Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scripture, we are called to renew our faith and devotion to God, to renew our focus and emphasis on the Lord, to turn once again to Him with all of our hearts, to be faithful in all things and at all times. We are all called to put God as the focus and emphasis of our lives that we live our lives with God at the centre and we have to be genuine and firm with our faith and dedication at every moments of our lives.
In our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul and St. Barnabas had faced difficulties and challenges during their missionary journeys, facing the plots and oppositions from the Jews among the communities who were opposed to their works and their Christian faith. They had to flee and find another place to continue their works, and as they came to Lystra and Derbe in the region known as Lycaonia in what is known as Asia Minor, they encountered another challenge as described in the passage today.
As they performed a miracle that healed a man from his sickness, the whole town came to know about it, and they all heralded both St. Paul and St. Barnabas as the coming of their pagan Greek gods in the human form, namely that of Zeus and Hercules, some of the most popular deities in the pagan Greek mythology, in which the gods frequently came down to the world in human and other forms, and they thought mistakenly that the two Apostles were these gods.
St. Paul and St. Barnabas immediately insisted that they were neither gods or the heralds of the gods as the people thought they were. They refused to accept the offerings, sacrifices and the treatment that they received at the hands of the locals who worshipped them as if they were their gods walking on earth. Instead, they courageously and firmly preached to the people to turn away from their false and useless worship of the pagan idols and gods, and to embrace the one and only true Living God, the One Who created the universe.
The people refused to listen to reason and to the words that St. Paul and St. Barnabas had preached to them, still insisting on offering the two Apostles the sacrifices as if they were their pagan gods to the dismay of both Apostles. This showed us the immense challenges that the Apostles and missionaries of the Lord faced, as they encountered stubborn attitudes and difficult-to-change ways of life throughout their missions and journeys. Yet, as we can see, despite their most wonderful and most royal treatment by the people, the two Apostles remained firm in their conviction and faith.
Certainly as a human being, no one could not have been tempted by such a treatment, being treated like god walking on earth, treated as if they owned the whole world and everything they asked for would have been easily given to them. But St. Paul and St. Barnabas both had the right focus and emphasis in their minds and in their hearts, and that is their unwavering faith and commitment to God. Surely they must have been tempted, but their faith was strong, and they remained committed to spread the truth of God and the Good News.
They have faithfully kept the commandments of God, and they also remained faithful to Him, as the Lord Himself mentioned in our Gospel passage today. Indeed, the Lord showed that those who are faithful in Him will be blessed and God will guide them throughout their journey and works, and that was what St. Paul and St. Barnabas had experienced, that despite their difficulties and challenges, the wisdom and the strength of the Holy Spirit helped them greatly and enabled them to carry on through with their missions.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all now reflect on our own lives. Are we able to follow the Lord faithfully just as how the Apostles had followed Him and dedicated themselves to Him? Are we able to resist the many temptations being present in this world all around us that we will stay faithful despite the challenges and the pressures for us to be unfaithful and to abandon the Lord? We have been entrusted with the same mission to continue the work of the Apostles, to bear forth the truth of God to our fellow men.
Let us all thus be inspired by the courage and faith of the Apostles, and let us strive to dedicate ourselves ever more to God. Let us resist the temptations present in life and this world, and do our very best to follow God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, putting Him at the very centre of our existence and lives. May the Lord continue to guide us and give us His strength that we will be able to carry on our journey in life faithfully as His true and dedicated witnesses to the nations, like that of the Apostles, saints and martyrs. Amen.