Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded that we have to listen to His words, obey His Law and commandments, and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us to walk in, and distance ourselves from the excesses of worldly temptations and desires, all of which can lead us down the wrong path and end up in damnation and eternal suffering. God has revealed to us His love, shown to us in the manifestation of His Son in this world, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and we ought to listen to Him, and everything that He has revealed to us and taught us through His Church. We must not harden our hearts and minds anymore, but be more receptive to listen to His truths.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord as spoken through Isaiah to His people telling them of everything that they could have enjoyed if they had not rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him, His Law and commandments as they and their ancestors had done. The glory of the people of Israel and the kingdom of the days of David and Solomon as recorded in the Old Testament would have endured and persisted, because if the people of God had remained firm in their faith in God, God would have continued to bless them and guide them, and He would have protected and guarded them even more, that their realm and dominion would have been secure, and they would not have been humiliated and suffered the way that they had endured by the time of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry.
By then, the glorious days of the kingdoms of David and Solomon were long past, and what remained was just a remnant of that glorious past, as the people of God were becoming shrunken and lesser, and having endured centuries of strife and never-ending struggles with one another, as they became divided and torn into different parts. Much of the ten tribes of the Israelites who separated themselves from the dominion of the House of David had also been scattered all around the world, when the Assyrians crushed and destroyed their kingdom just mere years prior to the time of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry. The lands of the Israelites, the people of God were made barren, and pagans and foreigners were made to dwell in the lands where they once dwelled, as a reminder of the folly of their rebellion and disobedience against God.
Thus, God reminded all of His people of their folly and lack of faith, and hence actually urged them to do something to stop them from being stubborn and foolish any further. He called on all of them to follow Him once again, and to obey His Law and commandments once more. As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord lamented the lack of faith in His people, as they hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to believe in Him and His servants, even after they had witnessed the wondrous miracles and heard the great words of Wisdom and truth presented clearly to them. They continued to disobey God and preferred to follow their own ways, indulging in their own desires and personal, worldly ambitions, which is why the Lord again warned them all to turn away from that dangerous path, lest it be too late for all of them.
This is a likely reference to how back then, at the time of the Lord’s ministry, many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the elders and the influential members of the community of God’s people had rejected the Lord and refused to listen to Him, no matter how convincing and full of Wisdom and truth the Lord’s words had been. Ironically, being those who were most knowledgeable and accustomed to the teachings and words of the prophets, those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law should have been the first ones to recognise the truth and wisdom present in the words and teachings that the Lord Jesus brought to us all. Yet, they allowed their personal desires and ambitions to distract them and harden their hearts and minds, as they became fearful and afraid that the Lord would eclipse them and their influence, and end the privileges they enjoyed all those while.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard from the passages of the Scriptures, we are all therefore reminded of the importance for us to have faith and trust in God, and to be careful and vigilant against the temptations of our flesh and body, and the allures of worldly glory and ambitions, all of which can draw us further away from God and His path. If we are not careful we may end up walking down the same path that the people of Israel and all those elders, Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, in not following God and His ways, and instead walking down their own path towards ruination and damnation. We must be careful because the lures and forces of sin can truly be very powerful, and we may not be able to resist them unless we continue to deepen our faith and relationship with God.
Today, we should perhaps look upon the good examples of faith and dedication to God as shown by St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, also known as St. Juan Diego, the saint whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. John Diego was known as the one who witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, now well known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. John Diego was one of the early Christian converts from among the native peoples of the region now known as Mexico, where he became a devout follower of Christ, and was known for his exemplary life and virtues. Back then, it happened that St. John Diego was passing by the area known as the Hill of Tepeyac when the Mother of God appeared to him, and spoke to St. John Diego in his own native language, revealing herself to be the Mother of God.
No one initially believed what St. John Diego had said, and they disregarded him when he conveyed on them the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe about her identity and also her request that a church be built in her honour at the location of her Apparition. Then, at the next time when St. John Diego was supposed to meet Our Lady of Guadalupe, his uncle was very sick and St. John Diego had to get his uncle to meet a priest for the Sacrament of the Sick. And later on, St. Juan Diego tried to take another way, as he was ashamed of having failed to meet the Lady as he was supposed to, only to meet her on his way again, and she told him why she did not entrust his uncle and himself to God through her, with the words now well known as ‘Am I not here, I am, who am your mother?’. This serves as a reminder to all of us how the Lord has indeed entrusted His own Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe to be our mother as well.
Then, Our Lady of Guadalupe told St. John Diego to show a sign to the local bishop, and asked him to collect some flowers that appeared there at the site of the Apparition that were not native to the region, miraculously appeared there, and then St. John Diego gathered them using his tilma or cloak. As he brought the flowers and showed them to the bishop, what stunned the bishop and all the other witnesses present was not just the unusual flowers, but the fact and evidence that the very image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary herself was imprinted on the tilma that was worn by St. John Diego. Everyone who saw that miracle believed, and through the great occasion, many became believers and followed the Lord, all thanks to His mother and also through the faith and dedication showed by St. John Diego in faithfully living his life and in obeying God’s will.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, let us all therefore reflect on our own way of live and the state of our current existence. Are we too lax in how we live our lives that we allow the temptations of worldliness and the pleasures all around us from swaying and misleading us down the wrong path? Or have we walked faithfully in the path that the Lord has shown us? If we have not listened to the Lord and if we are still easily swayed by the worldly temptations to sin, then we should make good use of this reminder and this time of Advent provided for us to change our way of life and to reconnect with God, by following the good examples of the saints, particularly that of St. John Diego today whom we commemorate, together with our loving mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has always watched over us and prayed for each one of us, all these while.
May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen each one of us in our resolve so that we may draw ever closer to Him and be more courageous to live our lives worthily in the path that He Himself has shown us. May all of us have a good and blessed season of Advent, that we may make good use of that time to serve the Lord with ever greater zeal and sincerity, and love Him all the more. Amen.