Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the time when St. Paul was in Jerusalem, having followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then was accused and attacked by the Jewish leaders from both the members of the Pharisees party and from the Sadducees party. These two groups were very influential and powerful groups of people during the time of the Lord’s ministry and the early Church, both opposing St. Paul in his missionary efforts while at the same time were also bitterly divided against each other.
The Pharisees were the spiritual leaders in the community, those with intellectual knowledge and wisdom, knowledge of the Law and the teachings of the prophets, yet because of their pride and their refusal to admit that someone else could have a greater and more complete truth than them, they failed to recognise the Lord Jesus as the Saviour and the One Whom God had sent into the world, and of Whom the prophets and the Scriptures were all speaking about. They were blinded by their own vanity and their pride, and as a result, they also opposed and persecuted St. Paul for his faith. St. Paul himself was a Pharisee before he converted to the Christian faith.
Meanwhile, the Sadducees were the secular leaders and powerful members of the community whose beliefs were almost diametrically opposite that of the Pharisees. These people did not believe in matters spiritual, in Angels and spirits, or in the Resurrection unlike the Pharisees. They represent the materialistic and worldly segments of the society, and they opposed St. Paul and the Lord because of their beliefs and the belief in the Resurrection, which the Lord Himself had gone through, as these were opposed to their own fundamental beliefs.
As such, while they both opposed St. Paul and wanted to arrest and punish him, they were not united at all in their purpose and intentions. The moment that St. Paul exposed this, when he mentioned how he was once a young Pharisee before his conversion, the whole place went up in great uproar as the Pharisees and the Sadducees went against each other instead of St. Paul, showing in the end just how bitterly divided they were, and this is especially so because neither of them had the fullness of truth, having denied Christ and His teachings, and His Apostle St. Paul.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord in the continuation of His prayer for the sake of His disciples, on the night before He was to be arrested and put to death. The Lord Jesus prayed over His disciples, asking His heavenly Father to guide them and to strengthen them, and to keep them in the perfection of unity and truth, just as He and His Father are One, with the Holy Spirit. The Lord wanted to stress to all of His disciples that through the truth that He has brought into their midst and which He has revealed to them, He would keep them to Himself and that they would remain united and strong so long as they anchored themselves in Him.
This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called today to embrace the truth of God wholeheartedly. We should not be stubborn like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who clung to their thoughts and way of life so much that they refused to listen to the Lord and His truth even when He Himself has patiently explained and revealed all these to them throughout His ministry, and which is then later on continued by His disciples like by St. Paul and the other Apostles. We should allow the Lord to knock on the doors of our hearts and minds, that we may understand His truth and know Him more so that we may love Him all the more.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a famous missionary priest, whose life was dedicated to the Lord, and whose works brought so many people back to the embrace of the Mother Church and many were converted to the truth. St. Bernardine of Siena was born into a noble family though orphaned at a young age. He then joined the Franciscans and became a priest, ministering to many people throughout Italy, in his various journey of preaching and outreach to them.
St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher, one who is truly convinced of the truth he was preaching, and although he was weak in voice and stature, his preaching and words were so powerful that throughout his more than three decades of ministry, countless people turned to the Lord and the faith was rejuvenated in so many others, leading to a great period of religious revival all over Italy, throughout all the places he has been preaching and ministering in. St. Bernardine followed in the footsteps of St. Paul and the other Apostles, reaching out to those who have not yet known the Lord and making Him known to them.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples showed by St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Paul and all of our holy predecessors, all those who have gone before us and showed us what it means to be true Christians in actions, deeds and words. Are we all willing to commit ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly as they had done? We have been entrusted with the same truth and are called to commit ourselves to be part of the efforts of the Church in evangelisation and conversion of the whole world.
Let us all therefore be genuine Christians not just in words but also in deeds, and do our best in whatever we do, in even the smallest and the simplest things that we do, to glorify the Lord by our lives. This is what we are all expected to do, and what each and every one of us should be inspired to do at all times, throughout our lives. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed conviction and desire to love Him and serve Him at all times, and let us reach out to our fellow brethren, proclaiming the truth of God at all times.
May God be with us all, and may He strengthen us and encourage us to walk ever more faithfully in His path, following the zeal and piety of St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Paul the Apostle, and all the other courageous and faithful saints and martyrs, our most noble inspirations in faith and life. Amen.