Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called through what we have just heard from the passages taken from the Sacred Scriptures, to turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and to open them to allow God to enter into our beings, that He may transform us and heal us from our many afflictions, namely the afflictions of our sins and wickedness by which we have been found wanting by God.
In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard of terrible premonitions and words of caution from God to His people, asking them to be prepared to face trials and tribulations that would for them, in the context of how the prophet Joel lived during the middle years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Therefore, the premonition spoke of the then upcoming times of upheavals and sufferings when the people of both the kingdoms would be conquered and humiliated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians many years after.
God was in fact reminding His people not to be complacent in their lives and in their faith and commitment to live holy and virtuous lives in the presence of God and men alike. At that time, the people had lapsed from their faith and fell into the many temptations surrounding them, following the evil ways of the world and resorting to the worship of the pagan gods and idols, offering sacrifices to those idols rather than offering true sacrifice to their one and only True God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, then we heard from our Gospel passage of the heated exchange between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with the power of the evil prince of demons, Beelzebub in His many miracles and healing works among the people, and in the casting out of the evil spirits from those who had been possessed by those demons. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had seen all those miracles but they refused to believe.
And why is that so? That is because the devil himself and all of his wicked allies were busy at work in trying to destroy us, in tempting us to sin and to refuse God’s generous offer of love and mercy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were afraid that they would lose their much valued influence and status among the community and the people. They therefore saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat and rival to them. In truth, the pride and ego, the greed and desires in their heart blinded them.
God wanted them all to see the truth, but as long as those people allowed their ego, pride, desire, jealousy and all sorts of temptations to develop in their hearts, they will not be able to see the truth of God and accept Him wholeheartedly as they should have. When He spoke of the coming of the time of persecution through the prophet Joel, He was warning us all, His people, that if we want to be faithful to Him and walk in His path, then we must be prepared to face challenges, opposition, ridicule, humiliation and persecution as the Lord Himself had faced.
The devil is always out and about working to destroy us by dragging us into sin, in tempting us to walk astray on the wrong path. And we cannot face him alone or by our own strength and power. It is only through God and His providence that we can withstand and overcome the devil and all of his wicked forces of evil. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of obstacles and challenges awaiting for us in our journey of faith in life.
But we must not be disheartened, for God is truly with all of us, and He will always guide us in our path. He has guided one of His own devout servant, a holy man and leader of the Universal Church, as Pope St. John XXIII in his journey of faith in his life. Pope St. John XXIII was remembered as the ‘Good Pope’, ever dedicated to the Lord throughout his life and ministry. He is a great inspiration for each and every one of us in how we should be faithful in our own lives as well.
Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in a poor farmer’s family in Bergamo in northern Italy, and an opportunity in having education sponsored by his uncle eventually led to him embracing the call and vocation to priesthood, after which he served in his region of Bergamo. Having experienced the struggles of the people during the difficult years of the early twentieth century and inspired by the love which his bishop showed during those tumultuous times, the young Father Roncalli grew ever stronger in his own love and devotion to God.
He was appointed as an Archbishop and as the Papal Delegate to Bulgaria and later on to Turkey and eventually France, working as a diplomat for many years in managing the relationship both between the nations and the Holy See, and also in the relationships between the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox faithful, who were then often bitterly divided against each other. Archbishop Roncalli faced a lot of challenges and difficulties, sufferings and pains, in his ministry, in facing those who were distrustful of the Church and the faith.
Eventually, as he became the Patriarch of Venice and eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII carried on his life and mission with the fullness of faith in God, dedicating his years of life in bringing the love of God to His people. He initiated the Second Vatican Council to bring the Church together through difficult and challenging times, and also helped to broker peace among the superpowers of the world during a time of great tension in the height of the Cold War.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our own lives and think how we can serve the Lord with greater love, commitment and fidelity from now on. Let us all therefore seek to be ever more faithful, loving God each and every days of our life, putting our trust in Him just as Pope St. John XXIII had been. Let us all draw ever closer to Him from now on. Amen.