Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded yet again of the coming of the salvation of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. As we heard from our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we heard how the man of God, Balaam the Seer blessed the people of Israel and spoke of a prophecy of what would be come, the coming of the Star that would rise from Jacob, an early proclamation of Christ’s coming into this world. Then we also heard from our Gospel passage today of the Lord Jesus Himself and His debate with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who questioned Him on the authority and legality of His actions and works.

In our first reading that we heard from the Book of Numbers, we heard of the people of Israel who were at that time on their way to the promised land of Canaan, that God had promised to their ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At that time, the Israelites had become a great nation with hundreds of thousands of people, all having journeyed through the desert for a long period of forty years during their Exodus from Egypt. God guided them and protected them during all that time, provided for them, food and drink, as well as crushing their enemies before them, all the while punishing those who refused to believe in Him and disobeyed His Law and commandments.

It was then that the king of Moab, one of the later neighbours of the Israelites, namely king Balak was worried about the Israelites, their great numbers and power, and feared them. As such, he resorted to using methods such as curses that he asked a seer named Balaam, son of Beor as we heard in our reading today. Balaam was tasked by king Balak to curse the people of Israel so that the curses might destroy them and make them to be at a disadvantage. Yet, as we heard in today’s first reading, Balaam instead spoke the truth, of whatever God had told him to proclaim before the king, a blessing instead of a curse for the Israelites.

Balaam praised God and His people, the Israelites, blessed them for all of their wonders and he also proclaimed the vision that he had received from God. He saw a vision of a Figure to come, that he was not yet able to comprehend, and yet, that figure was indeed like a Star that would arise from Jacob, a reference to the people of Israel, to be the One Who leads and guides the whole entire world. Through this we can see how Balaam was blessed by God and given the rare opportunity to glimpse God’s great plan of salvation for all of the nations and all the people, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As we look upon from our current age and time, in which Christ had come into the world and revealed Himself, we know that Balaam spoke the truth, and he had given the people of God back then an insight of God’s plans and all that He had done out of His great love for them. And yet, we should be able to see the irony that it was Balaam, a man who did not even belong to the people of Israel, who proclaimed God’s love and truth, while God’s own people denied Him, rejected Him, doubted Him and questioned His authority as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

In our Gospel today, we heard how the Lord was questioned by the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees as He was teaching in the Temple, who questioned Him for His actions and all that He had taught the people. This was likely because of the jealousy that those people held for the Lord, as they saw Him as a rival and great threat to their own popularity, influence, authority and power. Contextually, we must understand that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made up one of the two groups of very influential leaders of the community back then.

As such, they likely saw the Lord and His immense popularity, His radically different teachings and truths as a challenge to their own authority and power, that they opposed Him, refused to listen to Him and stubbornly resisted in believing His message of truth despite all that they themselves had witnessed, seen and heard. All the miracles and the works the Lord had done, all the wisdom He had shown and the words He had spoken all point out to Him being the Messiah or the Saviour that God had promised His people, and those same Pharisees and teachers of the Law, being those who were most knowledgeable about the Law and the prophets should have known this better than anyone else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is important that we should not let our pride and worldly desires from interfering with our faith in the Lord. We should learn to listen to the truth and not to be easily swayed by all of our worldly temptations and concerns. Otherwise, we may end up behaving and responding like the Pharisees and those teachers of the Law who remained stubborn in their opposition of the Lord, and even St. John the Baptist, the Herald and messenger whom God had sent to prepare the way for His coming.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse, the daughter of a Roman noble who died as a martyr during the height of the last great persecution of Christians under the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian. She had consecrated herself to God as a holy virgin, but her mother who did not know about this, arranged for her to be married to the young son of a rich noble pagan family. The mother was then suffering from a disease, and was worried about St. Lucy’s future.

Through the intercession of St. Agatha, another great martyr of Sicily, St. Lucy’s mother was healed, and St. Lucy was able to persuade her mother to give generously much of their wealth and inheritance to the poor and the needy. This was not taken kindly by her betrothed pagan fiancé, who reported her to the local governor. The governor ordered St. Lucy to make offerings to the pagan idols, which she refused courageously. She was arrested and according to some traditions, was put to death by the sword after attempts to force her to a brothel and burning her did not succeed because of God’s miraculous intervention.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope all of us take good lesson from the faith that St. Lucy had in the Lord and strive to do what we can to be faithful to God. We should learn to live our lives with genuine faith and commit ourselves to follow Him the way that St. Lucy and many other saints and martyrs had done. And let us be inspired by the love and hope that Christ Our Lord Himself had brought us, that brought joy even to Balaam so many years ago. It is this same hope and love that we are expecting throughout this season of Advent, of celebrating the coming of Christ in this Christmas.

Let us all live our lives with great faith and dedication to the Lord from now on, committing ourselves in each and every moments to serve Him and to look forward to His wondrous coming in glory, to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly in the manner that St. Lucy and all of our holy predecessors had done. May God bless us all and may His grace be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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