days, we heard the story from the Book of the prophet Jonah, as he was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. He relayed the Lord’s message to them, that the city and all its inhabitants will be destroyed because of their sins and wickedness.
But the entirety of the city, from the Assyrian king right down to the lowest slaves showed remorse and sincere repentance from their sins, because they feared the wrath of God, and they understood that if they were to turn away from their sins and repent, God might spare them from their fated destruction. They listened to the Lord and had a change of heart, and for that they were vindicated.
Yet, Jonah was angry at God for having forgiven the Assyrians and spared their city from destruction. He could not understand why God would be doing that, while he had gone into all the trouble to come to Nineveh to proclaim God’s wrath on the city. In his anger against God, he shut himself from God, and when a tree that had given him solace and protection died, he was again angry against God.
And this was where God pointed out to Jonah, that if he was so concerned for the life and fate of a single tree, then He as God, the God and Creator of all mankind, could not be not concerned of the fate of so many people under His care. The life of all mankind, all of His creations are important to Him, from the holiest ones to the ones with the greatest sins.
That is why the people of Nineveh were spared from destruction when they showed genuine remorse and repentance from their sins. Ultimately, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise and understand that God does not hate the sinner, but instead He hates the sins that we, who are sinners, have committed. Ultimately, the anger of God is directed at us because of our sins, and not because He has issues with us as a person.
Therefore, all of us should remember that we are all called to a life of holiness, and if we have sinned, we must not be afraid to seek for God’s forgiveness. God is always ready to forgive us our sins and to be reconciled with us. He wants us to return to Him, but the question is, are we willing to be forgiven and do we want to reconcile with Him? It is often that we reject God’s offer of forgiveness and mercy, and decided to continue down our own path.
That is because God often has no place inside our hearts, filled with ego and selfishness, with pride and arrogance, with stubbornness and vanity. We often refuse to admit that we have been wrong, that by sin, we have been made to be imperfect and corrupted. And in our persistence, we continued and doubled down on the path of sin, and many of us therefore became separated from God.
What should we do, then, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is why we need to deepen our relationship with God, through a good and healthy, vibrant and active prayer life. We have to be in constant communication with God, that we may know what it is that He wants us to do, and we may be able to steer through the challenges of this life, even with difficulties and challenges that await us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should follow the examples of the holy saint, whose feast we celebrate today. Today, we celebrate the feast of the holy Pope, Pope St. John XXIII, whose memory may still be fresh in the mind of some people, as he passed away just over five decades ago, remembered by his epithet, ‘The Good Pope’ and as the one who called, organised and opened the Second Vatican Council in the year 1962.
Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in northern Italy, born of a poor farmer’s family. Although he was born poor, but he had a passion for learning, as well as great love for God. Naturally, his family being a poor, farmer family, would want him to continue the family legacy and become a farmer. But God had a different plan for young Angelo, and in his deep spiritual life and relationship with God, he heard God’s call, and eventually with the help and support of many, he became a priest.
And as he continued to rise in the Church hierarchy, becoming the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and then the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey, he remained humble and dedicated to the Lord, placing the Lord and His people ahead of everything else. He cared for the weak and for the poor, and worked hard to guide the people of God through difficult times, especially during the Second World War.
As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII remained dedicated as ever to the Lord, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that the faithful benefitted the most from the works of the Church, through evangelisation and reform in the Church. Pope St. John XXIII showed us all, that through a close and healthy relationship with God, all of us can gain plenty, and we can find our true purpose and vocation in life.
Let us all therefore pray, asking for the intercession of holy Pope St. John XXIII and the other holy men and women of God, that we may be strengthened in our faith by the Lord, and by deepening our relationship with Him, we may turn away from our sinful ways, and repenting sincerely from those wickedness we have committed, we may be forgiven from our sins, just as God had spared the people of Nineveh from destruction, and in the end, we may merit the glory of eternal life with God.
May God bless us all, and may He continue to guide us, and to remain with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.