Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the continuation of the story of the Maccabees rebellion against the Seleucid Empire as part of our first reading, and we also heard another story, from our Gospel passage, when Jesus told His disciples and the people about the parable of the silver pounds or silver talents according to the other Gospels.

In the first reading, we heard a particularly sad and tragic story of a family, specifically a mother with her seven sons who were arrested because they refused to abandon their faith and Jewish traditions, and were brought to the king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ordered that all the Jewish people in his kingdom must abandon their faith and belief in God, and instead, obey the king and follow his religious customs.

The mother and her seven sons persisted in their adherence to the faith, and steadfastly refused to follow and obey the king’s commands for them to do what were against the commandments of God. Even though the king offered the brothers many generous gifts and the lucrative promises of position, prestige and honour as friends of the king, they still refused to listen to him.

As a result, they were martyred one by one, and to the very end, to the last of the seven brothers, and then to the mother herself, they remained true to their faith in God, and they did not abandon Him by sinning and submitting to the temptations of worldly power and pleasures. They had become examples for all the other Jewish people of their time, of how they should live faithfully even in the midst of great persecutions and tribulations, and remain true to their faith.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke about the parable of the talents in which three servants were given different amounts of silver talents depending on their respective abilities as judged by their master. The master left for a long journey, and found that upon his return, two of the three servants had been investing the silver talents, and thanks to their hard work and acumen, they managed to double the silver talents attained in return.

On the other hand, the lazy servant who refused to do anything with the silver talent hid it, and returned it to the master exactly as how it was given to him. As a result, he was severely punished by his master for his laziness and lack of action, while the two servants who had worked hard with the silver given to them were rewarded and entrusted with the master’s great favour and inheritance.

Then, what is the lesson which we can learn from the Scripture passages that we have heard today? First of all, the silver talents that the master granted his servants, are representative of the faith which God, Our Lord and Master has granted to us, His people. And it is our responsibility and duty, that we use that faith, and live according to that faith, or else, like the lazy servant, that faith will do nothing good for us at all.

The mother and her seven sons in the first reading today showed their way of being faithful to God, remaining true to their faith amidst persecution and challenges, refusing to sin rather than earning the wrath of God. They showed all of us the inspiration of how to be true disciples of the Lord, that is by no longer being ambivalent or ignorant about our faith, and doing what the Lord had commanded us to do in our lives, that our faith is really alive and not merely a formality.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Cecilia, a faithful woman and a holy servant of God, who chose to die for her faith rather than to abandon her faith in Him, and she exemplified the true nature of God’s faithful disciples, that is complete and total surrender of oneself to the will of God. She gave herself and dedicated herself to God, and maintained a state of holy virginity despite being forced to marry a pagan nobleman, who she managed to convert to the faith through her zeal and piety.

She was martyred for her faith during one of the great persecutions of the faithful, choosing to remain faithful to God rather than to surrender to the temptation to sin, much like the mother and her seven sons from the time of the Maccabees. All of these have shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we must be truly faithful to God, and this does not mean that we must lay down our lives like theirs, but we must give our all to God.

Let us therefore draw closer to God, and seek to be ever more faithful and dedicated from now on. Let us grow stronger in our faith, and learn from the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints and martyrs, St. Cecilia and many more, how to be ever true to our faith in God, and how to bear rich fruits of God’s grace, and be rewarded as the master rewarded his two diligent and hardworking servants in the Gospel passage today. May God bless us always, now and forever. Amen.

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