Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scriptures we are called to turn towards God with hope and courage, and embrace His love and grace at all times. God has called us all to be His people and He has revealed to us how He will always be ever faithful to the Covenant He had made with us and with our ancestors. If we trust Him, we shall not be disappointed for in God alone is our sure hope and assistance even during the darkest days of our lives.
In our first reading today we heard of the story of St. Paul and St. Silas, one of his companions in the missionary journeys, and in this case, in the city of Philippi in Macedonia they encountered a great problem as the slave owners of the city set up a mob against them and they were thrown into prison. It was possible that the slave owners were unhappy that these missionaries had been preaching about the Christian faith in the city, and many especially among the slaves were touched and deeply affected by the teachings of Christ which they had heard.
At that time, during the height of the Roman Empire, slavery were rampant all across the whole Empire and beyond, with slaves performing many essential functions in the community, many of them were needed by their slave masters and owners to sustain their livelihood and incomes, and many among the slaves were made to be gladiators to fight, often to the death, just in order to satisfy the desires of some of the elites in the population. Many of the slaves were not treated with basic human dignity as they were often considered as being less than human.
And when St. Paul and St. Silas were arrested and put into prison, that was in fact a very powerful symbol from God and a reminder of God’s love for us mankind. The slave owners wanted to silence these holy men of God because they were challenging the status quo by their teachings which emphasised on equality between men and all the children of God, and which also emphasised a lot on charity, love and compassion, especially for the weak, poor and the marginalised, the group that were essentially most of the slaves living and working at that time.
The slave owners tried to put a stop to this nascent and growing Christian faith before it affected their sources of income and livelihood, and thus imprisoned St. Paul and St. Silas. Their arrest and imprisonment, them being chained in prison were in fact a reminder of the slavery of men, not just the physical slavery of the slaves they had encountered, but also the slavery of all mankind to the power of sin, death and darkness. When the two servants prayed to God, God listened to them and brought help to them in ways totally unimaginable.
What happened was that a great earthquake struck the town and freed the two men from their bondage, releasing them from their chains and bonds, and breaking free their prison cell. The jailer was so distraught and afraid by what he had witnessed, and he wanted to kill himself in despair, as he thought that he would definitely be severely punished for allowing so many of his prisoners to escape. But St. Paul and St. Silas stopped the jailer, and then even convinced him and his family to embrace the Christian faith.
By the baptism which the jailer and his family received, even more powerful bondage were broken, and that was the chains of sin and evil, the chains of damnation and ruin, from which God has delivered us out into a new life and existence, free from tyranny sin and from the fate of our destruction because of those sins. He freed the converts from their bondage just as St. Paul and St. Silas were freed from their chains and bondage.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are therefore reminded of how God Himself has done wonders in reaching out to us and liberating us from our bondage to sin. Through Christ, His Son, God has shown us all the path to salvation and liberation, the path of hope and freedom, the way to eternal life, true joy and glory. And in the Gospel today, the Lord has also promised His Helper to His Apostles and disciples, the Holy Spirit that would be sent down to them and which they had indeed received, and passed down to all of us, all the members of God’s Church.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, after hearing all these, are we more appreciative of everything that God had done for our sake? Are we more willing to do what He has commanded us to do, to follow Him and to walk in His path? God has liberated us from our bondage to sin and freed us from the darkest depths of despair and hopelessness. He has restored hope and light to us, and returning purpose to our lives. Are we willing to commit ourselves to Him from now on?
In these dark and uncertain times, when the whole world is gripped with fear and paranoia, filled with irrational, selfish and unreasonable attitudes because we try to protect ourselves, let us all remind ourselves not to be enslaved by our desires and by our own fears. Many of us were too worried about our lives, our livelihood and way of life, our worldly concerns and dealings, that we end up forgetting what is truly important about our lives here on earth.
Many of us are enslaved to our desires for comfort, worldly possessions and matters, that when we are suddenly deprived of these, we end up acting irrationally and being selfish, even to the point of hurting others just so that we may protect ourselves and give ourselves whatever we wanted. We have heard of many people who are impatient and causing nuisance during this period when many places and countries imposed restrictions due to the current pandemic, and we have also heard about the sharp increase in the cases of mental issues and other related problems.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all bring God to our fellow brothers and sisters through our own actions, through our own words and deeds. If our words bring hope to others, bring encouragement and strength amidst these difficult and challenging times, then in no time many will come to believe in God because we ourselves have believed, and by our actions we may make a great difference in the lives of others. Just as St. Paul and St. Silas stopped the jailer from killing himself out of despair and make him believe once again that there is hope in life, we too should do the same for all of our fellow men around us.
Let us all be sources of hope, light and inspiration for one another, drawing from the light and hope of God Himself, that our lives may inspire and strengthen others, and help us to break free from the bonds and slavery, not just to sin, but also to the fears and uncertainties in our hearts and minds, which have enslaved us and prevented us from realising what our lives truly mean and what we are living for in this world.
May the Lord help each and every one of us to be better connected to Him and to be more attuned to our hearts and minds, that we may be better able to live our lives as genuine and faithful Christians from now on. May the Lord help us all and may He strengthen us that we may remain faithful throughout even through the most difficult and challenging moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.