Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Lord through the Scriptures speaking to us on the matter of judging of one another, and how we should not judge each other as we ourselves shall be judged by our own actions and for our own failures. In fact, it is often that when we judge others, we ourselves are doing what we are judging or being prejudiced against others for, and as saying goes, it is the fact that our insecurities due to our shortcomings that lead us to be judgmental on others.
Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because we are people often controlled by our ego and pride, our human ambitions and desires, and we do not like it when we are wrong or are not in control over our actions and path in life. And that is why, in our Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke of this matter referring to the improper and prideful attitudes of many of the Pharisees, the scribes and teachers of the Law and many among the priestly clans and caste.
Those people often criticised and opposed the Lord Jesus and His works, quickly being judgmental and prejudiced against Him, firstly because He was a Galilean, from the very corners and fringes of the Jewish community and sphere of influence at the time, of His humble birth and origin, born into the family of a poor carpenter in the poor and relatively unknown village of Nazareth in Galilee.
And that His followers were also mostly poor, uneducated like poor fishermen of the lake of Galilee among others, and people belonging to the fringes of society like the members of the Zealots and tax collectors, added even more to the prejudice and the judgmental attitude levied against them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law despised how the Lord often walked alongside those whom they looked down upon, those condemned as sinners and unworthy, the tax collectors, prostitutes, those who were sick and diseased, among others.
But little they realised that in their hubris and pride, they had failed to realise that they themselves had erred and sinned against God, and their sins in fact were equally as bad and serious as those who they have condemned as sinners and unworthy of God. They had been too engrossed in maintaining their prestige, status and privileged conditions, shoring up their ego and desires that they ended up forgetting their important responsibilities and obligations to bring God’s lost people back to Him. Instead, they shut the path of salvation to the lost ones, and turned their backs on those who were seeking God.
In what they had done, not just that they had done sins of deeds, but also the sins of omission by their failure to reach out to those who need God’s love and help. And this was no different from their ancestors, the Israelites who had neglected their obligation to serve and follow God, to be faithful to their Covenant with Him. Instead, they chose to worship foreign idols and pagan gods and sought all sorts of worldly glory and pleasures, and they criticised the prophets and messengers God had sent to their midst, again not realising that they themselves were in need of forgiveness and healing.
And we knew how it all ended, as the northern kingdom of Israel were swallowed by the forces of the Assyrians who came and conquered their whole lands and destroyed the capital of Samaria, bringing many among the people into exile in faraway lands. Their brethren in the southern kingdom of Judah would also come to suffer the same fate in the later time, as the Babylonians came to conquer and destroy Judah and Jerusalem.
All of these are reminders not that God is an angry and wrathful God as what some of us might have thought of Him. Rather, it was our own willing and conscious rejection of God’s love, mercy and compassion, our constant refusal to abandon our sinful ways and our wickedness that had led us into sin, and therefore, from there, into damnation, because of our rejection of God’s most generous offers of mercy. We have to remember that while God is ever merciful and forgiving, but He is also a just God, and no sin can exist before Him, without repentance and forgiveness.
Today all of us are reminded of all these that each and every one of us may truly live up to our Christian calling to live a most faithful and dedicated life filled with genuine devotion to God, following Him faithfully each and every moments of our lives. We are all called to glorify God through our every little actions and words, our deeds and interactions in life. But in order to do this, then we must first be willing to accept the fact and truth that we are vulnerable, weak and easily tempted, sinful and unworthy people.
Instead of pointing out what is lacking in others, we must look into ourselves, and find ways how we can make good use of the opportunities that God had given us in order to return to Him and to rend our hearts and cleanse all the impurities within, to discard all the sins and wickedness and replace them with faith and genuine love for the Lord, with a newfound zeal and commitment, to walk in God’s path from now on.
Today, we should draw inspiration from our holy predecessors, whose lives can be great examples for us to follow, whose faith have been great and can show us the way in following God. First of all, St. Paulinus of Nola was once a great and influential Roman governor of the region of Campania in what is today Italy, who converted to the Christian faith under the influence of his wife, and who eventually left his office behind and chose to dedicate himself to God, eventually becoming the Bishop of Nola.
St. Paulinus of Nola was a great and committed shepherd, who cared greatly for his faithful flock, always ever seeking to bring them closer to God. Despite St. Paulinus of Nola’s privileged birth and previous powerful position in the world, that did not lead him to be swayed and engulfed in his personal desires, ego and whatever temptations the world might have brought him, and as a result, through his ministry and commitment, St. Paulinus of Nola is a great example for all of us.
Then, the two holy martyrs and saints of the English ‘Reformation’ namely St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, were truly courageous and great examples of faith for each and every one of us, for their brave and fearless opposition to the faithlessness and immorality of the then king of England, Henry VIII, whose unbridled desire to secure for himself a son and heir for his kingdom and house, had led to the separation of the Church in England from the Universal Church, a terrible deed and injury to the unity of the faithful that last until this very day.
At that time, St. Thomas More was the powerful Chancellor of the kingdom, the right hand man of the king, well trusted by the king. Meanwhile, St. John Fisher was the pious and faithful Bishop of Rochester and also Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who also enjoyed the strong favour and support from king Henry VIII. Unfortunately, the king, who was once faithful and remembered for his defence of the true faith against the heresy of Protestantism in his famous Treatise of the Defence of the Seven Sacraments, turned against the Church when his desire to annul his marriage to his lawfully married wife, was rejected by the Church.
As the king showed his strong hand in severing the Church in England from the Universal Church and the true authority of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher stood out among other bishops, priests and laypeople who chose to remain loyal to the true Church. Although it must have been difficult for these two men to go against the king who had favoured them so much and also allowed them both to rise greatly in power, but they did not allow worldly desires and temptations to turn them away from their faith in God.
St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher opposed the king and his continued efforts to become the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and when things and situation continued to worsen, St. Thomas More chose to resign his position and together with St. John Fisher continued to resist the king’s unfaithful and wicked actions, which eventually led them to be arrested and suffered greatly, but these did not dampen their faith and desire to return England to the true faith and the true Church. Eventually they were killed in martyrdom, and their faith continued to inspire people to this very day.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great inspirations showed to us by St. Paulinus of Nola, as well as by the courageous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, let us all then live our lives from now on with renewed desire to seek God and to be faithful to Him, to be good in life and rather than focusing on the lack and faults in others, wondering who among us are more faithful and good, let us instead be exemplary in our own lives, and lead one another to God through our own dedication and actions in faith. Let us all glorify the Lord, now and always. Amen.