Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on them and realise that there are so much that each and every one of us can do to remain faithful to God. All of us are called to focus on the Lord and turn towards Him with sincere love and devotion, and not just showing empty and meaningless faith. This is what our Scripture passages today have been telling us, that to be good Christians, we must not do what many of the people at that time had done.
For at that time, as the Christian faith began to spread across the Mediterranean and throughout the world, more and more Gentiles or the non-Jewish people such as the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Africans, Persians and many others who came to believe in the Lord and His truth, and gave themselves to be baptised by the Apostles, the many missionaries and messengers that had been sent by God to those people to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth and love to them.
However, there were also many Jews who converted to the faith, in Jerusalem and Judea, as well as in the various diaspora communities around the world. And in various occasions, some of those Jewish Christians brought with them the same opinion and view of the Pharisees and the elders who were adopting a very hardline approach in the interpretation, application and enforcement of the Law of God which had been revealed through Moses. They advocated for the wholesome adoption of the entire Judaic traditions and customs, many of which were excessive and inappropriate additions accumulated over the centuries of its practices.
To apply such a rigid and harsh application of the Jewish customs and practices would be exceedingly difficult for the Gentiles who have converted to Christianity, as there were quite a few cultural practices of the Jewish people which were not acceptable or even frowned upon and disliked by the Romans and the Greeks. Therefore, St. Paul worked hard together with the other Apostles and leaders of the Church to standardise the approach of the Christian faith and practices, in which they all agreed at the First Council of Jerusalem not to enforce the excesses of Judaic laws on all Christians, and less still on the Gentile converts.
The Gospel passage today echoed this same sentiment as we heard how the Lord strongly rebuked the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had corrupted and misused the Law for their own purposes and benefits, and as hypocrites who claimed to believe in God and yet in their hearts and minds, God was not the primary focus and emphasis of their lives. Instead, it was their pride, ego and ambition that drove them forward in life, and as the main impetus behind their preoccupation and obsession with their very strict version of the Law.
The Lord did not mince His words and spoke plainly, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law consistently tried to oppose Him and made His works difficult, claiming to be on the side of orthodoxy and faithful teachings, and claiming to be better and more pious, and yet, behind all of that facade was that of incredible hypocrisy and stubbornness, as they continued to harden their hearts and minds against the Lord and His truth. They acted so also because they were jealous of the Lord, and this proved that much of their actions were based on self-serving and selfish desires for power and influence in the world.
That is why He spoke regarding this matter, and His servant, St. Paul the Apostle also echoed the same message to all of us Christians, that we must avoid this kind of selfish attitude and learn to be more genuine in our faith, and distance ourselves from the many temptations of worldly power and glory, resisting the temptations of our desires and the other things that often lead us to our downfall, by luring us away from the true path towards the Lord. We must not indulge in self-serving and selfish attitudes, but must learn to be humble to listen to God and allow Him to lead us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, let us all pray that the Lord will continue to watch over us and guide us, helping us to remain firm in our faith. Let us also pray that we will always grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and let us help one another in being faithful to God rather than to condemn or judge one another or thinking that we are in any way better than others or more deserving of God’s salvation. May God bless each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.