Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scriptures, we heard from our first reading the beginning of the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful and the Church in Ephesus, in which the Apostle spoke of the great love of God and the salvation which He has lavished on all of those who believed and embraced Christ as their Saviour. Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard the continuation of yesterday’s discourse on the Lord’s criticism and the curses He levelled on the Pharisees.
In our first reading today, St. Paul spoke to the people of Ephesus regarding the designs and all that God had willed on His people, how He has created us all out of love, and how He has blessed us all and provided for us. Essentially, the key message of St. Paul is that we are beloved by God and He wants us to be forgiven from our sins and thus be reconciled with Him.
Through sin, all of us have been separated from God, and we have fallen away from the path of grace and eternal life. Had it not been for God’s enduring and pure love for us, we would have been destroyed and annihilated. Our sins would have condemned us into an eternity of suffering, and it was only thanks to the patience and compassionate love showed by the Lord to us that we have received the way out of this certain predicament.
It was by the loving sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that the Lord had redeemed us from our fated destruction, extending forgiveness for our sins, and calling us to repent wholeheartedly and abandon our past lives of sin, our previous wicked and disobedient way of life. The Lord has generously extended His offer of love and mercy, and we shall certainly be completely forgiven if only that we embrace repentance and change our ways.
This is then linked to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord speaking to the people on the vices and wickedness of the Pharisees in the various occasions when they did not obey the Lord as they preferred to live and act in accordance to their own way. The Lord reminded us all that this is not the right path for us to follow, and instead of doing what the Pharisees had done, we must be truly faithful.
First of all, the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord, in His words and teachings even though He has repeatedly showed them and all others how His message and words were genuine, and that the prophets had indeed prophesied about His coming into the world. And despite all the signs and wonders they had witnessed, they still refused to have faith.
This shows just how powerful the allure of human pride and desire can be, and if we allow these to influence us much as how they had influenced the Pharisees and many of the teachers of the Law and elders of the people, then it will likely lead us down the same path towards ruin. Those groups of people I mentioned earlier, they took great pride in their own supposed superior intellect, power, influence and other things that made them to resist the Lord and His revelation of truth.
They were blinded by their desires, by their jealousy within them, and by their fears, as they were afraid to lose all the good things, all the privileges and power they had enjoyed. And in the end, instead of depending and focusing on the Lord, they ended up being self-indulgent, depending on their own power and might, their own wisdom and intellect, refusing to admit that they could have been mistaken and wrong, and thus, hardened their hearts when the Lord came bearing His truth before their own eyes.
Truly, it is sad to see how those who were blessed with many good things had fallen. But this is indeed a kind reminder from the Lord how we cannot be complacent and need to be careful lest we may be tempted by those worldly desires, concerns and all the allures by which the devil has been constantly trying to lure us away from God’s path and grace. It will indeed not be easy, as we live in a world inundated by all these temptations, but unless we make the effort, then indeed we will be easy prey for those temptations.
That is why, today, all of us should be inspired by the good examples set by our saint today, the renowned St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, the renowned mystic and holy woman, declared one of the Doctors of the Church for her immense contribution to the faith and in all of her writings and efforts. Together with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila were very important figures in the renewal and reform of the Carmelite order, establishing what would be known as the Discalced Carmelites.
At that time, after centuries of developments, the Carmelite order began to stray further and further away from the true intentions of the founders of the religious order. Members of the religious began to be corrupted by worldly desires, and found many ways to circumvent or ignore the rules of the religious living and Carmelite tenets altogether. Similar trends were also observed in other religious orders, as both members of the clergy and laity alike became lax in their discipline in life and in their observance of God’s Law and commandments.
Therefore, St. Teresa of Jesus, together with St. John of the Cross and other reformers set out to reform the Carmelites, as well as the larger Church and the faithful community in general, which sought to return the Christian faith and its followers to purer intentions, ridding it off the excesses that had grown to accumulate over those past few centuries, when corrupt influences of the world began to affect the members of the Church and led them astray, much as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had experienced earlier.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Teresa of Jesus and her fellow companions all worked hard and dedicated themselves deeply to the service of the Lord despite the challenges that she had to face throughout those difficult years in attempting to reform the Church and the faithful community, especially the Carmelites. We are all also called to follow the Lord, just as St. Teresa of Jesus and the other saints had done.
Let us all turn towards the Lord with all of our hearts, and let us commit ourselves ever more faithfully, each and every moments of our lives, to be faithful disciples and great inspirations for each other, the beacons of God’s light, His truth, hope and love. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. St. Teresa of Jesus, great reformer and faithful servant of God, pray for us all, always. Amen.