Thursday, 28 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the beginning of the final downfall of the kingdom of Judah from the Book of Kings, when the king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was taken away into Babylon by its king Nebuchadnezzar and his forces, during the invasion of the Babylonians towards Judah and Jerusalem. The forces of Judah were no match for the Babylonians and they surrendered to the Babylonians.

At that time, the geopolitical situation of the region was volatile, and the kingdom of Judah was caught in between the major powers of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. The kingdom of Judah and its people depended on the Egyptians for protection against the Babylonians instead of depending on God, and they committed sins and wickedness against God. After king Josiah of Judah, there was no more kings of Judah who were faithful to God.

They depended on worldly power and strength to sustain themselves, and they did not repent despite the messengers and prophets sent into their midst calling them to repent from their sins and to turn themselves to God’s mercy and forgiveness. The prophet Jeremiah in particular was active during those days, up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon.

But the people and their king refused to listen to God or to obey His will. They would rather listen to false prophets who arose, claiming that they spoke in the authority of God, bearing false witnesses and falsehoods that blinded the people of Judah from the upcoming retribution and judgment for their sins. They are indeed acting in the manner that the Lord mentioned in the Gospel today, as those who built their houses on the foundation of sand.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus teaching the people with a parable, comparing houses built on two different kinds of foundations. One house was built on the foundation of sand, while the other house was built on the solid foundation of rock. And the Lord mentioned how the house built on the firm foundation of rock was able to withstand the forces of wind and waves that batter it, and remained standing, while the house built on the weak foundation of sand collapsed.

What the Lord mentioned to the people with this parable was in fact comparing those who put their trust in the Lord, which is referring to the house built on the solid rock foundation, with those who place their trust in worldly power, strength and abilities, that is those who built their houses on the shaky and weak foundation of sand. For it is in the Lord alone, that we have a certain and sure future, and not in all worldly things that are merely temporary and uncertain.

Yet, it is often that we mankind put our trust too much in worldly things, shown in how we value money, material possessions, fame, glory and honour. We spent a lot of time trying to gain more of those things for ourselves, in pursuit of a successful career, gaining material benefits and fulfilling whatever standards of success and happiness, in accordance to the ways of the world.

And in doing so, we often end up forgetting the main purpose of our lives, that is, to glorify God, by our actions and deeds in life. Instead, our pride and our ego become the centre focus of our lives. We live not for God and for glorifying Him, but instead, for satisfying our own selfish desires, greed and to entertain our own pride, ambition and ego. That was why the people of Judah and their king had fallen into sin, just as we have fallen.

Now, perhaps each and every one of us should look upon the example of one particular saint, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Irenaeus, a renowned bishop and holy martyr of the Church, was exemplary in his actions in life and in his faith, that he ought to be an inspiration for each and every one of us as Christians. St. Irenaeus was the Bishop of Lugdunum in the Roman province of Gaul, in what is now modern day France.

He was especially remembered for his masterpiece, ‘Against Heresies’ written against the dangerous heresies at the time, particularly Gnosticism which were rampant at his time. The Gnostic heresy was a syncretic and false faith, created by the distortion of the truth of the Gospels and the teachings of the Apostles, which gained a lot of influence and sway in many members of the Church.

In particular, Gnosticism espoused exactly all the things that we have just mentioned earlier, the glorification of the earthly and worldly things, the embrace of the pleasures and corruption of the flesh, against the truth of the Lord, which liberated us from all of these temptations and false happiness. St. Irenaeus devoted himself to combatting these heresies and ensured that his flock remained true to the faith in Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Irenaeus, in how he courageously defended his faith and the truth of Christ against the opposition of the world itself, from the pagans who were persecuting the Church and from the heretics who sought to distort and turn the teachings of the Church upside down? Let us all follow in his footsteps and renew our faith in the Lord.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to watch over us, day after day, that we will grow ever more devoted and more committed to Him, in every actions and deeds we do, so that in all of them, we will always glorify God every day and every moment that we live. Amen.

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