Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are reminded through the words of God in the Scriptures on the need for us to have true and genuine faith in God and to live righteously each and every moments of our lives in accordance with God’s laws and commandments. As Christians we are called to be role models in our faith and in our lives, to show by our actions and deeds, how we can be faithful to God.
From our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Sirach, we heard of the commandments and laws that God has given us mankind, and how we have to follow and obey these laws and commandments as are our obligations as those who believe in God to walk in His path and to live our lives as how He has taught and instructed us all to live them. Otherwise, our faith is empty, meaningless and dead, and we are no better than hypocrites who believe in one thing but act in a completely different, even contradictory manner.
And that is the essence of what we have just heard in our quite lengthy Gospel passage today, in which we heard the Lord Jesus going through with the people on the importance of having genuine faith in God and not being hypocrites as He used several examples to explain to them and to make them understand that their faith was truly more than just merely a formality or as something that was to be just taken lightly.
He used the examples comparing the actions of the Pharisees as at that time, the Pharisees who were then the intellectuals and the elites within the community, were those who often looked highly upon themselves and praised themselves for their piety and adherence to the laws and customs of Moses, while looking down on others whom they deemed to be inferior, unworthy and dirty, like the tax collectors, prostitutes, people with diseases and those possessed by demons, and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people.
But they failed to realise that in their attitude and way of living their faith, they have placed way too much emphasis on the rituals and their details right to the most minute of details. Historically, the Pharisees placed a lot of attention and focus on how the laws of Moses were practiced and emphasised the details and the way the rites were to be practiced, for example, when cleansing the hands, the Pharisees would emphasise how the cleansing ought to be done a few times and right up through the whole arms up to the elbows, otherwise the cleansing and purification were not up to standard or valid.
And the Pharisees liked to trumpet their piety and observance of the laws and customs before others, doing their prayers publicly and wanting to be praised and seen by everyone. However, the Lord pointed out that many of them did not truly have genuine faith and love for God. For they loved their laws and customs in their rituals and details much more than the Lord Himself. The Law that God gave to us mankind was meant to lead us to Him and not to end up becoming a distraction.
That was why then the Lord went to explain using some other examples of how we, God’s people must truly have faith in God and not just look at the letter of the Law. To understand the Law just by its letters alone is not enough, as it is indeed possible for someone to carry on the words of the Law and the required actions, even without love and faith for God. But do those actions then justify us or benefit us in any way? Certainly not! For such actions, done by those who do not believe in what they have acted are indeed no different from the actions of hypocrites who do not act in the way they believe in.
Therefore the Lord presented to us a different path, showing us that we must indeed seek to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with all of our efforts and intentions, just as the very first commandment of God in the Ten Commandments have been revealed to us. If we truly love God, with all of our heart and strength, then naturally we will try our best to keep ourselves pure and away from sin, and do our best to live in accordance with the Law of God.
When the Lord mentioned how in the law, those who murdered and killed committed a great sin against God, and how in truth, if we even have the intention to murder or are angry at someone, we have actually already committed a great sin, the Lord was actually revealing to us that sin begins with a desire in our hearts, through which we are tempted, and should we give in to that temptation, we will easily fall down that slippery slope of sin, into graver and even graver form of sin.
That is why He similarly brought out the sin of adultery and infidelity against one’s own spouse, in which that when someone already has a desire for someone else in his or her hearts and minds, and indulge in that desire, the sin has already trapped that person since that moment. Similarly, if we indulge in that desire and allow ourselves to be tempted, we will end up falling deeper and deeper into sin, more and more serious with time.
Those who placed a lot of emphasis on the letter of the law will fail to realise that as the Lord Himself said, that as long as we are unable to comprehend the spirit and meaning of the Law as He revealed and taught to the people, we will continue to fall into the trap of sin, and will have difficulty to love the Lord with genuine faith and obedience. The Pharisees focused so much on the details of the Law and the regulations that they became rigid and fail to appreciate what the Lord truly wants to do with us through His Law.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has revealed to us through Christ, His Son, that He has given us His Law and commandments because of His infinite and ever-present love for each and every one of us. And it was because of this same love that we have been so blessed for having these laws and commandments that God has given us to guide us in our path so that we may find our way to Him and be saved. God gave us His laws to show us His love and guide us to Him, and not to burden us unnecessarily, unlike what the Pharisees and some others thought.
We are truly blessed to have received this wisdom and revelation, which as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church in Corinth, our second reading today, is part of God’s divine plan to bring us to His salvation. He has revealed to us the truth of His love through Christ, giving us this faith that we now have. Unfortunately, many of us as mentioned, did not appreciate this faith which we have, and we focus on the wrong things in life, that we end up focusing on the trivialities of rules and regulations and treating our faith as a formality rather than truly having a genuine faith and relationship with God.
It is time for us now to break free from this, brothers and sisters in Christ. It is time for us to turn once again to the Lord, Our God, with our every strength and capabilities, with our every attention and focus, that we truly live our lives from now on with a renewed spirit of faith. We are called to deepen our relationship with God and to embrace His love with all sincerity, knowing that He has loved us first so greatly that He gave us His Son, to suffer and die on the Cross for our sake, that we may live and not perish.
Let us all from now on no longer treat our Christian faith as a mere obligation or formality, and learn to live our lives with sincere desire to become ever closer to God, by our every words, actions and deeds that show that we truly belong to God, our Lord and Master. Let us all bring forth this as a witness of our faith, to spread the wonders of God’s love and truth in our respective communities and places, that many more people will be saved together with us.
May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us in our journey of faith in life, and may He strengthen us with courage and the zeal to carry on living our lives daily with faith despite all the challenges and temptations to do otherwise, that we may resist the temptation of vanity, pride and desire, so that we may truly have a genuine and living faith in us. May God bless us and our many good works, for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.