Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture, showing us the kind of opposition and difficulties that we, as the servants and followers of God may face in our life, over our faith, dedication and commitment to God, in doing His will and in performing His works, just as the prophet Amos and just as the Lord Jesus Himself had experienced.In the first reading today, we heard of the experiences of the prophet Amos, who was sent by God to the northern kingdom of Israel. To put everything into context, this happened during the time when the northern kingdom, called Israel, just broke off, not too many years previously, from the united kingdom ruled by kings David and Solomon. Solomon had disobeyed God and therefore, his kingdom was torn apart from under his heirs.

But Jeroboam, the king which God appointed over Israel’s northern portion had disobeyed God as fast as he was secure in power over his domains. In his fear that he would lose his kingdom and power because the people continued to go to the Temple and House of God in Jerusalem, he built two golden calves in his kingdom and ordered the people to worship them as their new gods instead of the One and only True God.

Thus, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel mentioned in the first reading today was the priest of this new pagan idol, who opposed the work of the prophet Amos, sent by God to chastise His people and call them to repentance. And instead of repenting or listening to God, they hardened their hearts, as what we can witness from the attitudes shown by Amaziah and the king of Israel, Jeroboam.

It was just the same attitude that was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in our Gospel passage today, as they criticised the Lord for having healed a paralysed man and said that his sins has been forgiven. They argued that God alone could forgive sin, and that the Lord Jesus had committed a blasphemy by uttering such words. They were in fact angry at Him and wanted to arrest Him, but they could not do so immediately because of the crowd.

The Lord was exasperated at their indignant attitude and refusal to listen to the truth, despite the miraculous deeds He had performed before them. Only God alone could have done what the Lord had done, and yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law hardened their hearts and minds, and even accused Him in another occasion of having colluded and worked with the prince of demons, Beelzebul.

Thus, as we have witnessed, there are just so many challenges and obstacles facing those who are faithful to God, the servants and messengers of God, as well as all of us. There will be lots of challenges and opposition, which can end up making us to give up the fight and lose the faith. But are we doing something in order to resist the temptation to do so?

Perhaps we should look at the examples of St. Anthony Zaccaria, a holy and devout priest, who was renowned for his great role in the early years of the Counter Reformation efforts against those heresies and rebels at the time, threatening the unity and the survival of the Church. St. Anthony Zaccaria instituted many efforts to strengthen the faith and commitment among many of the faithful, including the popular forty-hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Anthony Zaccaria was also known for the practice of ringing the bells at three p.m., as a reminder of the Lord’s crucifixion and death on the cross. His many other contributions helped to rejuvenate the faith during a challenging time, when people were slipping away from the Church and from God’s truth. St. Anthony Zaccaria also established several congregations of the devout servants of God, who continued the good works which he had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of this good and holy saint? In the face of difficulties and challenges, are we easily overwhelmed by our fears and doubts? Or are we trying our best to persevere despite the difficulties? The choice is ours, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we want to be a faithful follower of God, or be merely swayed by the tides and currents of the world.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with faith, and help us all to persevere through our daily challenges and difficulties, all sorts of troubles and obstacles that are in our way. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

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