Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by the Lord through the readings of the Scripture that each and every one of us as Christians need to show love in our everyday life and in all of our actions and interactions. Unless we love, and love generously and sincerely, we truly cannot call ourselves as Christians, for a Christian loves in the manner that God Himself has shown us, to love one another and even those who despise and hate us.
In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul who wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth on the matter of eating of food and meal that has been offered to the idols. For the context, when St. Paul mentioned this, it was because there had been debate and disagreements on whether one was allowed to partake in the food that had been offered to the pagan gods and idols. In the society dominated by Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Anatolian, Phoenician and other pagan beliefs and systems, many of which had pantheons of gods and goddesses, and offerings of foods and drinks were often made to them.
Partaking in the food and meals offered to the pagan idols and gods were one of the signs by which one was recognised as a believer, and therefore, as St. Paul mentioned, while he said that technically such meal and offering had no effect in the real and physical way, considering that all those idols and gods were false and unreal, but should any among the faithful partake from those food, what St. Paul meant is that this action might scandalise the faith and lead to the loss of faith in others.
At that time, some among the Christians chose to safeguard themselves and their livelihood by performing pagan rituals and by partaking in the food offered to the pagan idols. Regardless whether they still clung to those old practices, considering how most of them were converts, or whether these had been done purely for the safeguarding of one’s life, the Apostle reminded all of them that they could not and should not do that.
The simple reason is that, the actions of those who did so would cause misunderstandings and divisions among the faithful, and would make those who had to suffer for the sake of their faith to lose faith and wonder why there were those who did such a thing just so that they could live a ‘normal’ life. What St. Paul said was that as Christians, we must strive to be always true to our faith and we must show good examples of that faith to each other.
How does this then relate to the matter of Christian love, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fact that each and every one of us must show care and concern for one another, by being careful in our actions, in our deeds and interactions that we do not unnecessarily cause confusion, division and disagreements among the members of the Church and the Christian faithful. In the manner of how we live, we must always show the way of the Lord in all things, so that we may truly love our brethren and not instead lead them to their downfall.
And even more so, in our Gospel today, the Lord then challenged us to do even more than that. If we have already loved and showed care and concern, and helped all those who are dear, close and good to us, to find our way to God, then, we need to do the same to all those who have been difficult with us, those who have persecuted and made our lives terrible, those who consider us their enemies and those who hate us.
Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Indeed, it is easier being said than done, but this is the Christian ideal of love, something that all of us need to look towards and focus our attention on. It is what Christ Himself has shown us, and which He had led us by example, the examples and inspirations of love, to love one another and to love Him, just as much and even more than we love ourselves.
Let us all look at Christ Our Lord, His enduring love for each and every one of us. When so many of us refused to believe in Him, persecuted Him and His disciples, He remained firm in His love and in the dedication to serve us, to help us, to care for us and to guide us to the right path. This is the proof of just how great His love is, which He even showed to those who despised Him. Right from the Cross at Calvary, He looked on all those who have condemned Him to death and crucified Him, and prayed to God His Father, not to hold their sins against them, and to forgive them those sins.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if Our Lord Himself has shown such mercy, compassion and the ability to forgive, to love tenderly and genuinely, and how His disciples and followers, the innumerable saints and holy men and women of God had done, then can we do the same as well in our own lives? This is what we are all called to do, to be true and committed disciples of the Lord, in deed and in action, filled with genuine and wholesome love for all mankind.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be shining examples of faith and be filled with God’s love, so that everyone who sees us, witnesses our actions, and interacts with us will truly know that we belong to God, and know of His truth and salvation, and not be stumbling blocks that caused scandal to our faith by our own lack of faith and disobedience as warned by St. Paul. Let us all be ever more faithful, and let us all be ever more loving and forgiving, reaching out to others, and learn to forgive those who have hurt us and made our lives difficult. May God be with us and grant us the strength to carry on in this journey of faith, now and always. Amen.