Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember our duty and responsibility to listen to the Lord, to obey Him and follow His ways and teachings. The Lord has shown us all the way, and He calls on us to follow Him that we may become His people, His disciples and followers. And through His truth, He shall gather us all into His presence and free us from the fetters and chains of our bondage to sin and evil.
In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, in that occasion, God spoke to His people through the prophet who lived during the time of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of Judah who happened to be also the last among the righteous kings. At that time, so that we can understand better the context of the words of the Lord, the people of God had been scattered and divided among the nations, as the former northern kingdom of Israel had been crushed and destroyed, while the southern kingdom of Judah had gone through many periods of difficulties and defeats against their enemies.
And all these happened because the people had not always stayed faithful to the Lord, as their kings and lords led them to sin and disobey the Lord, false prophets and teachings going rampant all over the whole land. They had strayed from the guidance shown by the prophets and the messengers of God, and they had turned a deaf ear against those who had called on them to return to the Lord and to repent from their sins. They had not heeded the Lord’s call that He had made repeatedly calling on them to return to Him with faith.
That was why God smote His people who had been rebellious against Him, that all those who disobeyed Him knew what it meant for them to go against His will and for walking in the path of wickedness and evil. While God is always loving, compassionate and merciful, but we must not forget that He is also a just God Who upholds justice and truth. No sin and evil can stand before Him unaccounted for and unless we have sought Him for forgiveness and mercy, then we will need to account for our sins and wickedness.
Yet, He still loved us nonetheless and still wanted all of us to be reunited and reconciled with Him, as He fulfilled His promises made through the prophets, promising all of us that salvation would come in His Messiah, Whom He later revealed to be none other than His own Son, Himself descended in the flesh and taking up the form and existence of Man. In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, God has extended to us the loving hands and outreach of His ever generous love, compassion and mercy. Despite our constant stubbornness and delinquency, our persistence to sin and disobey Him, God still wants us to come back to Him.
That is why in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking to the people using the parable of a father and his two sons, reminding all of us that what is important for God is for us to follow Him, in not just words but also actions, as there is no point for us to speak of faith in the Lord and yet in our actions, we are not doing what someone faithful to God should be doing. And without God being truly present in our hearts, without true and genuine love for the Lord, then our faith is dead, meaningless and empty. We are no better than hypocrites.
Today, all of us should follow the great examples set by St. John of the Cross, whose feast day we are celebrating this day. St. John of the Cross was a famous co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites together with St. Teresa of Avila, another great saint of the Church. They worked together and did their best to reform the then corrupted and divergent Carmelite order, to return to the original designs and aims of the order’s founders and eliminate the excesses and creeping worldly corruptions.
St. John of the Cross was also a great figure in the Counter Reformation, in his efforts and works to bring many of those who have fallen to the sway of heresy and false teachings to return to the Mother Church. Through his writings, numerous theological works, sharings of his mystical experiences, preaching and tireless dedication, gradually more and more of the faithful began to be touched by his great piety and devotion to God, and many others who have erred and lost their path came back to the Lord with repentance.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired to follow the Lord, to be faithful and obedient to Him as St. John of the Cross had done, that is with genuine faith and devotion, and not with false and empty promises and merely superficial faith. Let us truly love the Lord, our most compassionate, loving and patient God, Who has done everything to reach out to us and to save us all from our fated destruction because of our many sins. Let us all look up to His love and generous mercy, and dedicate ourselves anew to Him, now and always. Amen.