Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture passages, beginning with the promise of salvation which God would show His people, Israel, as He prophesied through His servant Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and then, what we heard from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Jewish Christians, about the coming of Christ, Who is the High Priest of all the faithful, in Whom is found the salvation of the world.

In the Scripture readings today therefore, we heard about the the love and mercy which God has shown to us all, to His beloved people, a reminder of the constant gift which the Lord has given us despite all of our disobedience, rebelliousness and the refusals we have made against Him. The prophecy made through the prophet Jeremiah had to be understood in the context of what happened at the time, when the people at the kingdom of Judah was suffering and was in the brink of annihilation, having been subjugated by their enemies, principally the Babylonians.

It was a time when everything seemed to be hopeless, and the enemies of Israel were mounting and plotting against them. Yet, the people of God still rebelled against Him and did what was wicked in the sight of men and God alike. They worshipped pagan idols, committing adulterous and wicked actions in life, and refused to listen to the words of the prophets sent to them to remind them of God’s love and mercy, including that of prophet Jeremiah.

The prophet had to suffer persecution from all those who resisted God’s will and those who turned a deaf ear to the word of God. The king and his nobles, the people and many of the members of the community continued to sin against God, and even considered Jeremiah as the bearer of bad and wicked news, when he continued to prophecy about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, as well as its Temple because of the sins of Israel. But Jeremiah through today’s passage, showed us that God, despite of His anger against the sins committed by His people, He still loved them and wanted them to be reconciled with Him.

The second reading today, as mentioned, is taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. Again in that occasion, the Lord spoke to His people through St. Paul, His Apostle, reminding them of the great love and mercy which He showed them, by the perfect gift of Jesus Christ, His Son, Who was appointed the One and True High Priest of all, above all other High Priests of the people of God since the time of Aaron. Christ is the ultimate sign and symbol of God’s love.

How is that so? First of all, as mentioned by St. Paul, the High Priest appointed by God ever since the day of Moses and Aaron is supposed to be the one through whom God exercised His mercy and forgiveness of the sins of the people, by the means of offerings of sin offering and love offering on the Altar of God. The animal offering was meant to be atonement for the sins of the people, and since the High Priest himself was also a sinner, then he was also offering the sin offering for himself.

But the Lord Jesus, the One True High Priest is blameless and without sin, as He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man, having in Himself the perfection of divinity and the perfection of humanity, having two natures of divine and human united in His person. He also offered not the imperfect offering of lambs and goats, their blood and fats, which although according to the Law, only physically blameless and good quality animals should be chosen, but they paled in comparison to the offering that the Lord Jesus made.

For in the Lord Jesus, the Lord our God showed the perfection and the perfect manifestation of His love and compassion for us, His beloved people, whom He loved despite our sins and rebelliousness, as the example from the Old Testament had shown us earlier. God was patient and filled with love for us, His people, that despite the sins which Israel had done in the past, He forgave them and still brought them to the Land which He promised them and their ancestors.

And He forgave them many times, when He brought them back from exile in Babylon, and continued to take care of them, sending them prophets and messengers, one after another, to remind them of the promise of the salvation He has given to them, and calling on them to remain faithful and true to the Law and the teachings which He has revealed to them. And in Jesus, the Lord’s faithfulness and promises were fulfilled completely.

How is that so? The Lord Jesus came and showed the Lord’s mercy, when He healed the sick and the people who were dying, those who were ostracised and shunned by the society, and calling them back to the right path towards God, healing them both from their physical afflictions and spiritual sickness, caused by sin and disobedience. One example was what we have just heard in the Gospel today, as the Lord healed the blind man who called on Him for help and for healing.

But even more so, the Lord Jesus did not come just to heal and to perform all those miracles as He had done before the people, but He showed His love for us, so great and so amazing, in a way that He Himself had said to His disciples, that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down his life for his friend. He laid down His own life, by suffering on the Cross, that through that act, offering His own Flesh and Blood, to be the perfect offering for our sins.

Through that act of ultimate sacrifice and selfless love on the Cross, the Lord showed us all, that He is truly a loving and merciful God, Who was willing to endure such pain, such suffering, such tribulation and difficulty, just so that, by His death, we may be spared our fate of eternal death, because of our sins. Instead, by sharing in His death and united through His resurrection from the dead, we are freed from that terrible fate, and receive a new hope of a new life in God.

Today, all of us ought to spend some time to reflect on this reality, the love of God which He has shown so generously towards each and every one of us, that He willingly took up upon Himself our sins, and to bear them patiently, that as our True and Eternal High Priest, His prayers for our supplication and for the atonement of our sins are heard by God, His heavenly Father. Through the obedience of Christ, our High Priest and the New Adam, all of us who believe in Him are saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of two of Christ’s Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude, both of whom dedicated their lives after they accepted the calling to be an Apostle of the Lord, and they worked hard in evangelising and preaching in faraway lands, speaking the truth about God and His love, His sacrificial gift to all mankind, and the call to repentance, that all the children of God may be reconciled to their loving and merciful God.

St. Simon and St. Jude went to various places, spreading the word of God, suffering persecutions and troubles from those who refused to believe in the truth they brought with them. But they placed their trust in the Lord, and they were encouraged and empowered by the knowledge of the love which God had generously given to them and to all mankind. Truly, if God Himself had suffered for the sake of all men, then what was their suffering compared to God’s suffering?

Although St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord died in martyrdom against those who refused to believe in the Lord, but this inspired only even more people who wanted to follow the Lord through their courageous examples. Now, we are therefore also called to emulate their examples, and to live faithfully in accordance with the will of God. Are we able to devote ourselves in the same way as they have done?

Let us remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as Christians, we know how much God loves each and every one of us, and as a result, we should also love Him in the same manner. We can do so, by living a virtuous and courageous Christian life and distancing ourselves from sin. Let us all turn to God with a renewed faith and with a new love that comes from within us. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in this journey of life. St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord, pray for us. Amen.

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