Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to the exchange between the prophet Isaiah and Hezekiah, the king of Judah. At that time, king Hezekiah fell very ill and was about to die, even during the peak of his years, still relatively young by the standard of that age and time. King Hezekiah was desperate and he turned to the Lord for help, through His prophet Isaiah.

King Hezekiah lamented that even though he has been faithful to God, and that he had led the people to return to the true worship of the Lord, abandoning their former pagan idols, but he was soon to die and perish due to his illness. He prayed to the Lord with tears and regret, asking Him to keep in mind whatever good things he had done in his life. And God heard his prayers, extending his life.

In this, and in what we have seen through the Gospel passage, in which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus severely because He allowed His disciples to perform what was supposedly forbidden during the day of the Sabbath, we can see what the Lord’s true intention is for each and every one of us as Christians. As mentioned, He wanted mercy and not sacrifice.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that the Lord wants from us true and genuine love, dedication and commitment. He does not want faith that is just a formality or a faith which is just for show to others. For example, king Hezekiah of Judah has indeed steadfastly loved the Lord, casting aside the idols that had been worshipped throughout Judah until then, and restoring the worship of God back to the people.

This is the kind of love and commitment which the Lord wants from each and every one of us, and not the kind of superficial love which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law has often shown. Many of them wanted to be praised and seen in the fulfilment of the obligations of their faith, and hence, they ended up subverting the Law itself to suit their own misguided and wicked agenda.

The Lord Jesus is reminding us through these passages of the Scriptures, that ultimately, God made His laws and revealed them to His people for a singular purpose, and that is, to bring them all back to His loving embrace. The Law was meant to reconcile mankind to God, and not to push away man from His salvation. That is why, the Law was meant to turn mankind’s heart back to God, and God sought the love and faith in each and every one of us.

In the end, as long as we cling on to the Lord, and put our trust in Him, we shall not be disappointed, for He will be with us and will protect us. He will not withhold His grace from us, and we shall be truly satisfied. Of course, there will be trials, challenges and tribulations, but ultimately, in the end, what awaits all of us who remain faithful to God will be eternal glory and true joy with God.

And God remembers and knows all that we have done in life, whether it is good deeds or wicked deeds. He remembered the deeds of king Hezekiah, and blessed him and gave him new lease of life according to His will, as He was pleased with what Hezekiah had done. He did not forget those who have been faithful to Him, but remembering them to the time when He will grant them His inheritance.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate the feast of St. Apollinaris of Sweden, one of the early Church fathers, bishop of Ravenna and martyr of the faith. He was a truly dedicated servant of God, dedicating his whole life for the good of the flock entrusted under his care. St. Apollinaris endured many persecutions and hardships throughout his life that ended up with his martyrdom.

Yet, St. Apollinaris remained firm in his faith and conviction to serve the Lord and His people. He went through all the troubles and trials with faith, entrusting everything to God, in Whom he had complete and total faith in. This is a role model of the faith which all of us the faithful should adhere to, in all of our ways. Are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Apollinaris of Ravenna?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our lives, and think of how our lives have been influenced by our faith. Have our faith been genuine and filled with true love for God, or have we rather allowed ourselves to be overcome by our attachments to the world and ended up sidelining God, and having a life that was not centred on God? Let us all think about this, and see what we can do in the time to come, to be ever more faithful and committed, to be ever more true in our faith.

May the Lord be with us and bless our efforts and works, that in everything we say and do, we will always do them for the love of God, and also for the love and concern of our fellow men, as St. Apollinaris of Ravenna had shown us. May God be our strength and be our Light, now and always. Amen.

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