Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that each and every one of us are going to have to answer for every one of our actions and deeds, as well as our lack of action and work in life, at the end of time, when the Lord will judge each and every one of us. All of us must remember this so that we may always be careful and vigilant in how we live our lives each day, so that we do not end up walking down the wrong path, and that we may continue to be faithful to God in all things, refusing the temptations to disobey God and to sin against Him.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the words of the Lord calling on all of His people to repent from their sins, telling them to turn away from the path of wickedness and evil, as He told all of them of what they were all expected to do as His people, in doing what is right and just according to the Law and the commandments which He had bestowed to them. The people had not been faithful to those Law and commandments, and they often neglected their obligation to fulfil the precepts and expectations of the Covenant which God had made with them and their ancestors.

That is why they had fallen on the wayside in the path towards God, and by their sins they had brought upon themselves the sufferings which they then suffered. During the time of the prophet Ezekiel, many of the people of God had been forced off into exile, brought away from their homeland, had their cities, towns and homes destroyed, and had to endure the humiliation of seeing themselves under the dominion of the Babylonians. The prophet Ezekiel was sent to this exiles in Babylon, to proclaim God’s words to them and to remind them that while their folly and stubbornness had led them to such a state, but God still loved them nonetheless and wanted them to return to Him with contrite hearts.

As the prophet Ezekiel highlighted in the words of God we heard today, that each and every man are responsible for their own sins and faults. He used the example of how a righteous man might have a sinful son, and while the man will be judged well by his righteousness and good deeds, the son will have to answer for his own crimes and wickedness. That is a reminder to all the Israelites in exile, that despite the sins of their forefathers which eventually led them to be in such a terrible state, if they were to return to God and shun the path of sin, then God will forgive them and embrace them all once again by the virtue of their repentance and their good deeds.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard a short encounter between the Lord and little children, who came to Him and were stopped by the disciples. The Lord rebuked His disciples for their actions and welcomed the young children into His presence. He also mentioned how the young children should be welcomed, and how the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble like those young children. Essentially what we heard today is a reminder for all of us to imitate the young children in their faith and in how they believed in God with such sincerity and commitment, with joy and energy that others often lacked.

That is because a child’s faith and belief are still pure, unadulterated and not affected by the numerous temptations and desires that many adults and older people often have. All those things became hindrances and obstacles in the path of one’s journey towards God and can end up distracting us from the path towards God’s grace and salvation. And unless we follow the examples of those children, we are likely to end up falling into those temptations and enter into the slippery slope of sin and evil. Our pride, ego, desires and greed often become our undoing as those lead us down the path to ruin, by closing ourselves up from God and His love.

Today, all of us should be inspired to live in the manner of the saints, our holy predecessors, namely that of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus whose feasts we are celebrating this day. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were in fact rivals to the seat of the Bishop of Rome and successor to St. Peter the Apostle as the Pope. While Pope St. Pontian was legitimately elected as Pope, a segment of the Church chose to side with St. Hippolytus instead and chose him as a rival Pope or Antipope. This development had arisen after several years of divisions and disagreements within the Christian community, out of the disagreement with regards to the acceptance of new converts and the penitential rigour required of them.

While the disagreements and conflicts between the supporters of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus could often become rather strong, but eventually, they were reconciled to each other, and in the face of intense persecution against the Church and the people of God by the Roman authorities, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus both chose to leave their offices behind, so that a new Papal election could take place and reunite the divided community of the faithful. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus themselves were arrested during the persecution, exiled and eventually died as martyrs during their exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the examples and lives set by Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, we can see how each one of us as Christians should behave in our own lives, and how we should live our lives virtuously in God’s path. We must be willing to listen to God and to follow His will instead of following our own whim and desires. Like Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus who resolved their differences and did things for the good of the Church, we too are called to leave behind the taints of worldly desire and the allures of sin, and embrace wholeheartedly God and His truth, His love and grace, from now on and onwards.

May God be with us always and may He continue to strengthen each one of us in our journey of faith in life, that we may draw ever closer to Him and become sources of inspiration ourselves to one another. May God bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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