Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded to seek the Lord and renew our faith, and to avoid being hypocrites and wicked in our deeds. Each and every one of us are called to holiness in God, and we are all called to be full of the fruits of faith, to bear witness to the truth of God in our respective communities and societies today. All of us are called to be holy and to be good examples to each other in how we live our faith in life. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites and even false prophets, who misled many from the path of the Lord.
In our first reading today, taken from the Second Book of Kings, we heard about the rediscovery of the Book of the Law of God during the reign of king Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of the southern kingdom. In that occasion, the Torah and its accounts of the laws and commandments of God, which had likely by then been lost or hidden, not known by the people in the kingdom of Judah. When the king asked the contents of the Law to be read to him, what he heard shocked him very much, as we must understand that by then, the people and the kingdom had been diverging from the path as set by the Law for a long time.
Many among the people had been worshipping pagan idols of their neighbours and did not obey the laws and commandments of God, with the Temple of God and its celebrations neglected for a very long time. It was presumed that ever since the days of Solomon, proper celebrations of the Passover and other festivals as prescribed by the Law had not been carried out, and this, compounded with many other wicked deeds that the people had done, caused the king to be greatly alarmed, as Josiah must have thought that God would soon enact His punishment and retribution on His people because of their many sins.
That was why he ordered a thorough campaign of purification and cleansing throughout the land and the kingdom of Judah, eliminating the vestiges of pagan idols and worship, the pagan priests and practices, and also reinstated the celebrations and the practices as ordered by the Law. He was the first king to preside over the celebration of the Passover after a very long time and also restored the Covenant between God and His people, which had repeatedly been broken and neglected by the past generations of the people of Israel and Judah. That had led to the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Josiah must have wanted to avoid the same fate for Judah.
This is echoed by what we had heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard how the Lord told His disciples and followers to be wary and careful of those who were false prophets and agents of evil, who would try to mislead the people with false promises and other falsehoods, in opposition to the truth of God. Then, as the Lord went on in saying with a parable of how a good tree would produce good fruits and how a bad tree would produce bad fruits, these were all allusions and reminders from the Lord that if their hearts and minds are not set on the Lord and His truth, then it is likely that they will end up doing things that are wicked, sinful and against the Lord and His path.
That is why, through the actions of king Josiah of Judah and what the Lord Himself had told His disciples, each and every one of us are reminded to turn away from the path of sin, from the temptations of disobedience against God. The Lord has called on us all to return to Him and to embrace once again His path, and He has placed many help along the way as He guides us on the path back to Him. The question is now, do we want to embrace God’s ever generous love and mercy towards us? Or do we still continue to stubbornly resist Him and refusing to listen to His call for us to turn back to Him?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should heed the examples of our predecessors, in how they have lived their lives with faith, rejecting the path of sin, the temptations and wickedness of this world, and in dying to defend their faith in God. St. Paulinus of Nola was a renowned bishop of Nola who was remembered for his dedication to the Lord, in his work for the poor and those who were lost from God, in caring for their physical and spiritual well-being. St. Paulinus of Nola showed us all how we can be dedicated as Christians in following God’s will, proclaiming His truth and love in our world today.
Meanwhile, both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were the saints and martyrs of the English reformation, as they both were persecuted and martyred for their courageous defence of the one true faith and one true Church in God, against the wicked and vile actions of king Henry VIII of England, who for his unquenchable and persistent desire to have a male heir, leading him to break with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and establishing his own national Church, predecessor of today’s Anglican church. St. Thomas More was the king’s trusted chancellor while St. John Fisher was the influential bishop of Rochester, later made as a Cardinal by the Pope for his faith and efforts.
Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher refused to obey the commands of the king who demanded all of the clergy and the officials of his realm to swear allegiance to his new church. They chose to endure persecution and suffering rather than to betray their conscience and faith in God, not fearing the threats made against them. St. Thomas More also chose rather to surrender his chancellorship and his privileges, suffering and enduring the martyrdom rather than surrendering his Christian identity and faith. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher hence showed us all the true faith and dedication that we all as Christians should have in God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, following the examples set by our courageous and holy predecessors, and remembering God’s call for us to return to Him and to enter into the path towards holiness, let us all therefore seek Him from now on with renewed faith and zeal. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He empower each and every one of us to be ever more committed and faithful disciples of His, now and always, forevermore. Amen.