Tuesday, 13 September 2022 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures reminding us that all of us have been gathered as one people and one flock by the Lord to be His followers and disciples, and to receive the bountiful gifts of His graces and blessings. The Lord has gathered us all from the nations and from the world, regardless of our background or origins, all equally beloved by God and all equally precious to Him. And through Him, we shall receive the assurance of eternal life, true happiness and joy, and we will find the path to eternal bliss with Him, at the end of time.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth regarding how the Church is united as one body, the one Body of Christ, composed of all believers, not distinguished by anything or by any considerations of their background, be it whether the faithful were Jews or Greek, at the time when the Jewish people were often harbouring prejudice and dislike for the non-Jewish peoples, also known as the Gentiles, most of whom were Greeks and those who were steeped in the Greco-Roman culture and ways, as opposed to those who fervently and zealously kept the Jewish laws and customs.

St. Paul also highlighted the unity of the Church and the faithful although its members came from among the free and the rich, as well as from among the slaves, the poor and the marginalised in the community. All of the people, regardless of their origins, backgrounds and others, who have been called by God and received baptism through Him, have been made sharers of the same Body of Christ and became that one united Body of believers. And amidst the divisions and the struggles that the different factions of the faithful in Corinth experienced back then, this was a truly powerful, important and timely reminder from the Apostle.

This is a reminder that as one faithful people and community of Christians, all of us in the Church should not be prejudiced, biased or divided against each other. We should not let our differences, whether in opinion or whether in our background and status to be stumbling blocks and obstacles in preventing us from achieving true unity in God. We have to remind ourselves that in the Church we are serving the Lord and not our own selfish desires, ambitions and other things. We are God’s servants and followers, and we should focus our attention on Him, our efforts on glorifying Him rather than seeking attention towards ourselves.

Through the Lord we have received the assurance of salvation and eternal life, an existence beyond death, which all of us in one way or another, and which eventually will experience, as all of us are mortal and will not live in this world forever. As highlighted in our Gospel passage today from the story of the widow of Naim, death is something that will claim us all, and we heard of the sorrow that accompanied this, especially the widow who had to see her own son pass away before herself. Yet, the Lord showed that He is truly the Lord and Master of all life, as He raised the widow’s son from the dead, just as He had done so with the daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus, and with Lazarus, one of His close friends.

All of these showed us that while death exists as a punishment for our sins, that came with the taint of sin which entered to our humanity through our disobedience against God, but the Lord in His most wonderful and loving way has extended His most gracious love and mercy towards us, through His Son showing us that death does not hold dominion over us. Not only through the miraculous resurrection from the dead, but even more importantly, through His own suffering and death on the Cross, and then His own glorious Resurrection, Christ conquered sin and death, and presented to us the sure path out of the darkness and into the light and life eternal.

Today all of us are reminded therefore to focus our attention on the Lord, and on the love and truth which He has revealed to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. All of us have been so fortunate to receive this assurance of love, and hence, we should do our best to live our lives worthily as Christians, that is as God’s disciples and followers, in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, the saints and martyrs, who should be our inspiration and role models. St. John Chrysostom, whose feast we are celebrating today, is one of them. He is the Archbishop of Constantinople, the then capital of the Roman Empire and also recognised later on as one of the great Doctors of the Church.

St. John Chrysostom was attracted to the Christian faith and studied theology as well as experiencing ascetic lifestyle as a hermit before he became a deacon, and later on becoming a great priest in Antioch, renowned for his eloquent and courageous sermons, which stirred the hearts of many people. He placed particular emphasis in the care for the poor and was particularly against the abuse of power and privileges by the rich and the powerful against the poor and those who were marginalised by the community. He preached directly to the people, with simple terms and words which helped him to connect well to those whom he was preaching to, helping him to convert countless thousands to the faith.

Eventually this holy man and servant of God was appointed as the Archbishop of Constantinople, and his works and reforms immediately gained opposition from the members of the rich and privileged, the nobles and the powerful clergy who opposed his more simple and disciplined approach in the Church affairs. It was particularly known that he was the enemy of the powerful Roman Empress Aelia Eudoxia, whose extravagant lifestyle was opposed by St. John Chrysostom, and the former also thought that St. John’s sermons were directed against herself. As such, by the efforts of those opposed against him, St. John Chrysostom had to endure exile from his See, and he was banished not just once but twice, as frictions continued to exist between the Empress and her supporters and St. John Chrysostom and his supporters on the other side.

The holy man of God nonetheless never gave up, and continued to serve the Lord faithfully, dedicating himself to whatever tasks and ministries he could perform, even while in exile, until his death. The dedication and hard works of St. John Chrysostom should therefore inspire all of us to trust in the Lord and allow Him to lead and guide us in our journey of faith and life. We have to remind ourselves that we have to serve God in this life and proclaim His truth and love by our lives. Let us all remind one another that God and His love for us have made us truly blessed and fortunate, for by His love, He has gathered us all from all the peoples and all the nations, to be His one flock, one Body of Christ, the Church.

May the Lord continue to bless us and strengthen us in all things. May He empower and strengthen us to be able to face challenges and trials in life. May He give us the courage and the energy to resist against the temptations of this world, and help us to remember that we are all His people, and that we should always be united in love with each other, and not be divided one against another. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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