Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Holy Virgins)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures all of us are called to reflect on what it means for us to have faith in the Lord and how we should live our lives so that they may be truly reflective of who we are as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord, and as those who are loving Him and seeking Him in our lives, and always ever striving to walk in His presence worthily.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the Maccabees of the continuation of the great persecution of the faithful Jewish people under the reign of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of the Seleucid Empire that at that time had dominion over the land of Judea and Galilee where most of the Jews were living in. As I mentioned yesterday, this king was renowned in history for his great ambition and megalomania, and in how he tried to suppress local customs and way of life in favour of his own Greek culture.
Today we heard how in his persecution, the king persecuted a holy and devout old man, a revered elder of the Jewish community named Eleazar. As per the king’s orders, everyone had to abandon their Jewish customs and practices, the teachings of their faith and embraced Greek traditions, which included the things and actions that were considered as against the Law of God as passed down through Moses and preserved by the Jewish people.
Eleazar’s friends and the king’s men, not wishing to see the old man suffer and die from refusing to obey the king’s commands, tried very hard to persuade him to at least make a show of compliance and obedience, so that he could be spared and then still practiced his faith and beliefs in private. However, Eleazar firmly refused to do that, and he reasoned well saying that as an elder of the people, all the more that he should show example to others, in his faith in God. To publicly show that he was abandoning his faith would cause scandal so great that would have lead many others to abandon their faith too. Thus, Eleazar chose to remain faithful and die for his faith.
In our Gospel passage today we then heard from the story of the Lord Jesus and Zaccheus, a short man and an infamous tax collector. I am sure many of us know of this story, in which Zaccheus was curious about the Lord and wanted to see Him, but because of his height, he actually had to climb a tree just in order to be able to see Him. The Lord then responded to Zaccheus’ vigour and desire to see Him, and told him that He would want to go to his house and stay there.
The Lord did this even though many people there witnessing the events grumbled and gossiped about the Lord spending time in the house of a sinner, as tax collectors back then were very much hated and even treated not just as terrible sinners but also the traitors to the nation. All the more, Zaccheus was a notorious and particularly wealthy tax collector at that. For the Lord Jesus to associate Himself with such a person must have been truly puzzling and scandalous to the people, and yet the Lord still pushed on, telling all of them that there was a sinner who desired to seek the Lord and for His forgiveness.
What this means to all of us is that all of us are called to seek the Lord with all of our heart and strength, and we should have the same faith as our holy predecessors, like that of Eleazar and Zaccheus, to be meek and humble before the Lord, recognising that we are sinners while at the same time striving to do our best to live our lives with holiness and virtues. We should not be discouraged to live our lives with commitment and devotion to God.
Today, all of us can also be inspired by the examples showed by another two saints, namely St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude the Great. St. Margaret of Scotland was the Queen of Scotland during the Medieval era who was remembered well for her great piety and personal holiness and devotion to God. She was exemplary in fulfilling her duties as queen of the realm, while positively influencing her husband, the king of Scotland, in the management of the realm, and was very much involved in charity outreach to the poor and those who suffer.
St. Margaret of Scotland cared for the poor throughout her kingdom and spent a lot of effort in providing for them, while also helping the kingdom to grow spiritually in faith, through her works and reforms. She also inspired many others through her great personal piety, spirituality and devotion, which she showed not just publicly, but also in her intense personal devotion, her prayerful life before God. She dedicated her life to God and to her kingdom, a truly great role model for us all.
Meanwhile, St. Gertrude was a great and renowned German mystic, religious nun and theologian, who was also a member of the Benedictines. She devoted her whole life to God in prayer, as part of her religious community, while writing extensively on the matters of the faith, so much so that her writings and works still influence many theologians and other great saint theologians to this very day. She also had a great piety and dedication to God, receiving many visions that she also recorded in her works.
Today, having heard the courageous examples from so many of our dedicated and holy predecessors, all of us are therefore reminded of what we ourselves as Christians should be doing with our lives. Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to the Lord with all of our might and strength, that we may always persevere against even trials and persecutions for the sake of the Lord? All of us are reminded to walk always ever in the path that the Lord has set before us. Can we commit ourselves to God from now on, with all of our strength?
May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us to have the faith required to persevere through the trials and challenges present in our path in this world. May God bless us all in our every efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.