Monday, 28 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the love and mercy of God, as well as what it truly means to be a follower and believer of God, to be genuine Christians in all things. We have to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and with all of our strength, and we have to put our trust in Him always, no matter what challenges and trials may come our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the story of the Book of Genesis in our first reading today, we heard the interesting exchange between God and Abraham with regards to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God revealed to Abraham that He was about to lay waste to Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroy both cities for the great sins and wickedness that they had committed. Yet at the same time, Lot, the cousin and relative of Abraham was living in that place with his family.

Therefore, Abraham, knowing how the Lord’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah might harm his relative, he tried to reason with the Lord and dissuade Him from such a plan, as destroying the whole entire two cities might indeed bring death even to the righteous who were perhaps still living in them, including that of Lot and his own family members. It was likely that Abraham believed in Lot and his family, and trusted that they were still faithful and righteous even when living amongst the wicked.

Abraham tried to reason with the Lord and tried to persuade Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but in the end, although he might have genuinely hoped that there were just a few of the righteous in the two cities, be it just fifty, forty-five, thirty, twenty or even just ten of them in the cities, that the Lord would spare the entire two cities for their sake. Yet, in truth there were not even ten who could have been saved. It seemed that only Lot and his immediate family alone were righteous and good.

But God still cared for them, and He sent two of His Angels to warn and lead Lot and his family out of harm’s way before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was to happen. Except for Lot’s wife, who hesitated and looked back when the Angels had told them explicitly not to do so, the whole family of Lot was saved, when the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped out of the face of the whole world.

Then we heard in our Gospel passage today, of the Lord’s words and encounter with one of the teachers of the Law, who wanted to follow the Lord and believed in Him, and the Lord told him frankly that He did not even have any place to stay or lay His head in, when the teacher of the Law asked to see His place, and He also told another disciple, who wanted to turn back and bury his family members first, metaphorically, that those who did so, did not have their hearts and minds fully focused on the Lord.

Linking what we have heard in our Scripture passages today and how the story of Lot’s wife and the disciple who wanted to go back to bury his dead family, and the Lord saying to the teacher of the Law that He had no place to even lay His head, we are all reminded that to be Christians, more often than not we have to make great sacrifices and abandon various desires we have, and resist the many worldly temptations present all around us.

Are we able to do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to walk righteously in the path of the Lord, Who loves us and cherishes us, and reminding ourselves that while the Lord’s love for us is ever great and wonderful, but the effects and consequences for our unrepented sins, wickedness and evils prevent us from truly receiving the fullness of His love and grace? What we heard today from the Scripture passages remind us that as Christians, we are all called to a new life and existence in faith.

Today, we all celebrate the feast of one of the renowned saints of antiquity, namely that of St. Irenaeus, holy bishop and servant of God, and martyr of the Church. He was remembered well for his great piety and many important works on theology and various other aspects of the faith, and especially his efforts in countering and opposing the corrupting influence of heresies such as gnosticism. He dedicated himself to his flock as the bishop of Lyons, in defending the faithful from heresies and in caring for their spiritual needs.

St. Irenaeus defended the true faith, Apostolic tradition and Church teachings from those who sought to undermine and destroy them, and also from those who wished to subvert and alter those faithful traditions and truths for their own selfish and misguided purposes and ambitions. At the same time he also protected and helped to lead his flock through a difficult time of oppression and persecution from the Roman authorities.

He remained firm and faithful to the end, as he was most likely persecuted and put to death as part of one of the persecutions of Christians in the region by the Roman authorities. Nonetheless, the courage, faith and the many good works that St. Irenaeus had done for the sake of all of God’s faithful people had indeed inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Have we been inspired by St. Irenaeus and our other holy predecessors by their action and faith? Let us all turn towards the Lord therefore with a new heart and with a new faith, and let us commit ourselves anew to Him, not turning back anymore and resist the temptations that distract us from our sole focus on Him. May God be with us all in this journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

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