Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us the continuation of the story of king David of Israel, how he ascended the throne of Israel after the death of king Saul, his predecessor. Interestingly, what we heard in the Gospel passage today is truly linked to what the story of king David could tell us. In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees slandered and claimed that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Beelzebul.

At the time mentioned in our first reading today, king Saul had perished in the fight against the Philistines at a place named Mount Gilboa. Meanwhile, the supporters of David raised him up to be the king of Israel, but his authority was only acknowledged in Judah, David’s ancestral tribe and homeland. The other tribes of Israel recognised only the family of Saul as the heir of the fallen king, and thus placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son on the throne.

And thus, a terrible civil war arose between David and Ishbaal for a few years, and many of the Israelites perished during that conflict. Some of the most sorrowful tragedies that happened in Israel occurred during that civil war, as murders and assassinations, trickery and betrayal ended up causing much negative emotions running among the people, including between David and his closest advisors.

It was only after the assassination of Ishbaal by one of his own servants, that the civil war was ended, and peace was once again restored to the kingdom of Israel and to its people. Then, as we heard in today’s passage, all the tribes of Israel finally accepted David as their lord and king, and they ended their dispute with him. Yet, later on, after the reign of David and Solomon, the kingdom would once again be torn asunder into two, into the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes of Israel forming a rebel northern kingdom.

As we can see from that historical example, a civil war is truly a bitter time for everyone involved, and for most of the time when civil war has occurred, they have not led the country or the state into a better condition. Bitter divisions and rivalries often continued even long after the conflict has been resolved. Sometimes not all the issues had been settled, and another bitter civil war might just break out again over a mere small spark, as how it had indeed happened throughout history.

That is why, the words of Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage we heard today truly ring true to us, as He rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wrongly accused Him of working with the devil Beelzebul and using the demon’s power to perform His miracles. He said that a kingdom or nation that is divided among itself, would not be able to survive, as it would surely collapse and fail.

And what the Pharisees had accused Jesus with, was indeed totally wrong, and Jesus was truly very angry at them, not only because they have slandered Him and accused Him wrongly, but clearly they knew, among all the people, being well educated and well versed in the Law and the Scriptures, that there was no one else who could have performed all those miraculous deeds but God alone.

That was exactly what the Lord Jesus meant, when He said that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have slandered against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean by slandering against the Holy Spirit? It means that someone voluntarily knows about the works of God, and yet, actively and voluntarily denies that the works of God are genuine and real, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from the historical examples and all that Our Lord has taught us, we should come to realise that it was not Satan and his kingdom that was divided, but instead, it is us mankind, the people of God, who have been divided. The Church itself had been divided and splintered, by those who refused to believe in God’s truth, and as a result, inflicted great pains on the body of the faithful people of God.

That is why, as we happen to be in the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray with sincerity and true zeal, for the Lord to bring all of His beloved people together, that everyone who profess to believe in Him will be united once again in the one Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray that all those who have fallen into heresies and followed the erroneous teachings of man, will repent and return to the loving embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the one and only Catholic Church.

Today we also remember the memory of St. Vincent, a holy deacon and martyr of the faith, who was remembered as an ardent servant of the Lord and a hardworking disciple of Christ, who ministered to the people of the place now known as Zaragoza in Spain, during the time of the great persecutions of Christian under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent was arrested eventually by the authorities, and he was offered safe passage and forgiveness by the government, if he would abandon his faith and burn the Scriptures to show his rejection of the Lord. St. Vincent refused to do so, and he remained resolute in his faith and commitment to the Lord. He stood up for his faith and he preached the truth with such eloquence and passion, that those who heard him were inflamed with anger, and put him to death in holy martyrdom.

May the Lord be with all of us, that each and every one of us as Christians will be able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same God, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. May each and every one of us follow in the footsteps of the courageous faith of our predecessor, St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. May God bless us all and bless our Church. Amen.

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