Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded that as Christians we are all called to glorify the Lord through our lives and follow in the examples of the Apostles and the saints, in all that they had done for the greater glory of God. The Lord has come into this world proclaiming His truth and revealed everything about Himself to us through His Church, and yet, there were still plenty of obstacles that He encountered because of the stubbornness of those who refused to believe in Him.
For example, the chief priests and the Pharisees opposed the Lord and questioned His motives and works, when whatever He had done clearly came from God. He had performed many miracles, signs and wonders before them, just as many among the Pharisees and the priests had witnessed the works of the Lord as they followed Him from place to place, some among them hoping to catch the Lord in making mistakes and that they could then charge Him and destroy His reputation among His followers.
Why were the chief priests and the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord and in all the truth and things that He has brought into this world? That is because of their pride and worldly attachments, so much so that they also refused to believe in the servant whom God had sent to go before Him, namely that of St. John the Baptist, precisely because he was so popular and so many people went to him seeking to be baptised and converted to the Lord, that the chief priests and the Pharisees were afraid that everyone were turning away from them, toward St. John the Baptist earlier on, and then, towards the Lord Jesus.
The Lord yet did not allow all these to stop Him or to dissuade Him from continuing on with His ministry and works. On the contrary, He continued to push on and persevere through the challenges He faced, and refuted the chief priests and the Pharisees such that they were not able to respond back to Him in kind, as shown in our Gospel passage today. He showed all of us that to be Christians, we have to be first and foremost be committed to the Lord and resist the temptations to give up our commitment and struggles just because we may encounter challenges and trials along the way.
Instead, we have to deepen our commitment, and share in the sufferings of Christ, as we walk through our journey of faith in life. This is what we should be doing with our lives, and today, we can also be further inspired by the examples of a great saint and Pope, whose lives and works through a difficult and turbulent time faced by the Universal Church can help us to remain firm in our own faith in the Lord, and also to discover the calling and the mission entrusted to us by Him, by our renewed conviction and faith.
Pope St. Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was one of the more recent Popes, the predecessor of Pope St. John Paul II and his own predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who passed away just over forty years ago in the Year of Our Lord 1978. Pope St. Paul VI lived through difficult times, surviving through two World Wars that devastated much of Europe and other parts of the world. He was born into a small noble Italian family, who joined the seminary with the intention to become a priest during the midst of the First World War. He went on to complete his studies and was ordained a priest a few years after he joined the seminary.
Later on he would then continue to serve the Church in the Holy See, as part of the Secretariat of State through which he worked closely with Pope Pius XII and other prominent members of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See. During the difficult years of the Second World War, he helped the Pope in his numerous efforts and missions to mediate between the warring sides and to save many people who were suffering persecutions, as well as managing the affairs of the Church in places that were devastated by conflict and war.
It was later on after many years of service then that the Pope appointed then Father Montini as Archbishop of Milan, tasked with the governance and guidance of the largest Archdiocese in Italy and one of the most important in the whole world. During this tenure as the Archbishop of Milan, and later on as Cardinal under Pope St. John XXIII, the future Pope St. Paul VI laboured hard in dedicating himself to his flock in the Archdiocese of Milan, and was also deeply involved in many other projects and charitable works of the Church.
Then as one of the key members of the Ecumenical Second Vatican Council and as the succeeding Pope, in leading the Church in completing the Ecumenical Council and the management of the Church during those times of transitions, Pope St. Paul VI worked hard to help the Church to survive through those difficult years, when many left the Church and abandoned their faith in God. His landmark Humanae Vitae papal encyclical, widely praised for his staunch defence of Church teachings was condemned and rejected by many segments of the Church. Nonetheless, Pope St. Paul VI continued to labour hard and to persuade those who have erred in their path and faith, to the very end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring example set by Pope St. Paul VI and reminding ourselves of the good examples set by so many other wonderful holy saints and martyrs, God’s holy people, then let us ask ourselves if we have been living our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us, like how those saints had lived their lives. Or have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and ways, that we hardened our hearts and minds much like those chief priests and the Pharisees? If we have done the latter, then we must realise that it is still not too late for us to turn away from these sinful ways and return to the Lord.
Let us all therefore live our lives faithfully from now on, giving our very best to be righteous and just, to be committed to the Lord at all times. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen us all to remain resolute and committed to walk in His path regardless of the challenges and trials we may encounter. Amen.