Thursday, 10 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures, we are all presented with the matter of the coming of the kingdom of God into this world, and how it is actually already happening to us all even as we have experienced it all these time, all these while. We must not see God’s kingdom as something that is disconnected from the present life we have today, as it is definitely very tempting for us to think of that God’s kingdom has yet to come to us, while the truth is that the kingdom of God has actually been amongst us all these times. Yes, brothers and sisters, the fact is that we are already part of this blessed kingdom of God, in the Church and our Christian communities.

In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Epistle of St. Paul to the other disciple of the Lord named Philemon. In that account, we heard St. Paul telling Philemon that he was sending him one of his godsons, Onesimus, to accompany him and the other faithful, in the ministry and mission entrusted to them all in the Church of God. At that time, St. Paul himself was likely suffering in prison after he was arrested due to the many challenges and trials that he had to undergo throughout his ministry and missionary journeys. Yet, St. Paul faced it all with faith and devotion in God, entrusting himself completely in the hands of the Lord, and not fearing the sufferings, consequences and hardships that he had to endure, because he truly cared for the needs of his fellow brethren, to whom God had sent him to as a minister of His Good News and truth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the encounter between the Lord and some Pharisees who questioned Him regarding when the kingdom of God would come. And we must understand that at the time, the most popular idea and expectation among the people about the coming of the Messiah and God’s salvation was that they expected that the Messiah or the Saviour would be the Son and Heir of David, to restore the old glory of the kingdom of Israel, of the days of David and Solomon, the greatest kings of Israel and those moments when all the people of Israel were still united as one kingdom and one people, and before they were torn apart by internal strife and conflicts that eventually brought down the kingdom of Israel.

Hence, back then, the common interpretation and understanding of the nature of the coming of the Messiah was that this Messiah would lead the people of God in liberating their homeland from the rule by the Romans and other foreigners who had then imposed their rule, power and sovereignty over the Jewish people. Hence, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who disagreed with the Lord and saw His actions as against what they believed in, their ideals of what the Messiah would do and who this Messiah would be. To them, the Lord Jesus could not have been the Messiah because He did not fit their ideal and stereotype of the Messiah of the people of God. Yet, in their pride and ego, they had failed to realise that it was their arrogance, presumptions and mistaken ideals that had become serious obstacles preventing them from finding their way towards God’s truth.

The Lord has shown them and all of us that the kingdom of God was not what the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the other people often thought it would be. Instead, the kingdom of God does not equate the monarchy of the Israelites of the old days, or anything like that. Instead, the kingdom of God is the establishment of God’s reign on this world, which has actually happened when the Lord Jesus came to this world and established His Church. Through the Church, the Lord made His kingdom tangible in this world, in our own communities and societies, wherever we are. By His New Covenant, sealed through His suffering and death on the Cross, He broke the barriers separating us from God, and hence brought us much closer to His heavenly glory and joy.

The kingdom of God therefore has existed in our midst, within the Church and our own various groups and communities. What we must then realise is how we manifest this kingdom of God in our own families, in our circle of friends and relatives, loved ones and others, even in our workplaces and elsewhere. It is here then that as Christians, each one of us are charged and entrusted with the task of making the kingdom of God being fully present and tangible in our world today, wherever we are and in whatever we are doing in life. And we have to be genuine in living our lives with faith, as members of God’s Church and as parts of His living and present Kingdom here in this world, already manifested and tangible in our midst, one where all the faithful people of God are filled with love for both God and for one another.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great, one of the great saints of the Church, whose life, works and inspirations can be sources of good inspiration for ourselves in how we ought to live up to our faith in our daily living, to be truly worthy parts of God’s everlasting and glorious kingdom. Pope St. Leo the Great led the Church during a tumultuous time both in the secular world and also within the Church, and yet, he committed himself to lead the Church through those difficult moments, showing his leadership for his flock through the most challenging times. Pope St. Leo the Great was well-known for his stand-off with the powerful Attila the Hun, king of the rampaging Huns who were then invading the Roman Empire and was about to come to Rome. Pope St. Leo the Great stood at the gates of Rome and managed to convince the Hunnic king to turn away and return to his homeland, sparing his flock much destructions and death.

Not only that, Pope St. Leo the Great was also actively involved in missionary works throughout Christendom, sending missionaries and guides to far-off places to spread the Word of God ever further, and establish the Church communities in more and more places. He was also involved in combatting heresies that had sprung up in various places over different ideas and topics, and maintained the true teachings and the orthodoxy of the Christian faith and its deposit of faith and truth. He was an active participant in the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon and sent his representatives to take part in the proceedings of the Ecumenical Council, which strengthened the truth and the orthodoxy of the Church against the heresies, affirming what the Church has always held since the days and times of the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have seen from the life and works of Pope St. Leo the Great, and also the presence and lives of so many other saints, we can see that the kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of God is already here in this world, in our midst. What we experience now is the precursor of the true Kingdom that we will be in, for all those who are worthy, for all eternity with God, after we have passed on from this world and is judged worthy at the particular and the last judgments. Let us all therefore be inspired by the examples set by our holy predecessors, Pope St. Leo the Great and the innumerable other saints and holy men and women of God, that we truly may embody God’s kingdom on Earth, showing all the people of God what the kingdom of God is like through us all and the Church.

May the Lord continue to guide us through our journey of faith in life and may He empower and strengthen each one of us with the resolve and strength, perseverance and commitment to follow Him ever more faithfully from now on. May God bless us all in our every actions and works, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

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