Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures through which we first heard of the contrasting fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the flesh were that of fornication, evil, wickedness, greed, desires for worldly pleasures and the corruption of the body, heart, mind and soul. While the fruits of the Spirit were those of love, hope, kindness, fidelity and more good fruits that came from the Lord.
And then we heard from the Gospel of the rebuke which the Lord Jesus made upon the Pharisees, in harsh terms, with regards to their attitude and way of living their faith, which were hypocritical in nature, when they showed their external acts of piety, their devotions and prayers, not for the love which they had for God, but rather because of their self-serving attitude and desire to gain human praise and worldly glory.
The Lord also criticised the way they handled certain matters of the faith, and in how they enforced and carried out the laws of the Lord as according to Moses. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were supposed to be the guardians of the Law and those who were entrusted with the judgment and the leadership of the people, as those who showed the way for the people to live in accordance with God’s will.
However, in reality, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were corrupt in their judgment and in their faith. They were arbitrary in their judgment, and bent to human desires and worldly concerns in the way they enforce their version of the Law of God. They were bent by the sway of money, just as in how they gave in to the temptation of receiving monetary benefits from having many merchants selling their wares and goods in the courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem.
What is the reason for all these unbecoming and wicked attitudes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? As mentioned in the first reading today, they are actually due to the evil and wicked fruits of the flesh, caused by the temptations of wealth, of worldly pleasures, of glory, of fame, of influence and prestige, of ambition and other forms of worldly indulgences. When these things came into the equation of one’s faith, it ends up causing the corruption of one’s own mind, heart and soul.
That is why, today we are called to discern carefully our path in life, that we should not fall into the same traps into which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had fallen. We should not let these temptations to corrupt us and to turn us away from the path of the Lord. Instead, we should seek to purify our faith, and follow in the examples shown to us by God’s holy servants, especially that of St. Ignatius of Antioch, holy men and holy servant of God, the second bishop of Antioch.
St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the disciples of Jesus, who was among the earliest of the Church fathers. He helped to establish the Church in the community of the faithful in the city of Antioch, where it was known that the first community of Christians outside of Judea was formed. He helped to steer the Church, both in Antioch and beyond, during difficult times of persecution and troubles, when they were persecuted by both the Jewish authorities and later on, the Romans.
St. Ignatius of Antioch suffered from the same persecution, and it was told that he was brought to Rome as part of the persecution. He wrote many letters to the faithful during that period, and these letters inspired the faithful, and became central part of the teachings of the Church as preserved by the Church fathers. He was martyred in Rome, but not before becoming beacon of faith and hope, an example for many Christians of his time.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see in St. Ignatius of Antioch, the flame of passion and love for the Lord, the genuine commitment which he showed before all of the people, including his tormentors and executioners. He put the Lord before all things, including that of his own desires and wishes. And in doing so, he did not allow the temptations of the evil one to enter into his heart, unlike that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
Now, are we able to follow the Lord in the same manner as that of St. Ignatius of Antioch? Surely, we can do so, if we put our heart and mind into it. Let us therefore turn ourselves thoroughly and completely to the Lord, from now on, that in all things, we may, glorify the Lord by our words, actions and deeds. May the Lord be our Guide, and may He help us to find our way to Him. Amen.