Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, all of us are called and reminded to be the faithful and humble disciples of the Lord, carrying out our lives and living our Christian faith daily to glorify the Lord and to proclaim His Good News to everyone, and not for our own personal glory and ambition. All of us should get rid from our hearts and minds, the dangerous evils of our pride, ego, greed and other things that can become serious obstacles in our path towards the Lord, His grace and salvation. We ought to heed what we have heard from our Scripture passages today relating to the experiences of the Apostles and what the Lord Himself had told His disciples to help us to remain rooted in our faith in the Lord, and not to fall into the many temptations all around us.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles of the time when the Apostles, St. Paul and St. Barnabas, who were in the midst of a missionary journey, went to the area of Lystra in Asia Minor, where they performed several miracles and proclaimed the Good News of God to the people there. However, as we heard, the many pagan peoples of Lystra mistook this miraculous sign as their own pagan gods, Zeus and Hermes having come down into their midst in the person of St. Paul and St. Barnabas. This was actually accurate as per Greek mythology which believed that their gods occasionally walked down this world in the human form, and hence, those people of Lystra misunderstood what St. Paul and St. Barnabas had done, and treated them as if they were gods incarnate in the flesh, worshipping and honouring them like gods.
St. Paul and St. Barnabas pleaded before the people with little effect, as they told them the folly of their actions and the mistakes in their ways and beliefs, in their failure to recognise the one and true Living God, and in their attachments to the inanimate gods and beings of earth, sea, sky and nature as how their pagan beliefs revolved around. By the way they were treated, St. Paul and St. Barnabas were treated with the greatest honours and respect, and it took great courage for them to resist the temptations of pride, glory and worldly power, and not only that, but even also chiding the people for their false ways and erroneous beliefs. They were not swayed by worldly glory and ambition, and while they could have gained and benefitted from the great fervour and honour they were receiving from the people, but they remained firm in their faith and remembered the mission that God has entrusted to them.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord Jesus Himself as He spoke to His disciples regarding the matter of obedience and listening to His truth, and how His disciples and followers ought to behave as genuine and faithful people of God. The Lord said that those who loves Him, follows and obeys His commandments, carrying out whatever the Lord has told and taught them to do, and those who did not truly love Him would not obey what He had told and commanded them to do, or that they would not carry out the actions and commandments in the manner and way that they should have been carried out. And this was reflected exactly in how the two Apostles, St. Paul and St. Barnabas had carried out their mission and actions, that despite the many challenges they encountered, they remained firm in faith in God, and persevered through those challenges.
And as we heard earlier in our first reading today, as St. Paul and St. Barnabas were treated like they were gods incarnate in the flesh, and worshipped by the people, they did not give in to the temptation of ego and greed, which had in fact brought down so many people and members of the Church throughout the history of the Church in the past two millennia. There were so many heretics and false leaders who had caused divisions in the Church, and misled many of the faithful into the wrong path because they were swayed by the temptations of worldly glory, desires and other attachments in life. Those people chose to put their own selfish desires, ambitions and worldly pursuits ahead of their obligation and responsibilities in following God and doing what the Lord has taught and commanded them to do.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have discussed earlier on, it is important that all of us have to learn to place the right focus of our lives in Christ, in the truth that God has revealed, shown and taught to us. All of us have been called to follow Him, to be His genuine followers and disciples, with hearts and minds attuned and focused on God’s truth and love. Each and every one of us have received the great bounty of God’s grace and love, and we have been guided to the right path by His providence and patient care. Therefore, we should be careful lest we allow the many temptations and distractions all around us from misleading us down the wrong path in life. We should resist the temptations of worldly power and glory, and remind ourselves that in the Lord alone we have true hope and fulfilment.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then spend our time discerning our path in life. If we all have been living our lives with the focus and emphasis to seek for our own personal gains and advantages, or in seeking our various ambitions and attachments in life, then it is time for us to strive to detach ourselves from all those and return to the root of our lIves and existence, that is God Himself. All of us should refocus our attention towards Him and remind one another to walk ever more faithfully in the path that He has shown us. We should resist the many temptations of the world just as how the Apostles had done, and be inspired by the courage shown by St. Paul and St. Barnabas, among the many other ones of our holy predecessors, the numerous saints and martyrs whose lives and actions should serve as inspiration and strength, role model and guide for each one of us, and not be swayed easily by worldly desires and temptations.
May the Risen Lord, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, continue to guide us all and help us in our journey, so that we all may come ever closer to His presence, and be inspired to live our lives with ever greater devotion and commitment to the Law and commandments that He has taught and shown us how to do. May all of us be the worthy and great beacons of God’s light, truth and love, in all of our various communities, at every possible opportunities presented to us. May all of us continue to live the true spirit of Easter joy and glorify our Risen Lord by our lives. Amen.