Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded to follow the Christian virtues in life, to be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit in all things and in all of our words, actions and deeds. God has called us all to be truly faithful and to devote ourselves to Him, to be spiritually active and genuine in our faith. We must not be superficial in faith or just focused on appearances like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
That is what the Lord spoke against the Pharisees for in our Gospel passage today, as a stern warning to all of us that we ought not to follow their lead or imitate their way of life, using even strong words like ‘curse’ to the Pharisees and woe to them. All these signified the seriousness of the matter which the Lord presented before His people, showing them how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in their influential positions, had dangerously misled the people into the wrong paths by their actions.
Through what the Lord said in today’s Gospel, we heard how He criticised the Pharisees for their wicked behaviour and irresponsibility as those who had been chosen to be the guardians and leaders of the people. And this is significant because if we remember what St. Paul said about the corruptions of the flesh, many of those were exhibited and acted on by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
For example, the opposition of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often driven by the anger and jealousy in them, seeing their influence and power within the community threatened by the Lord and His disciples. And their greed, desire and want for power and worldly satisfactions led to them to stray from their path and their obedience to God. They succumbed to the temptations of those desires and emotions that led them down the wrong path.
This is why the Lord reminded all of us to be vigilant and be wary of the temptations of these worldly desires and all that threatened to lead us down the path of sin. We have to instead embrace the Lord and bear the fruits of His Holy Spirit, of faith, love, humility, temperance among other things. And we are all called to be shining examples and inspirations of our faith to one another, that we may lead more and more people on the way to the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should be inspired by the examples of our own holy predecessors, one of them whose feast day we celebrate today. Pope St. Callixtus I was the Pope and Bishop of Rome during the difficult years of frequent persecutions by the Roman governments and their Emperor, who eventually was martyred for his faith. Pope St. Callixtus I was also once a slave according to the Church traditions, who had been enduring many punishments, from prison to prison, before eventually being freed, and becoming deacon of the Church.
Eventually he was elected as Pope and Successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ, in which he began to admit to the Church the converts from schisms and sects, in contrast to the earlier practice of denying admission to these people. His policy and decision to allow these new converts did not have universal support, and it led to the division in the Church, with St. Hippolytus being elected as an opposing or Antipope by those clergy and members of the Church who were against accepting converts from such origins.
Yet, all those who opposed the policies of Pope St. Callixtus I forgot that the Lord Himself would have embraced the repentant sinners and welcomed them back into His embrace, should they all sincerely repent from their faults and sins. The Lord Himself had extended His mercy and love to the worst of sinners, and many had come to be reconciled with Him. To close the doors of the Church to those sinners would just indeed be acting like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on sinners from their high pedestals, not realising that they themselves were in need of forgiveness and healing.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courageous decision of Pope St. Callixtus I to embrace those who have sinned and separated themselves from the Church and the love of God, provided that they embraced God with repentance, all of us are reminded that we are also ourselves in need of the same healing and forgiveness from God. We are all called to be the witnesses of God’s love, His mercy and forgiveness towards us. Let us all extend His love to our fellow brothers and sisters, all those whom we encounter in our daily living.
May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us to live faithfully in His presence, dedicating our time, effort and attention for His greater glory. May the Lord bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.