Wednesday, 20 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are being reminded that each and every one of us have been called in different ways by the Lord, to follow Him and to commit our lives to a faithful and virtuous Christian living, that each and every one of us may bear rich fruits of our faith and actions. Each one of us are challenged and called to follow the Lord in everything we say, act and do, and through Him, we may do truly wonderful things and impact many others in the way that we may never have thought possible before. All these are possible if we let the Lord guide us in our way and journey.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah of the calling of this prophet whom God had called to be His servant and messenger to the people of the kingdom of Judah. At that time, the people of Judah had slipped once again into the path of sin and evil, disobedience and wickedness, and hence, God called Jeremiah to be His instrument and as the one to deliver His will and His words to those same people, and He reassured Jeremiah that He would guide him and show him the way, giving him the wisdom and strength to persevere through whatever challenges that he would have to face when Jeremiah was doubtful and unsure about his calling.

Jeremiah was lacking in confidence because he was still relatively young and inexperienced, but by obeying God’s call and doing what the Lord had told him to do, Jeremiah would go on to become one of the greatest of the prophets, enduring a lot of trials and challenges for the sake of the Lord and His people, and patiently enduring them and continuing to do the work of God despite all that he had to go up against, all because God was with him and that God gave him the strength, wisdom and courage to endure even the worst of persecutions. Through this example, we can see how God was always faithful to the promises He made and how He was always with His faithful ones, and what a faithful servant of God can do with God’s guidance and strength.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the Lord telling His followers the famous parable of the sower. In that parable, the Lord spoke of a sower who sowed seeds that fell on various places, some on the roadside, while others fell amongst the thistles and brambles, and others fell on the dry, rocky ground, while some fell on rich, fertile and good soil. Each of these led to different outcomes in the seeds being sown, as those that fell on the roadside were eaten up by the birds and were destroyed, while those that fell on the rocky ground could not grow roots or gain water and was scorched by the intense sun, while those that fell among the thistles and brambles were choked to death.

Only those seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil managed to grow well and not only that, produced many more times than its weight and number, as they grew well and bore many fruits, and they became bountiful and great. The Lord would later on explain the meaning and significance of this parable to His disciples, telling them that the seeds represent the Word of God and the gifts that God had given and granted all of the people, such as what He had given to His prophets like Jeremiah and many others, including the Apostles and disciples, the innumerable saints and martyrs, and ultimately, all of us.

In essence, the Lord has given us all the means, the guidance, the gifts and various opportunities that He blessed us with, in our unique circumstances, that through Him and His providence, each and every one of us may find the means to contribute to the good works of the Church, in doing good things and obeying the Law and commandments of God. But this requires active participation on our side, our commitment and time, and our contribution to cultivate the gifts and talents that we have received. If we do not provide the optimal condition for our faith and actions to develop, then just like how the seeds that fell into the wrong places failed to grow, we too shall not be fruitful in faith.

Today, all of us should therefore model ourselves based on the examples set by our holy predecessors, one of whom the feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Apollinaris. St. Apollinaris was the Bishop of Ravenna who was remembered as a very dedicated shepherd to his faithful flock, working tirelessly for the evangelisation of the people, enduring and suffering persecutions for his faith. He suffered several episodes of almost death experience and hardships, and he endured them all with faith. All those did not discourage him from continuing to work hard for the sake of the Lord. His faith and continued dedication became inspiration for many others, including us in the present day.

Let us all therefore heed the good examples set by our holy predecessors, the prophets like Jeremiah and also the many saints and martyrs like that of St. Apollinaris of Ravenna. Let us all dedicate and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way as our faithful predecessors had done, and strive to be exemplary and inspirational ourselves in our way of life, now and always. Amen.

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