Monday, 20 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the lamentations of the Lord for the unbelief and the stubbornness of many of His people in them not having faith in Him. The Lord through His prophet Micah spoke out His displeasure at the people who seemingly had forgotten the mighty and wonderful deeds by which He has rescued their ancestors and their predecessors, and instead, betraying Him by siding with the pagan gods and idols.

And in our Gospel today, there is yet another example of this stubbornness and lack of faith, as the Lord was confronted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who doubted Him and wanted to keep on testing Him, asking Him for miracles, signs and wonders. The fact was that they had seen many such miracles and signs as they followed the Lord persistently throughout His ministry, in their futile yet constant attempts to undermine His good works.

They were the most learned and those considered the most intelligent and wisest among all the people, and yet, ironically, they were the ones who were the most stubborn and resistant to accepting the truth of the Lord. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they were blinded and impeded by their own ego and pride, their own ambition and sense of superiority, their own worldly attachments and concerns that tied them down.

No matter how many signs and miracles the Lord performed before them, it would be meaningless unless they get rid from themselves the pride and hubris, the ego and ambition in their hearts and minds. People had sinned and fallen into sin from time immemorial just as the Israelites in the past had sinned because of this great fault and sin of pride, which had ensnared so many people and prevented them from attaining salvation in God.

That is why it is worth noting the Lord’s mention of the city of Nineveh and Jonah, as well as that of the Queen of the South and king Solomon, in the same Gospel passage today. The city of Nineveh was the great capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire that had conquered hundreds of nations and peoples, and yet, when the Lord sent the prophet Jonah to their midst to proclaim their upcoming judgment and destruction, the whole city and the mighty king humbled and lowered themselves, putting on sackcloth and mourning before God.

In the same way, the Queen of the South, also known as the Queen of Sheba, who was a powerful ruler of a rich and influential country in the time of king Solomon, with vast wealth and great wisdom of her own, humbled herself before God and His chosen king Solomon, when she came to behold the greatness of God showed through Solomon, his wisdom, glory and kingdom. She paid homage to the king of Israel and praised God for His wondrous deeds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today therefore, we are reminded that pride and ego, ambition and greed, attachments to the world and material goods will earn us nothing but our own failure and downfall. The path to seek the Lord’s salvation and true happiness is by humility and faith, by love for God and by realising that we all need the Lord and need to put Him at the centre of our lives.

This is why we should also seek the Lord and be inspired by one of His faithful servants, our predecessor, namely St. Apollinaris, a bishop and martyr of the Church. St. Apollinaris was one of the earliest Church leaders and was the Bishop of Ravenna in what is today northeastern Italy. St. Apollinaris by tradition was appointed to his position by St. Peter himself and he was remembered chiefly for his leadership of the Christian people during the time when the Church was persecuted by the Roman authorities.

St. Apollinaris remained firm in his faith despite the persecutions and dedicated himself to serve the flock even in situations of danger. He cared for them and continued to minister among them, and his sufferings, arrest and trials, during which he endured many bitter sufferings and persecutions for the sake of the Lord, all these did not hinder him from giving himself to serve the Church and the faithful people of God, even unto martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded by the faithful and good examples of St. Apollinaris and many other faithful servants of God, and through their great inspirations, all of us are called to follow the Lord and to devote ourselves as much as possible, and to entrust ourselves to the Lord, not to be prideful and filled with ego, but rather be humble and to be filled with the multitudes of God’s love and to have genuine faith and commitment towards Him in life.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He give us all the courage and strength to follow Him faithfully and to devote our time, effort and attention to walk in His path, at all times. May the Lord guide us and lead us into the right path, leading us into His greater glory, now and forevermore. Amen.

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