Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, each one of us are reminded of the dangers of our human pride and ego, which can indeed become our undoing unless we make the conscious effort to resist that strong allure and temptations to succumb to our pride, ego, arrogance, ambition and desires. This Advent, all of us are reminded that our true focus and the right centre of our lives and existences should be that of the Lord, our most loving God and Creator. We should not allow our personal ambitions, desires and especially pride and ego to be stumbling blocks in our path towards the Lord as unfortunately has often been the case. Many people, our predecessors, throughout history, have fallen prey to the trap of their own greed and ego, and fell away from the path towards God’s grace and eternal life.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah regarding the rebelliousness of the people of Israel, and all the wickedness which they had committed in the past, and how God therefore had punished all those who were wicked and unjust, and gave the inheritance and gifts, graces and blessings intended for those people to the ones who were more deserving and worthy. That is why God gave a premonition to His people, revealing to them how He would gather all those who are willing to listen to Him and answer His call, and unite them together as one people, to be God’s own beloved flock, where God exists at the centre and focus of their lives and existences, instead of pride and worldly desires and greed.
The prophet Zephaniah lived and ministered to the people of God in the kingdom of Judah during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last rulers of Judah before it was to be crushed and destroyed by the Babylonians. The people of Judah have often lived wickedly under the leadership of many kings who did not obey the Lord and led the people into the path of sin and evil. Only some of the kings, such as Josiah himself, was faithful and devoted to God, and attempted to turn the people once again back to the worship of the one and only true God. Zephaniah therefore spoke of the words of the Lord to a people who have experienced both the path of righteousness and the path of wickedness and sin as they alternated between obedience to God and disobedience, depending on the then prevailing political climate, and the guidance of their kings, both those who were evil and those who were faithful to God.
Zephaniah reminded all of them that the time of consolation and liberation would be coming to their midst, and God would gather not just the people of Israel only, but also everyone from all throughout the world, everyone who were willing to embrace God and His righteous path, His truth, His love and grace. Those who pridefully kept their wicked ways and disobeyed God, seeking to advance and satisfy their own worldly desires will not have any part with God, while all those who are willing to acknowledge their shortcomings, and listen to the Lord and His call, will be given the assurance of God’s grace and salvation. That is the same sentiment that we have also heard from our Gospel passage today. We heard from there of the Lord speaking to the people and His disciples using the parable of the two sons, in which He used the example of those two sons to contrast those who listen to God and those who refused to listen to Him.
In that parable, we heard of how one of the sons told his father who asked him to do what he told him to do, that he did not want to do the work, and yet later on, he changed his mind and did the work in the end. Then, we heard of the other son who said that he would do the work, but did not do the work in the end. From these we can gather the comparison that the Lord made between those who were willing to humble themselves and change their ways, represented by the son who initially refused to listen to his father and then changed his mind to do what he had been tasked to do by his father, and with those who are hypocrites, those who said that they would obey, but gave in to their ego, pride and desires, and ended up forsaking their obligations and commitments.
This is a rebuke and criticism against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have often placed obstacles and challenges on the path of the Lord’s works and missions. Those people proudly claimed the heritage of the Israelites and the purity of their faith, and they proudly accused all others including the Lord and His disciples of blaspheming and being disobedient against God simply because they did not conform to their ways of observing the Law and the commandments of God. However, their understanding and appreciation of the Law was flawed, and they did not truly commit their actions and works for the greater glory of God as they should have done. Hence, the Lord reminds us all that we should not live our faith in the manner as those people had done, as they were entrusted with the heavy responsibility of guiding the people of God towards Him, and yet, they succumbed to the temptations of worldly greed and human pride, for the detriment and loss of many.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy, holy virgin and martyr of the faith. St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia, is a renowned saint and martyr, whose life and works can serve as great sources of inspiration for ourselves that we may know better of how we can serve and glorify God by our lives, much in the same way how the saints like St. Lucy had done in their own lives. St. Lucy was born in Syracuse in Sicily and was hence also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse. She was born into a rich and noble Roman family and lost her father at an early age. She consecrated herself to the Lord as a devoted virgin, wanting to provide her wealth and dowry to the poor and the needy. However, her ailing mother was not aware of this and arranged for her to be married to a rich pagan nobleman, and that eventually led to the great suffering and martyrdom that St. Lucy would have to endure.
It was told that St. Agatha of Sicily, another great martyr and saint who predeceased St. Lucy, appeared to her and her ailing mother at her shrine, ever popular among the local Christians and from beyond, assuring them and interceding for the mother of St. Lucy that led to her miraculous recovery from her illness. St. Lucy managed to persuade her mother to be generous and give her wealth to the needy and the poor around us, persuading her that ultimately, whatever they have been generous with, all is because they do not love the world more than loving the Lord, and that in loving others, they will receive greatly from the Lord, Who will know of the love and the generosity that each of them have given for the sake of the poor and the needy all around them, just as the Lord Himself had instructed His disciples and followers to do.
However, this aroused great anger by the pagan nobleman who was betrothed to St. Lucy. The pagan nobleman accused St. Lucy to the local Roman governor, who arrested her and tried to force her to offer and burn sacrifices to the pagan idols and gods. When this failed, they tried to get people to defile the sacred virginity of St. Lucy by sending her off to the brothel. Yet, they could not manage to make her budge or force her to the brothel for the Lord was with her, and protected her from harm. After repeated failed attempts to make her suffer, eventually St. Lucy was martyred when a sword was thrusted into her throat. Her courage and faith became a source of inspiration for many, and she is still commemorated to this day for her devotion to God and her commitment to a life of purity and sanctity, on the St. Lucy’s Day celebrated in many parts of Europe.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of ought to be reminded today of the courage and faith showed by St. Lucy, her commitment to God and her resistance of worldly temptations of glory, pleasures, wealth and more. Let us all therefore also commit ourselves to the same cause, and do our very best to resist the temptations of our pride, ego, greed and worldly desires, all those things that can lead us to our ruin and damnation. Let us all make good use of this time and opportunity given to us this Advent to turn back towards God and to be reconciled with Him, and to grow ever closer to Him in love. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in love, now and forevermore. Amen.