Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture readings chosen for this day, the Lord wants to remind us through His Church that the reality of us being Christians, believing in Him and following His path through our lives is one of struggle, where challenges and trials, opposition and even persecution are likely part of our journey as we proceed on with faith. We cannot escape from this reality, and we have to endure it as best as we can as faithful Christians.
In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans placed it very bluntly before us, the reality of how God and sin are standing on the opposite ends of each other. If God is all good and righteousness, then sin is all evil and wicked, and sin is the disobedience against God and caused by our rebellion against His will. And while sin on one side brings about corruption and death, on the other hand, God brings about purification and life.
St. Paul made his assessment and comments to the faithful and the Church in Rome in the context of how Rome being the centre and heart of the whole Roman Empire was the place where paganism and its practices of all kinds were at the most numerous and common. St. Paul spoke out against those evil practices which saw hedonistic celebrations and even human sacrifices practices in some pagan rituals, all the corrupt and wicked practices of men.
And being in Rome, those faithful people of God were constantly under difficult conditions, being exposed to the pagan practices and customs all the time, all around them. They were also required by law to treat the Roman Emperors as if they were divine and offer sacrifices to them and the pagan gods. Disobedience can mean terrible suffering and persecution, and even death and martyrdom.
But that was exactly what the Lord Himself had spoken and revealed to His disciples as we heard it ourselves in our Gospel passage today. The Lord plainly spoke of how His coming into the world would not herald an era of peace and harmony unlike what some people would think, as at that time many among the Jews thought that the Messiah would come and restore the glorious kingdom of Israel of old and bring peace to the whole land.
Instead, God revealed that His coming would instead bring about divisions and challenges for those who are faithful to Him, wherever they are and in whichever time period they belong to. And this has been proven right again and again throughout the long history of the Church, even to this present day, to varying degrees of difficulties. Some encountered great opposition, suffering and even martyrdom from those who are close to them, caused by their own friends and families.
Many of the holy martyrs of the Church had to go up against opposition from their loved ones, their own family members and friends, not counting all the others who are against them and their enemies. And this kind of persecution and rejection of our Christian truths and values still remain even to this present day where all around the world, opposition and challenges to our Christian faith, teachings and practices of the Church remain and even growing strong and intensifying.
In our world today especially there is a great rise in secularism and in apathetic and even hostile attitudes against the Faith, with more and more people succumbing to this apathy and ignorance of God’s truth and love. Many people sought satisfaction and joy in worldly things and ambitions, in the pursuit of power, glory, fame and material goods and wealth. And God’s ways are increasingly being forgotten and pushed aside in our communities.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, how then do we react to all these things happening around us, all the pressures for us to conform to the general norms and ways of the society that increasingly overlooked, has forgotten and abandoned God for the pagan and ungodly idols of this world, the idol of worldly desires, the idol of human pride, the idol of wealth and fame, the idol of pleasures of the body and mind among many others?
Today all of us should look upon the examples set by one saint whose feast we celebrate today, the famous founder of the Claretians religious order, St. Anthony Mary Claret, a holy bishop and a dedicated servant of God. St. Anthony Mary Claret was a holy and pious man, dedicated in his service to his flock and the people, renowned for his good sermons that drew people from afar. He spent many hours ministering to them and spending a lot of time especially in the confessionals.
He helped to organise the works of the Church in the places he has been assigned to, and he dutifully did all that he had been entrusted to do, including being the confessor to the then Queen of Spain among many others. He wrote extensively on the matters of the faith and placed great emphasis on the growth and development of Christian education and upbringing among the people of God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see, St. Anthony Mary Claret dedicated his life to God, stood by Him and walked down the path He has shown us all as well. He certainly did not have it easy, sacrificing countless hours to minister to the people and definitely having faced rejections and oppositions from time to time. Are we able to imitate his good examples in life and his good faith in our own lives?
Let us all stand by God and renew our faith and commitment to Him, and let us draw ever closer to Him so that we may grow ever deeper in our love for Him and dedicate ourselves to His cause from now on. Let our every words, actions and deeds bring greater glory to God, now and always. Amen.