Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God’s call for us to repent from our sinful ways, to turn away from our wickedness, all the selfish attitudes we have shown all these while we embraced the ways of worldliness and sin. Through His prophets and messengers, His saints and the Church, God has called us and reminded us yet again and again to be faithful to Him.
In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah’s words, speaking God’s intentions and will to His people, which can be summarised as such that He sought not the sacrifices and offerings, festivals and customary celebrations from His people, but rather, real love and genuine faith. He essentially wanted His people to be truthful in their faith and dedication to Him, and not be hypocrites who claimed to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways totally contrary to His teachings and ways.
The Lord has told them that what He wanted from them was real love, dedication and commitment, and not merely just empty show of faith, for it is indeed possible for one to obey the precepts of the Law but without the right intentions, or because it was merely done out of obligation and fulfilling what we considered as a mere formality. These are not what the Lord wanted, and He made it clear to His people through His prophet Isaiah, and this was because many among the people still committed sin against God and lived in state of sin despite outwardly obeying the Law.
This is similar to what the Lord Jesus also saw and encountered among the people when He came into the world, bearing the truth and Good News of salvation. Many among the people paid just lip service for God, and some among them like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law became distracted with their role, misunderstanding the intention of God’s will and Law, and they made a show of their faith for praise and respect from the other people, and not because they genuinely and wholly loved God from their hearts.
And the disagreement that rose out of these led to friction and difficulties, challenges and trials facing the followers of God, that had begun even since the time of the ancient prophets, as they faced stubborn people who refused to change their ways, and ended up with them being persecuted and troubled by those who refused to accept them and listen to their truth. The same treatment would be faced and endured by the Lord and His Apostles, His disciples and followers, even as the Lord Jesus performed His ministry, and afterwards as the early Christians continued the Lord’s works.
And the Lord in today’s Gospel passage also told His disciples a kind of jarring message as He told them that whoever loved father, mother, brothers or sisters, or their loved ones and spouses more than they loved God, were not fit to become His followers. Actually what the Lord wanted to tell them and all of us was really that, not that He wanted us to abandon our family and loved ones or to hate them. On the contrary, He definitely wants us all to love our parents, our brethren, our loved ones and family members, our friends and other people. But, what is important that, beyond all these, we must love God even a lot more.
And through what He had explained and revealed, and what we have discussed today, through the readings of the Scripture we can see that being followers of Christ is not necessarily easy for us to do. There will be plenty of challenges and trials ahead, and often we may have to make choices that will put us in quandary of having to choose between God and those whom we know. But if our faith in God is genuine and strong, our commitment to Him and dedication are pure, then we will surely have the right focus and attention, that is on God and not on other things.
Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Henry, a great leader and a humble man before God, whom as Emperor Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was the secular leader of Christendom ordained by God, and by influence, power and prestige, were probably second throughout Christendom just after the Pope, the Vicar of Christ himself. He was a great leader who was dedicated to his people and kingdom, and responsibly carried out the duties of Christian leadership placed in his hands.
He generously gave to the poor and strengthened the foundations of his realm, while at the same time, supporting the Church and its works, spreading the Christian faith far and wide, sending missionaries to pagan areas and converting many to the true faith, while consolidating the areas already under Christian rule. He established a strong relationship with the Pope and the Church, and in the meantime remaining humble and virtuous, with strong personal piety and dedication to God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Henry the pious and God-loving Holy Roman Emperor is our great inspiration on how we ourselves can also be righteous and just, dedicated and committed to God. Are we willing and able to follow in his footsteps and be dedicated to God through our daily actions and interactions with one another? Let us all reflect on these, and let us be truly faithful from now on, not just merely paying lip service and empty formality, striving to be good and genuine Christians moving on with our lives.
May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all with our faith, and may He grant us His providence and with much courage to carry on living as good and faithful Christians from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints of God, especially St. Henry, our role model in faith. Amen.