Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture reminding us to be faithful and to have courage in the midst of difficulties and challenges that we may have encountered as we lived our lives filled with faith in God. In the first reading today, we heard of how the prophet Elijah stood up against the king of Israel, Ahab, and his four hundred and fifty priests, all serving and worshipping Baal, the pagan god of Canaan.
At the Mount Carmel, Elijah stood alone against those multitudes of people arrayed against him and against God, as the people of Israel have followed their kings and rulers into error and into worship of pagan idols. Only a handful remained in their faith in God, including the prophet Elijah, whom God had sent to call the people back to Him, and to reconcile those who had wandered away from His path.
Yet, despite all the persecution he had faced, having to flee many times for his life, and despite all the difficulties and the odds stacked against him, the prophet Elijah continued his ministry with zeal, and in a sense, it culminated in that great showdown at Mount Carmel, where before the people of Israel and their king, God showed His majesty and truth before them, against their false gods and idols.
Even though there were four hundred and fifty of them, none of the prayers of the priests of Baal were heard. There was no fire provided to them, to burn their offerings on the altar, showing to the people how false and useless their pagan worship had been. On the contrary, although Elijah was alone, but God was with him. And despite having poured a lot of water on the offerings and the altar, fire came down from heaven, so powerful and intense that it consumes everything including the water and the stones.
From this, we can see just how God is always faithful to His Covenant with us, and He will never abandon those who have always walked in His presence. He will always be with those who are faithful to Him, even during difficult and challenging times. In the end, despite all the sufferings, persecutions and difficulties, God will always triumph against those who have made themselves to be His enemies.
That is why, He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the fulfilment of His long promised salvation to us, to be the One to fulfil the entirety of the Law He had given to us mankind. Unfortunately, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, and as we can see throughout the entirety of the Gospels, we see how the Lord Jesus was treated much in the same manner as how the prophet Elijah and the other prophets had been treated.
They had not been obedient to the true Law, and instead, twisted the Law to their own desires and to their advantage. They made use of the Law to serve their own selfish greed and pride, and as a result, they were no different from those priests of Baal who worshipped the devil and Baal, and not God, as they put their own selfish needs and desires ahead of their obligation to God, to the point that they opposed the Lord Jesus and made His works difficult.
But the Lord pointed out their errors and reemphasised how He came to fulfil the Law and complete what the Lord had promised His people, the salvation which He had vowed to give them. He still persevered regardless of the challenges He faced, just as the prophet Elijah had done. And today, another faithful servant of God is also remembered, that is St. Anthony of Padua, the renowned priest and Doctor of the Church.
St. Anthony of Padua was born into a wealthy and influential Portuguese family, but was attracted to the way of life of the consecrated religious orders, and eventually ordained to the priesthood and later on, joined the Franciscan order. He devoted his life to the service to God, and to a life of prayer and preaching the faith before the people. His sermons and preachings were so eloquent and inspired by the Holy Spirit, that many people came to hear him and were converted to the truth.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring stories of faith from these faithful servants of God, and from the Lord Himself, in what they had done, let us all reevaluate our own lives, and seek to turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and do our very best to be faithful to God in the same manner, by living our lives filled with love for God, as well as love for one another, even if we face challenges for who we are, as Christians, as God’s own people.
Let us all stand up together for our faith in God, and let us not let challenges and difficulties to hinder us or keep us away from loving God as we should. May the Lord be with us, and may He continue to watch over us, and bless all of our endeavours and good works of faith. Amen.