Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of how the prophet Elijah was succeeded by his successor, Elisha, and Elijah himself was taken up by God in a flaming chariot, after which he was no longer present in this world. He was one of the few, including Enoch from the Book of Genesis, who was taken up to heaven, for the latter, it was his righteousness and upright life that made him to deserve heaven.
Elisha would go on to continue the works that Elijah had done in the land of Israel, going from places to places, and at times, even he had to go up against kings and rulers. Yet, Elisha fulfilled his calling and mission as faithfully as Elijah had done, and his many exploits, miracles and works can be found in the rest of the Book of Kings. Certainly, the calling is one of hardships and challenges, where difficulties and oppositions awaited him, just as Elijah had suffered.
Then, in the Gospel passage today, we listened to the words from the Lord Jesus, Who warned His disciples and followers not to be haughty, proud or ambitious because of their actions, or because of the achievements that they have made in life. He told them not to trumpet and glorify themselves for all the great things they have done, and instead, they must do them for the right purpose and intention.
He said the same thing with the practice of fasting and almsgiving, in which again, He exhorted them to avoid doing them for the sake of glory, human praise or influence and fame within the community. Instead, again, they must be humble, and do those practices required by the Law, with the right purpose, intention, and indeed, understanding of how those practices could benefit them.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, in order to be able to understand what the Lord Jesus told the disciples, we have to understand the context and the audience involved at that time. The Lord was clearly criticising the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who had followed Jesus and tried to undermine His work, criticising Him at every turn. In one occasion, they asked why they and the disciples of St. John fast while the disciples of the Lord did not.
But in truth, they fasted because they wanted to be seen, and they did their almsgiving with much revelry and signs so as to be noticed by other people. The Lord also criticised the way they pray, so as to bring people’s attentions to them. Ultimately, they did not pray, fast, or do their almsgiving for the right intentions and purposes, but rather to satisfy their own personal greed and ego.
And the Lord was angered at this, because those were the ones who had been entrusted to guide the people of God, and they have been given the authority to do so, but they misused their power and authority to satisfy their own interests and desires. And that in fact, also made others to lose their faith, or to go into the wrong ways, by following the wrong examples of their leaders.
Take for example, the two prophets we mentioned earlier, namely Elijah and Elisha. Both of them had to undergo persecution and rejection from the people, from the kings of Israel, and especially for Elijah, he had to go into exile at times to avoid the persecution carried out against him and face challenges, compounded by the famine and the lack of rain that God sent against the Israelites at the time.
Had they been prophets to seek their own personal advancement, glory, fame or influence, they would not have wanted that path of great suffering, where the returns for themselves were not just minimal, but even their own lives and survival were under serious threat. Yet, they remained true and faithful, committed to their calling because they have real faith in them.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we are therefore all called to be truly faithful to God, by putting Him at the centre of our lives. That is how we become genuine and true Christians, in action, deeds and words, in all the things we say and do. We should not seek our personal glory and fame by being followers of Christ, but rather, let us be humbler, the greater we are, and as we are given positions of power and responsibility, let us exercise due caution to do our best, not for our personal gain, but for the well-being of everyone we work with.
May the Lord be with us all and may He continue to bless us all in everything we do, and guide us to His everlasting glory. Amen.