Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the need for all of us to remain faithful to God in all things and not to be like the hypocrites who profess to believe and have faith in the Lord, and yet, act in a manner that is opposite, scandalous and unworthy of what Christians have been expected to do in their lives. All of us have to be truly faithful in God and we must put our trust in His path, genuinely believing in Him from our heart. We cannot be people who are lukewarm and apathetic about our faith, and we have to be sincere in our desire and commitment to walk the path that God has shown and taught us.
In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, we heard how the Apostle reminded the faithful there, composed of both Jews and Gentiles alike, had been made to be the children of God, and they had all been made sharers in God’s New and eternal Covenant through their baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and by the will of God Himself. That is why all of them had been called and chosen from the world, and consequently, they should all reflect that change in state in their lives, by showing that change through their own actions and examples, so that they are truly worthy of being God’s faithful and beloved children.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord Jesus Himself calling on all the people to distance themselves from the yeast of the Pharisees. Contextually, the Lord was referring to the worldliness with which many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had lived their lives and practiced their faith, which led to great scandals and their unbecoming attitudes as those who were entrusted with the guardianship of the Law and the people of God. The people of God, all of us included are all reminded of the need for us to distance ourselves from sin, and keep ourselves pure and worthy of the Lord in all things.
Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because sin is a dangerous thing that we should not treat trivially, as it can lead us further down the path towards our doom and downfall if we allow sin to corrupt us and our nature further. That is why we should not let it to influence us or tempt us any further. If we allow worldly influences or matters to affect our decisions and choices, then we may end up doing things that will draw us ever further from God and His path of virtue and righteousness. And the Lord Himself mentioned in our Gospel passage today, that we have to be afraid of the One Who is able to throw us into hell after killing us, referring to the Judgment that the Lord will pass on us who refuse to believe in Him and who continue to live in the state of sin.
We have to realise that while God is truly loving and merciful, but at the same time, He is also a good and virtuous God, in Whose Presence sin and evil cannot exist. If we continue to sin and refuse to accept His love and mercy, and refusing to abandon our sinful and wicked ways, then there can be no path to salvation for all of us. Unless we endeavour to commit ourselves to embrace God and His truth, His love and compassion, then there can be no way out for us from this downward slide towards damnation and hell. We have to abandon the wickedness of our past and commit ourselves anew to the righteous path that the Lord has taught and shown us to do. And we can do that better by looking upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, the saints and martyrs.
Today, the Church also commemorates the Feast of Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the successors of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ and a holy martyr of the Church. Pope St. Callixtus I was the leader of the Church and the shepherd of the faithful at the time of difficulty for the Church as they faced a lot of persecutions and hardships, as well as internal divisions and disagreements. Pope St. Callixtus I was among the first leaders of the Church to readmit Christians who have erred and abandoned their faith, and who afterwards desired to seek God’s mercy and be reconciled with Him and the Church.
There were then those who were opposed to this, such as St. Hippolytus who initially championed the idea that those sinners and all those who had abandoned the Lord ought to have been prevented from returning back to the Church. Despite the challenges and divisions that existed within the Church then, all these did not deter Pope St. Callixtus I from continuing to champion the extension of compassion and mercy to all those who had lapsed from the faith and then desiring to return to the Church. This holy Pope himself would then be persecuted for his faith and dedication to God, and then died as a martyr, serving as inspiration for many others throughout the centuries.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples set by Pope St. Callixtus I first reminds us that God is ever loving and merciful, and as long as we still have the opportunity to do so in this world, we should embrace Him and His love wholeheartedly, rejecting our sins and evil, wicked ways. We are called to turn over a new leaf in life, and resist those temptations to sin which had led us down this path towards our downfall. We have been reminded that God is and will always be ready to welcome us back, as long as we are willing to commit ourselves to Him and turn ourselves to His providence and loving care, and change our ways of life to follow that of the Lord and His truth.
Let us all therefore reject the path of sin, and be inspired by the good examples of the saints, the holy men and women of God, particularly that of Pope St. Callixtus I. Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater love and commitment from now on, and let us follow Him and do His will always, and distance ourselves from the many corruptions and wickedness of this world. May God continue to bless us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He help us to persevere through the many challenges of our faith and life, at all times. May God be with us always, and empower us to remain ever faithful to Him, forevermore. Amen.