Friday, 13 January 2023 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the faith that we have in God, the faith that we have in His providence and might, in His truth and love, and then what each one of us should do in proclaiming that same truth and faith amongst all the people we encounter in our various respective communities. All of us have the need to believe in God and His truth, and to listen to Him and His words, and do not harden our hearts and minds against Him unlike what many of our predecessors had done in the past, which were highlighted by our Scripture passages today.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Epistle of the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle who directed his writings to the Jewish Christian converts and also to the greater Jewish community, wanted to get them all to heed the Lord’s words and call to them to conversion, and to embrace the truth that God Himself had brought into this world, all through the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all. The author was making references to the past transgressions, disobedience and stubbornness of the people of God in the past, who constantly rebelled against the Lord and refused to believe in Him and His prophets, even after repeated reminders and messages calling on them to turn away from their sins.

The author of the Epistle also likely referred to the attitudes of some among the Jewish community who had consistently and constantly resisted the Lord, His truth and His works, just as one of those examples being highlighted in our Gospel passage today. Essentially, many of the Jewish elders and influential members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council refused to believe in the Lord Jesus, and frowned or even outrightly opposed His actions and works, all because they saw Him as a Rival and even a threat to their own influence and power, and in their pride and ego, they continued to close their hearts up against God and His truth, even when His Wisdom and His miraculous deeds had been shown before their very own eyes in multiple occasions.

Such as what happened in our Gospel passage today, where we heard the account of the Lord Jesus healing a paralytic man brought unto His midst through the roof because the room where He was teaching in was so packed with people. The Lord willed to heal the paralysed man, and told Him that His sins had also been forgiven. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who happened to be present there in that occasion immediately took offence at the Lord’s proclamation, and said imperiously that only God could forgive sins, and that what the Lord had done was no less than a blasphemy against God. Yet, they failed to realise first of all that Christ Himself is the One Whom God had promised to be the Saviour of all mankind, and to Him would indeed be granted the authority over all things, even over that of sins.

Through Christ, Whose actions, works, miracles and wonders had shown the proof of His glorious coming, the truth about Himself and Who He really was, God wants to reveal to us the depth of His most amazing and wonderful love, which persists despite our most terrible and wicked rebellion against Him. Through Christ, God has willingly gathered all of us from the distant corners and edges of the world, leading us back to the grace of God and healing us all from our sickness that is sin, just as He had healed the paralytic man his condition. It is He alone Who can indeed rescue us from the tyranny of sin and death, lifting us up from the darkness that surrounded us and bringing us into His eternal light and grace. And yet, there are still many indeed who refused to believe in His love and kindness, despite having witnessed and heard about them.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of the excess of human pride, ego and greed, all of which had become great obstacles in our journey back towards God. The pride and ego of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and many of the members of the Sanhedrin had become serious obstacles in the path of their drive towards salvation in God. Those people thought that they were better and superior to others all around them, and would not take the truth of the Lord as the reality that they needed to embrace. Instead, they continued to depend on the flawed and mistaken ideas they upheld, thinking that the messages and words that the Lord Jesus brought into their midst were false and even blasphemous in nature.

Today all of us are reminded not to follow this same path, and instead to follow the Lord wholeheartedly once again, not be swayed by the temptations of worldly power, fame, pride, glory and many other things that had often dragged so many of our predecessors into the path of sin and darkness. We are reminded that we have to be humble in accepting that our ways and thoughts can often be mistaken and flawed, and in God alone we can find the truth and Wisdom which will liberate us from the falsehoods of evil and sin. That is why we are called to reflect upon those passages of the Scriptures and whatever we have just reflected upon earlier so that we may not end up falling into the wrong path of disobedience, stubbornness and rebellion against God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us ought to look upon the good examples and inspirations set by St. Hilary, one of the great Church fathers, also known as St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose love and devotion to God, zeal and faith by which he had lived his life and ministry, can be great source of inspiration for all of us in how we live our own Christian living and faith. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers who was renowned for his great dedication to his flock and for his opposition to the heretics and all those who had perverted and misused the truth of God for their own selfish purposes. He was particularly energetic and passionate in opposing the then greatly influential Arian beliefs that distorted the truth about Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Saviour of all.

St. Hilary spent a lot of time and effort in reaching out to his flock and opposing those who sought to divide the Church and snatch the faithful from the hands of the Lord’s shepherds, having to endure persecutions and even exile for his courageous struggles for the truth, for the Lord and for the Lord’s beloved flock. He wrote extensively on many aspects of the faith, against the heretical teachings and ideas, which eventually made him proclaimed as one of the great Doctors of the Church for his immense contributions, long after he has passed on from this world. The faith and dedication which St. Hilary has shown us should serve as a good example for us to follow, so that each and every one of us may also follow him in his devotion and efforts in serving and glorifying God, in our own respective lives and actions.

May the Lord continue to guide us through our own journey in life, so that we may draw ever closer to Him, and such that we may ever always be more faithful to Him, and be ever more humble in accepting and receiving Him into our hearts and minds, and being stubborn and hardened in hearts no more. May all of us continue to walk down the path of righteousness and truth, and continue to persevere in faith regardless of the challenges and trials we may have to face for the Lord’s sake. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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