Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the prophet Elijah being taken up into heaven, which we have also heard yesterday in the account taken from the Book of Kings. Today it is the prophet Sirach’s recollection of the events surrounding the last moments of the prophet Elijah on earth, before he was taken up on a flaming chariot into heaven.
The many works of the prophet Elijah was highlighted, how he had faced up even the powerful but wicked kings of Israel, Ahab and his sons, and his wife, Jezebel. He had to face many difficulties and challenges throughout his journey and mission, and he had to flee into the desert for the safety of his life. But God was with him, and he was well taken care of in the desert, and in the hands of the widow of Zarephath.
Yet, as mentioned by the prophet Sirach, despite the many successes Elijah had performed, in how he helped to bring down the wicked kings of Israel of the house of Ahab, and also ended the threat of foreign nations on Israel, and in anointing his successor, Elisha, to carry on his works, but many of the people of God still remained in sin and rebellion against God.
That is why the Lord sent His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to bring into the world the completion of the works which He has begun in His prophets and messengers. He delivered into the world the message of love from His Father, and then, in today’s Gospel passage, we heard of Him teaching the disciples and the people how to pray to God, in the Lord’s Prayer.
We may be wondering what is the significance of the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples to our first reading and also to our own daily lives. However, first of all, we must understand and realise that prayer is central to all Christians’ life. Without prayer, and meaningful prayer that is, our Christian faith and life is likely empty and meaningless. This is what many of us have failed to realise.
That is because we do not truly understand what prayer is. Prayer is not just series of words and supplications, litanies of words to be uttered and said in churches and in our own homes. If we do not mean what we say in our prayers, and if we do not understand prayer and how we can use it appropriately, then we will end up having faith like the Israelites during the time of Elijah, and the faith of the Pharisees.
The Lord’s Prayer shows us what true prayer is all about. First of all, a prayer is a means of communication between us and God, where we open ourselves, our hearts and minds to God speaking to us, just as we also speak to Him. And prayer is not about making demands to God, as what we often would have done. Instead, it is about thanking God and praising Him for all that He has done for us, in times of good and in bad times.
Prayer is also about knowing what God wants us to do in our lives, by listening to His will being spoken in the depth and the silence of our hearts and minds. But too often, we are too preoccupied and busied by the many concerns and worldly things we have in life, in our career, pursuit for money, wealth, power, fame, influence and others, that we have not been able to listen to God speaking to us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, in that case, let us all follow the examples set by a holy servant of God, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born as the eldest son in the influential Gonzaga family, where he was destined to inherit his father’s great wealth and influence. He was brought up with the best training and education to be successful in the world.
However, he experienced many of the excesses and wickedness of the Renaissance era lifestyle, and went through a conversion experience to the faith, especially under the guidance of St. Charles Borromeo, then Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. He went through a life of prayer and chastity, and desired even to become a priest and missionary. His father in particular was furious at the decision taken up by St. Aloysius Gonzaga.
But St. Aloysius Gonzaga eventually had his way, and renouncing all worldly titles, inheritance and rights, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and began his study to become a Jesuit. He was well known for his great piety and asceticism, and his prayerful life was an inspiration to many others in the community. And one day, when a deadly epidemic came to the city, St. Aloysius Gonzaga insisted to help out with the victims, and he fell sick from the epidemic, and died at a young age.
Yet, as we can see, St. Aloysius Gonzaga has shown us what being a true Christian is all about. He gave up everything for God, and followed God’s calling in his life. He devoted himself through deep and living prayer life, and loved his fellow men, caring for others who were sick and dying, at the cost of his own life. He should be our inspiration, brothers and sisters, in how we should live our own lives.
Now, let us pray, that God will continue to inflame in us the love for Him, and the sincere and strong faith, just as what St. Aloysius Gonzaga has shown in his own life. Let us all devote ourselves more faithfully to the Lord from now on, and turn towards Him with all our hearts, minds and love Him with all our might. Amen.