Tuesday, 20 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to reflect on our faith in the Lord and what it means to be Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own people. He has called us to walk in His path and to trust in Him, and as long as we are faithful, we have nothing to fear, for God Himself will always be by our side. If God has always been faithful even when we have been unfaithful, then how much more blessed we shall be then, if we are faithful?

In our first reading today, we heard the moment when the Lord delivered His people, the people of Israel, from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as He led them through the Red Sea, safe and sound, walking on the dry seabed as He opened the sea before them. And we heard from the Book of Exodus today, the moment of the final triumph as the Lord delivered the Egyptian chariots and armies into the sea, crushing them before Him.

The sea engulfed and destroyed all those who had pursued the Israelites across the sea, and finally the people of Israel were truly free, as they would no longer be under the tyranny or rule of the Egyptians and the Pharaoh. The Lord Who loved them and had compassion on them had shown them the undeniable truth and proof of His enduring and ever generous love for them. He rescued them from their great sufferings and restored hope to them.

Through this, all of us are yet again reminded of all the great and wonderful things that the Lord had done for our sake. Just as He has blessed and taken good care of the Israelites, thus, He has done the same for us, and will continue to do the same for us. However, it is we ourselves who often disobey Him and disregard Him, ignoring Him and preferring to follow our own paths rather than to trust in the Lord and His path. And in this day’s Gospel passage, we heard the Lord reminding all of us that those who follow the Lord and obey His will, they are all beloved and blessed by God, as those considered to be His own brothers and sisters, as intimate part of the family of the faithful.

All of us are therefore reminded of the need for us all to have faith in the Lord and to walk courageously and faithfully in His path, remembering all that He had done for the sake of His beloved people. We have to keep this faith alive in us, and grow ever stronger in our commitment to the Lord, and be role models for one another in how we are living our lives so that we may help more and more people to turn towards the Lord with renewed faith. Let us all not be easily swayed by doubt or fear, or by any other temptations that often prevented us from truly finding our way to the Lord.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Apollinaris, a famous bishop and martyr of the faith, who was the Bishop of Ravenna in today’s Italy. According to Church tradition, he was made the Bishop of Ravenna by none other than St. Peter himself, the Bishop of Rome and first Pope. St. Apollinaris of Ravenna was appointed as the shepherd of the growing flock of the faithful in Ravenna, caring for their spiritual well-being and needs, and leading them through the challenging times of the earliest days of the Church there. St. Apollinaris laboured hard for the sake of the Lord and His Church, establishing firm foundation for the Church and the population of Christians under his care grew rapidly.

It was told that the miracles he performed during his ministry inspired many to turn towards the Lord and became Christians. This however also led to fierce opposition by the pagans who viewed the growth in the Christian faith and Church as great threat to themselves. As such, St. Apollinaris and his flock were persecuted, with the bishop himself attacked and made to suffer, enduring difficult trials and challenges, suffering from wounds and torture, sent into exile and prison. Yet, St. Apollinaris endured all these obstacles and strove to do his best to remain firmly faithful to the Lord.

Through to his eventual martyrdom, St. Apollinaris inspired many Christians that came after him, and many others who chose to turn to the Lord because of his examples, which strengthened and encouraged many other Christians to do the same, and become beacons of God’s light among the people of this world. How about us then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we not inspired in the same way as well? Are we not ashamed that while so many others had been inspired and moved by the Lord’s love and by the faith showed from His faithful servants, yet we are still unfaithful and lacking in commitment and love for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn towards the Lord with renewed vigour and zeal, and rediscover that love and faith that we ought to have in the Lord, and for the Lord. May the Lord bless us all and may He guide us all in our journey, efforts and good endeavours that we may ever be closer to God and conform ever more to the path that He has set before us all. May God be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

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