Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of our Christian obligations to seek the Lord and to remain faithful to Him, and to follow the good examples of faith set by the Lord Himself and His many saints. Each and every one of us are called to devote our time and attention to God, and we are all encouraged to proclaim the word of God in our lives courageously, through our words and actions, and to be genuine in our interactions with one another, so that our lives may become good examples for many others who witness our works and interact with us.
In our first reading today, as we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and faithful in Galatia, we heard the Apostle recounting his past experiences, as he grew in the faith and followed what the Lord asked him to do. We heard of the deeds of the Apostles, of St. Paul himself and his companions like St. Barnabas the Apostle and others, as well as with Cephas, that is St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Church and all the Apostles. St. Paul recounted his works and his interactions with the other Apostles, and how the Lord worked through their interactions, as they helped and assisted each other, and St. Paul himself reminded St. Peter in the spirit of fraternal correction, that he should not give in to those who advocated for the imposition of un-Christian rules and regulations on the Gentiles.
Back then, we have to understand that during the time of the early Church, there existed great tensions and divisions among the members of the faithful as they were still maintaining their past distinctions in terms of their race and origin, their prior identities and beliefs, their status and ideologies, among others. The Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, in particular, were often divided in their opinion and ways in the early Church, with some among the Jewish Christian converts advocating the imposition of Jewish laws and customs in their entirety on the entire body of the Christian faithful.
The Jewish people made up a significant proportion of the early Christians as the disciples of the Lord preached first to the Jews and the people in Judea and Galilee before they began their outreach to the Gentiles both in the lands of Judea and Galilee and in distant lands. The Apostles and many other disciples of the Lord were themselves Jewish, and that naturally made many of the early Christians to hold certain ideas and viewpoints, with some among them desiring to impose their will on others. The non-Jewish people however would find adopting such practices and customs to be very difficult, as many of them were difficult to enforce even among the Jews themselves, and some of those customs were also seen as abhorrent by the non-Jewish communities.
As such, St. Paul, who had often reached out to the Gentiles and worked among them, spending many years in ministering to the Gentile converts to Christianity and more, he stood by the Christian Gentiles, that the Church ought to understand their position and difficulties, and also understand better the true wishes of the Lord, Who called on everyone to follow Him, Jews and Gentiles alike. There should be no prejudice or bias in the path of following God, and all the faithful people of God should have been treated equally without certain preferences to a particular race, culture, customs and ways of living.
What is important is for all Christians to embrace the true core of our faith and belief in the Lord, that all of us ought to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts and minds, with all of our strength and abilities, and then to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that we have loved the Lord and ourselves. What some of the Jewish converts back then tried to impose on the whole Church especially on the Gentile Christians were excessive and unnecessary, and could have even turned many people away from the Lord, and worsen the instances of elitism and self-righteousness among the Christian people, just as what had happened among the Pharisees and the Jewish elites.
Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray, through the prayer that I am sure all of us know very well, that is the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster. As we listened to the words of this prayer that I am sure we have often prayed for, we are once again reminded of our purpose and obligation as Christians, that is as those whom God had called and chosen, and having responded to His call, each one of us have been made the children of God. And because of this, each and every one of us should do our best to live our lives in the way that the Lord had taught and shown us to do. All of us should not behave in ways that will bring disgrace and dishonour to the Name of the Lord and to His Church.
We should also deepen our relationship with the Lord through prayer, just as the Lord Himself had taught us. And praying is one of these ways, as we are reminded to keep in contact with the Lord our God. As in any relationships we have in this world, we have to maintain them through constant contact and interactions, and we cannot be close to the Lord unless we really make the conscious efforts to do so, and to bring ourselves nearer to Him, through prayers and by following His will, obeying His Law and commandments. The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and it is really up to us to renew our relationship with Him and commit ourselves to Him, through our efforts at each and every moments.
Then, we should also be inspired by the examples and good things done by our holy predecessors, just as on this day we celebrate the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish religious sister who was the visionary and the inspiration for the very popular Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God. St. Faustina Kowalska joined religious life at an early age and began receiving visions of the Lord, especially that of the suffering Jesus, calling upon the people of God to return to Him and to embrace His mercy and love. St. Faustina Kowalska recorded her experiences and mystical visions, especially when the Lord appeared to her in the now famous Divine Mercy form, with rays of red and white light emanating from His Most Sacred Heart.
St. Faustina Kowalska spent a lot of time in prayer and devoted herself in humble submission to the will of God. She also related her visions and told them to her superiors and others, as per instructed by the Lord Himself in her visions. Despite the challenges and oppositions that she encountered throughout her life, and in her work of spreading the message and truth of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God, St. Faustina continued to persevere nonetheless, and eventually, this Devotion gained tract and popularity among Christians worldwide, especially after her passing not long after she received those visions of the Divine Mercy. This Devotion is now among the most popular among Christians all over the world. St. Faustina Kowalska might have lived just a short life, and yet, in that short moment, she had touched the life of so many people.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all emulate the good faith and examples as shown by St. Faustina Kowalska and many other saints, our holy predecessors, holy men and women of God. Let us all live up to our faith and do whatever we can to fulfil our obligation and calling as Christians, living our lives to the fullest as role models and the good examples of Christian discipleship, loving God and loving one another with all of our strength and might. Let us all inspire one another and be the good examples to help more and more people to find their way to God, to embrace the Divine Mercy and His love for us, that we may be forgiven from our multitudes of sins.
May God be with us always and may He continue to empower us all, that we may always persevere with faith. May God be glorified through our lives, our actions and deeds, and may our every interactions help to proclaim His truth and love to others, and bring more souls ever closer to God and His loving embrace. In the words of the prayers to the Divine Mercy, ‘Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’ Amen.