Wednesday, 23 February 2022 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures all of us are called to do what we can to contribute to the works of the Lord, the mission and the actions that we have been called to do as the followers and the disciples of Our Lord and Saviour. As Christians we have to do whatever we can to do the will of God and to support one another in doing so, and not to do things for only our own personal glory and achievements, satisfaction or pleasure.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. James the Apostle in which the Apostle spoke of the futility of many people who make plans and ambitious aims, concerted efforts and other things to advance their own often selfish and greedy goals in life. All those things that man have often done to preserve themselves, their gains and self-interests are ultimately meaningless because no matter how many things we accumulate and gather in life, we will never bring them forth beyond this life.

That is why, St. James told all of us the faithful people of God that we should not immerse ourselves in worldly desires and all the corrupt and wicked things that are present in our world today. We have to do our best to resist the temptations to sin, or else we may end up falling away further and further from the path of God. Many of our predecessors had fallen in such a manner, and unless we heed the words of the Apostle St. James, we may end up suffering the same fate as well, forgetting God and His ways as we got distracted by the many temptations of this world.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples when the latter tried to stop a person performing works and miracles in the Name of the Lord, just because they did not belong to their group. The disciples must have seen the man as a rival to their work and influence, and unwittingly, without them knowing it, they actually had done exactly what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Lord had often done, in trying to stop the Lord and His disciples in their works of carrying out the will of God.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were also thinking that they were doing the work of God as they opposed the Lord and His disciples, thinking that they alone had obeyed and followed the Lord in the right manner. As such, they ended up obstructing and made it difficult for the Lord to perform His works, and that was the unfortunate result when man allowed their worldly desires, their greed and ego, their ambition, jealousy and others to cloud their judgment and lead them down the path of disobedience and sin.

The Lord therefore had reminded His disciples and thus, also all of us that we cannot allow those things from distracting and misleading us any further in life. We have to resist the temptations of worldly ambitions and thinking that we do things for our own benefits and glory. The disciples must have thought of that as they went to the Lord asking Him to prohibit the other man from doing his works in His Name. But the Lord immediately reminded them that as long as he works in His Name and for His glory, that is all that matters.

Now, all of us as Christians are called to reflect on these things, keeping in mind how we are going to live our lives from now on. We are called to refocus our attention towards the Lord and model ourselves on our great and holy predecessors, whose examples should inspire us to follow in their footsteps in being faithful to God. Today, we celebrate one of those great saints, namely that of St. Polycarp, a holy bishop and servant of God, and devout martyr of the faith and the Church.

St. Polycarp was one of the early Church fathers and successor to the Apostles, who was a contemporary of the disciples of the Twelve Apostles, and might have encountered and corresponded with some of the Apostles, especially that of St. John the Apostle. He collaborated with the other leaders of the Church and helped the Church in the place under his responsibility to grow and prosper, even through the times of great hardships and occasional persecutions from the Roman state.

He continued to work hard and devote his time, effort and attention to the people entrusted to him, even until a very advanced age, and it was at that time, when he was already eighty-six years old, that he was martyred in the defence of his faith, likely during the time of one of the persecutions against Christians. He had proclaimed the Christian truth and faith with great courage throughout his life, and to the very end, he showed that not even suffering and death could stop him from doing so, for the greater glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do whatever we can to follow in the footsteps of St. Polycarp and our many other holy predecessors, in putting God as the focus and emphasis of their lives, in making their lives worthy of Him through their actions and commitment. Let us all not be distracted and tempted any further by worldly temptations from now on, and instead be good role models for one another and assist each other in our respective journey of faith towards the Lord, now and always. Amen.

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