Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded to put God at the centre of our lives, to make Him the pivot around which our whole lives revolve. The Lord has blessed us so much and so wonderfully, and yet, many of us still do not appreciate all that we have been blessed with. We ignored His love and were apathetic to Him, and all these were because of the lack of genuine faith in our hearts.
That is why we are reminded yet again today to refocus our lives on God and ask ourselves, what is truly the meaning and significance of our Christian faith? It is by following God with all of our hearts, by being virtuous and by practicing our faith with real and sincere actions, in each and every moments of our lives.
Today, through the Gospel passage we have just heard, we are told of the reality of being a Christian, that may bring us tough challenges and difficulties as we go forward faithfully in life as Christians. The Lord Himself told His disciples frankly how His coming into this world, His work and revelation of truth would bring divisions, struggles, challenges and difficulties for all of them. This means that we should not expect that becoming Christians would bring about happiness, joy and satisfaction for our lives.
This especially refers to those who claim and think that by believing with God, we will be endowed with blessings and good things, the false theology and teaching called the ‘Prosperity Gospel’. Instead, we must always be prepared to defend our faith and to be prepared in case we have to face opposition and ridicule, rejection and hardships because of our adherence to the faith and to our Christian tenets and the truth of God.
It does not mean that we will necessarily suffer and endure hardships, but neither should we expect that life will be smooth-sailing for us just because we believe in God. And ultimately, these divisions came about not because the Lord desires this deplorable state of disunity. Rather, it is our own stubbornness and constant refusal to listen to the Lord and our disobedience that led to these divisions.
It is because we as Christians standing faithfully by the Lord and His righteous path, that we face conflicts, divisions and persecutions from those who refuse to believe in the Lord. Our righteousness and faithful way of life are abomination and terror for those who have chosen the wicked path of life, without faith in God and those who disagreed with His truth.
This is where, our wonderful saint today can show us so much how to live faithfully in accordance with God’s will even amidst the greatest of challenges and difficulties. Karol Jozef Wojtyla, later known as Pope St. John Paul II, was one of the most renowned leaders of the Church as the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, known for being the first non-Italian pope in over four centuries, as well as for his long reign of almost twenty-seven years.
Pope St. John Paul II was born in Poland in the town of Wadowice not long after the end of the First World War and the independence of Poland, after great destructions and all the horrors of war that had occurred. He lost his family and loved ones early on, and he faced challenges that were truly great as his country edged on into war, and as Poland was conquered and occupied before he even turned twenty, he did not have it easy.
Even as the young Karol Wojtyla entered the seminary and studied to be a priest, he had to do it in secret due to the difficult conditions at the time, and he spent those years amidst bitter conflicts that happened and killed multitudes, including those whom he knew personally. And when the war and NAZI Germany atrocities were over, immediately the Communists led by the Soviet Union took over.
The young Pope St. John Paul II spent his early years of priesthood amidst the increasingly difficult situation for the Church and as many were persecuted for remaining loyal to the Church and their faith in God. When he was chosen as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, and then later on as the Archbishop of Krakow, only more challenges faced him and his flock. He faced opposition to his efforts to care for his flock, and when a new church was to be built in a new town called Nowa Huta, the authorities tried to prevent its building, in a city without church in the attempt by the atheist Communist government to oppress the Church and the faithful.
Yet, all these did not stop the Archbishop from eventually prevailing and had the church built after over a decade of struggle, and when Karol Wojtyla was elected as the Pope and Supreme Pontiff in the Year of Our Lord 1978, he continued to labour hard for the sake of all the faithful. And even through an assassination attempt just few years into his Pontificate, which left him injured quite badly, as well as other challenges and troubles the Church had to face, up to the personal sufferings and physical disabilities caused by Parkinson’s Disease towards the end of his Pontificate, Pope St. John Paul remained firm in his dedication to God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see from the well-known life and examples of Pope St. John Paul II that to be Christians does not necessarily mean that we will have smooth-sailing and good life without troubles. Trials, challenges and troubles can beset us at any time, and if we are not firm enough with our faith, we may end up being dragged down the path of sin. We must instead stay strong and resolute, and follow the inspiring example of Pope St. John Paul II in his faith and devotion to God.
Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment from now on, striving to be good and faithful Christians at all times and in every moments of our lives, in our every actions and interactions with one another. May God bless us all and may He guide us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.