Monday, 13 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the readings from the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded to entrust ourselves to the Lord, through Christ Himself as the Moderator of the New Covenant between us and God. Christ our Lord has reunited us and the Lord, our God, and by His most loving sacrifice and death on the Cross, He has done all these because He loves each and every one of us without exception, and we should be inspired to follow His loving examples.

St. Paul elaborated on all of these in his Epistle to St. Timothy as mentioned in our first reading passage today. We heard the Apostle telling his godson and fellow servant of God, St. Timothy that God wanted the reconciliation of the whole entire world and for all of mankind to be reconciled with Him in love. To this extent, He has shown us all His enduring love, by His coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, whom St. Paul specifically mentioned in His act of ultimate loving sacrifice on the Cross, as He gave His life for the salvation of all.

If it was not for the love of God, all of us would have perished, and God could have erased us from existence with the mere simple will of His mind alone. Yet, He did not do that, and we may be wondering why. That is because He created each and every one of us out of love, of all races and origins, of all of our various communities and nations, of our uniqueness and diversity, all of us are equally beloved by God, no matter our background and our histories. God cares for us and has made us all to share with us His love. St. Paul mentioned all these as he reminds us all also to show God’s love in our own way of life.

Then we also heard from our Gospel passage today of the story from the time when the Lord Jesus encountered the Roman military officer, likely a centurion who had a servant who was very ill and near death, and the officer hoped that the Lord could heal his servant from his condition, and made him whole again. He came to seek the Lord and beseeched Him humbly to ask for His help and assistance. And this is something that is very significant because for someone of his stature and position, it is unprecedented for the Roman centurion to come and seek someone like the Lord Jesus.

Why is that so? That is because the Romans were the elites and the ruling people of the reigning superpower of that time, the Roman Empire, and for a Roman citizen, a truly privileged class at that time, and an army centurion no less, to come and meet with a Jewish teacher of the faith and miracle worker, as how Jesus was known at that time, was indeed unusual. The expectation would have been that the Lord ought to have come to the Roman officer instead to provide His services. And on the contrary, as we heard, not only that the Roman centurion came to the Lord, but He trusted in the Lord so much and had such faith in Him, that he humbly asked Him to command that the disease be driven away from his dear servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that Roman officer had greater faith than many of the Israelites of that time. He was truly a man of God and someone filled with true love, as he was willing to go all the way to seek help and healing for his ailing and dear servant. If he had not loved or cared for his servant, he would not have done so, or bothered to spend the time to look for the Lord, and he would not have humbled himself so before the Lord, being a high ranking Roman officer that he was.

And that is exactly what the Lord Himself had done for us, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are so beloved and precious to God, that He was willing to humble Himself and to go all the way to seek us, to be reconciled with us and to see our healing and redemption. He did all these by offering Himself as the perfect offering and sacrifice for the atonement of all of our sins. We are all therefore reminded of the great and infinite love that God has shown us, and how each and every one of us should respond to Him with faith and love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we not embarrassed and ashamed at the attitude that we have for the Lord as compared to the attitude showed by the Roman army officer? Many of us have not truly loved the Lord sincerely and many among us have treated the Lord with nothing but disdain and ignorance, refusing to commit ourselves to Him and not having the faith that we should have in Him. Instead, we placed our trust more in worldly things and matters, that led us further and further away from Him.

This is where we really should reflect upon the faith that the Roman centurion had in the Lord, and in the love which he has shown to his fellow men, his dear servant whom he cared for and loved. Are we able to follow the Lord and have faith in Him in the same manner? Today, we should also look upon the examples set by yet another great role model of faith, namely that of St. John Chrysostom, a great Doctor of the Church and a truly inspiring saint and servant of God, whose love for God and dedication to Him and His people should be our inspiration.

St. John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople, then the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire, under the reign of the Emperor Arcadius. He was an ascetic earlier in his life, dedicated to the study of theology and other aspects of the Christian faith before becoming a deacon in Antioch and was remembered for his great and eloquent sermons, for which he was honoured as ‘Chrysostom’ which means the ‘golden-mouthed’ and became more and more famous at the time. Many pagans and unbelievers came to believe in God because of his sermons and piety, and many fellow Christians turned away from their sins and erroneous ways through his works.

St. John Chrysostom as the Archbishop of Constantinople presided over a period of great reform and purification of the Church from the excesses of worldly influences, especially from that of the corrupt practices of the Roman Empress Aelia Eudoxia. His reforms gained him the ire of the Empress and her powerful supporters, which led to more confrontations and eventually St. John Chrysostom publicly denounced the activities of the Empress and her associates. His enemies plotted against him and managed to get him exiled and banished away from his See, which led to a great revolt by the people and an earthquake which signified the signs of Divine displeasure at such a heinous act against God’s holy servant.

He was banished again after criticising the placing of a silver statue of the Empress near the Cathedral, and while he remained in exile, his steadfastness in defending the faith, the purity of morality and Church teachings were well-remembered and became great inspirations for many of those who came after him. St. John Chrysostom showed us all how one can commit oneself to the Lord and how we can dedicate ourselves to His cause. His love for the Lord, his dedication for the flock of the Lord entrusted to him and his other inspiring life examples should be inspiration for us to follow in our own lives.

May the Lord continue to be with us and strengthen us in our journey of faith, so that hopefully we may find our way to Him and be blessed in our every good works and endeavours, following in the faith and examples of the virtuous Roman centurion, St. John Chrysostom and many others of our holy predecessors. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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