Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on what we have just heard and discern in how we can be living our lives in a more Christ-like manner, in following the Lord’s call and devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. God calls on us all His faithful ones to follow Him and to do His will, and this is what we should be doing with our lives, to shine forth with the light of God in our lives and be role models for our fellow brothers and sisters.
In our first reading today, taken from either the Book of the prophet Haggai or the Book of the prophet Ezra, we heard of the Lord’s emancipation of His people, as He moved the heart and mind of the Persian King Cyrus to allow the exiled Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild their country and cities. However this process took some time, as the ancestral lands of the Israelites had been left devastated and in tatters by the Babylonian and Assyrian conquests a century and more earlier on.
Thus, while the people of God had returned to their lands, as mentioned in the Book of Ezra, but that was merely just the beginning of the restoration of their fortunes and their homeland. It was implied in the Book of the prophet Haggai that took place during the reign of King Darius of Persia, which was one of the successors of King Cyrus of Persia, two or so decades after the emancipation of the Israelites, that the Temple of God in Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt by that time.
Ezra the priest and prophet of God had been instrumental in leading the people and establishing the firm foundation of the faith among the returned exiles. What the prophet Haggai spoke of then was the urging for the people to begin to take their faith seriously, in committing themselves and their resources to complete the rebuilding of the House of God, the Temple in Jerusalem. Although the foundation and preparation must have begun immediately after the exiles had returned to Judah and Jerusalem, but it seemed that many of the people still hesitated to commit themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and left His House in ruins for many years.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is then related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord spoke of the parable of the lamps and the lampstand. He spoke of how no one would put a lamp hidden, for it would have made it useless and meaningless. Instead, at the time when electrical lighting and other sources of light were still scarce, oil lamps were truly precious commodity and items that were very important for the people’s livelihood. As such, by using that parable, the Lord wanted us all to clearly understand that we cannot be idle in our faith and in living our lives.
Just as the Israelites had been idle in dragging their feet and in delaying the building the House of God, the Lord does not want this to be our approach in life and our attitude towards our faith. Instead, we are expected to be more active in living our lives with faith, and we are all expected to do our part in obeying the Lord’s will, His Law and commandments at every possible opportunities. Are we willing and capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to commit ourselves and our efforts to Him from now on?
Today we all celebrate the Feast of a great saint, whose life and actions may serve as great inspiration for all of us in how we live up our own faith. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, also much better known as Padre Pio, was a great priest and a Franciscan who was greatly renowned for his stigmata, or the appearance of the miraculous wounds of Jesus on his hands and feet, as well as for his great piety and love for God.
Padre Pio was born into a deeply religious family, exposed to the faith and its practices from very early on. Even since youth, it was told that he has received mystical visions and experiences, which he would come to experience more and more throughout his life. He joined the Franciscans since the young age of fifteen, becoming a novice and gradually progressing to be ordained a priest. Even during these early years, there had been credible accounts of miraculous events happening to Padre Pio, as he was once seen levitating and other wonders happening around him.
Suffering from ill health throughout his life, nonetheless despite experiencing the stigmata of the Lord, Padre Pio continued to live very simply and led a rigorous discipline of prayer and fasting, and he was soon visited and followed by many people who wanted to see and to seek confession with this miraculous priest and servant of God. Yet, this popularity also drew concern and censure from the Church authorities, who questioned Padre Pio and even for a time, forbade him from publicly celebrating the Sacraments and ordered him to be secluded from others.
Nonetheless Padre Pio obeyed humbly and committed himself even more deeply through prayer and other actions, that as the years went by, more and more people became inspired by the holiness and the exemplary life led by this holy man of God, who suffered constantly from the physical wounds of his stigmata, as well as from other spiritual attacks from the devil, as it was told that the devil and other evil spirits would often strike at Padre Pio from time to time. He endured faithfully and committed his time and effort to the Lord more and more until the end of his life. And even after his passing, numerous people still devote themselves to the Lord through St. Pius of Pietrelcina.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore emulate the good examples and the faith showed by St. Pius of Pietrelcina, in our own daily lives and actions. Let us all strive to be ever more faithful and dedicated at all times, and seek the Lord with ever greater sincerity and conviction from now on, with the intercession of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, the ever faithful holy Padre Pio. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.