Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures which detailed to us about the moment when Samuel the judge and prophet encountered the king chosen by God for His people Israel, namely King Saul, who came from the tribe of Benjamin. God chose Saul to lead His people, to become the guiding star of His people, leading them towards Him, and turning them from the wrong paths.

Unfortunately, later on, if we continue to read the Book of Samuel, we will realise that Saul fell from God’s grace because he did not obey God and preferred to follow his own judgment, resulting in the people committing sin against God. Saul thereafter was known for his lack of faith, and eventually replacement by David, the king whom God appointed to be king in Saul’s place.

In the Gospel passage today, we see another King, Who was appointed by God and anointed by Him, to be the leader of His people Israel. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ Our Lord is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and the true King of Israel, Who came down into the world, to lead the people of God to Him, as the faithful King Who fulfils perfectly the obligations and duties imposed on the office of kingship.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ is a King Who loves His people and He is truly concerned about their well-being. Instead of being tyrannical and overbearing in the exercise of His power and authority, and instead of expecting to be served and obeyed, He showed us all by example, coming as a Leader Who serves others, Who loves genuinely and cares for the needs of those who are truly in need. He shows mercy to those who are downtrodden, and those who have no one else to care for them.

When people looked down on the tax collectors at the time of Jesus, they did so because of prejudices and biases they had, as they resented the imposition of the Roman rule on their territories. They considered the tax collectors as traitors to the nation and the people, as they collected the taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers. As such, the tax collectors were often ridiculed and ostracised, rejected by the general society.

Yet, the tax collectors are just like us all. They are no different from all the others at the time, no less righteous or wicked than the other groups of people, even comparing it to the Pharisees and the chief priests. They were all sinners, and they were all in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Sin is a disease of the soul, and it corrupts every part of the being. And God came into this world in order to heal us from this terrible sickness.

And as mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself, the tax collectors and others like prostitutes who have been dismissed and ridiculed because of their vices, were actually much closer to the kingdom of God as compared to all those who pretended to be self-righteous, but in reality, inside their hearts and minds, they were more wicked than the tax collectors and the prostitutes, as if these two groups of people sincerely recognised their sins and wanted to be forgiven, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law proudly refused to give in.

This is an important lesson for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must not let our pride and our human ambitions, our stubbornness to come in between us and God’s salvation. It has happened in many occasions, when mankind refused to receive God’s forgiveness, and this resulted in so many being lost to the Lord, falling into damnation in hell.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, a holy bishop and saint, whose dedication to the Lord should be an inspiration to all of us. He was a great defender of the faith, who refused to give in to the demands and the pressures exerted by the heretics, especially those who followed the false teachings of Arius, who rejected the notion that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is equal to the Father.

St. Hilary of Poitiers worked hard among the people, exhorting them to return to the truth found in the Church alone, and to reject all the falsehoods spread by those who have wrongfully believed in it. He had to endure opposition and rejection, and ultimately, he was even exiled due to the machinations of his enemies, all those who in their pride refused to be forgiven, just like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of the time of Jesus.

The exemplary actions of this devout saint and servant of God should inspire each and every one of us as Christians, that we should do our very best and give our all, in trying to reach out to the Lord, Our King and ruler, and follow His examples in all the things we do. We should be concerned about our brothers and sisters, especially those who have been lost to God, just as Jesus calling all the sinners to Him, and just as how St. Hilary worked hard to convert back all those who have fallen into the sway of heretics.

Let us all therefore do our part as Christians, to be role models for each other in faith, so that through our actions, we will be able to do the great works of God’s attempt to save us mankind from our downfall due to sin. May the Lord be with us all, and through the intercession of St. Hilary of Poitiers, may we all draw ever closer to God, and walk forever always in His path. Amen.

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