Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the moment when the House of God, the magnificent Temple built by Solomon, the king of Israel, was completed and consecrated to the Lord. The Temple was meant to be the dwelling of God among His people, as the Ark of the Covenant bearing the Tablets of the Law was placed in the holiest part of that edifice, and as we heard in the passage today, God Himself came down to dwell among His people.
The grand celebration that followed the completion and consecration of the Temple was truly amazing, as we were told how thousands upon thousands of sacrificial offerings were made, and many days of celebrations followed after the main celebration, with feast, revelry and rejoicing among the people. Such was the grand spectacle of the celebrations that came with the opening of the House of God. And God Himself came to dwell among His people.
However, unfortunately, for all of its amazing architecture and grandeur, the people of God did not remain faithful to Him. Even king Solomon himself would fall into sin and led the people into the worship of the pagan gods and idols. And many successive kings of Judah would continue to sin against God, and doing what were wicked in God’s sight. The Temple was defiled in multiple occasions, and eventually, it was destroyed by the Babylonians at the end of the kingdom of Judah.
But God did not give up on His people, despite having punished them for their lack of faith and waywardness. He gave them opportunity after opportunity to repent from their sins, and He sent them prophets after prophets to call them to turn away from their wickedness. In the end, He fulfilled His promise to us, by sending us the Saviour, in Jesus Christ His Son, Whose works and exploits we heard in our Gospel passage today.
If God once came down to dwell in a House made from gold and finest timber wood, to dwell among His people, then, He had come by Himself in the flesh, in the Real Presence, as the Divine Himself has become tangible and real, no longer hidden from our sight, but revealed to all the people who witnessed His coming, and to many others who knew Him because of the testimony made by all those who saw His coming.
God loves each and every one of us, His beloved children. He has not abandoned us when we are in need, and He always provided for us through His love. However, many of us have not realised that we have been receiving this generous love all these while. And we continue to sin before God, rebelling against Him and by our disobedience we defiled the Temple of His Holy Presence, our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.
Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, through the Sacrament of Baptism we have been made nothing less than God’s own adopted sons and daughters. And by receiving the Eucharist, we have received the Real Presence of Our Lord in His Most Precious Body and Blood into our bodies, and therefore we have become God’s holy Temple, the Houses in which He dwells.
Yet, many of us defiled this House by our sins and wickedness, by our refusal to listen to the Lord and to His ways. Instead, we rather chose to continue down the path of sin, and immerse ourselves deeper and deeper into the trap laid unto our path by Satan. There are all sorts of defilements and wicked things we have done, by indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, immoral behaviour, corruption and collusion, by our allowance of the devil to come into our lives.
If we continue to do so, we will be destroyed because of our great sin of having defiled the Temple and House of God that is our body, our heart, our mind, our soul, and indeed, our whole being. Is it what we want to happen to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Surely we do not want it to happen. I am sure that we want to be forgiven our sins instead and want to be reconciled with God.
However, all these will not come to us easily and without challenges. There will be plenty of opposition, difficulties and suffering, and without perseverance and strong courage and commitment, many of us will falter along the way. Many of our holy and devoted predecessors have suffered similarly, even to the point of suffering death. St. Agatha, the saint whose memory we celebrate today, is one of them.
St. Agatha was a native of Sicily and one of the most venerated martyrs of the Roman Empire. She lived during particularly difficult time in the history of the Church, as the Roman state and the authorities actively persecuted Christians and destroyed many of the churches established throughout the Empire, especially under the Emperor Decius. It was told that St. Agatha devoted herself completely to God, living a life of holy virginity consecrated to God.
She rejected the amorous advances of a corrupt and pagan official who was enamoured by her beauty, and the official in his anger, reported St. Agatha to the authorities, who arrested her and tortured her. Despite all that they had done, and all the pains inflicted upon her, she remained strong in her convictions and she refused to abandon her faith in her God. She was martyred defending her faith, and her commitment and courage to the very end inspired many of the Christians generations after her.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on these which we have just discussed and remember the examples of St. Agatha, her courage and determination to remain true to her faith and obey the Lord despite the temptations and pressures to do otherwise. May the Lord give us the strength to persevere in our own faith journey, that we may draw ever closer to Him. May God bless us all. Amen.