Thursday, 11 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the reminders from the Lord for all of us to follow His Law and commandments in all things, to be faithful at all times and to live our lives in accordance with what He has taught and revealed to us. But at the same time, we must also remind ourselves not to be fixated at the routines and the practices of faith that we carry out, or else we may end up losing sight on what is truly important in our lives and our faith. We are all reminded to turn towards the Lord once again, refocusing our attention towards Him and not allowing ourselves to be distracted either by the vices and temptations often present around us, and also by growing ever deeper in our understanding about our Christian faith, by knowing the tenets and precepts of our faith well but without exaggerations and overemphasis on the externals without an internalised understanding of the faith.

In our first reading today, all of us heard about the continuation of the events of the First Council of Jerusalem in which the issue regarding whether the Christian faithful had to follow and obey the extensive and in fact excessive ordinances and the rules of the Jewish laws and customs was resolved by the meeting of the Church leaders and elders. This issue had bitterly divided the early Christian community, with the side of the Jewish converts particularly those who belonged to the group of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law being very adamant in their demands and viewpoint that unless the faithful obeyed the entirety of the Jewish laws and customs, then they could not be saved. Those who belonged to those groups insisted that all the Christian faithful must obey fully the commandments of the Lord as practiced and enforced by them.

However, we must understand that back then, it was very difficult for any of the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles to follow the whole extent of the strict law as practiced and enforced by the Pharisees because some of those laws and customs were abhorrent and alien, repulsive and foreign to those people. With regards in particular to the practice of circumcision for example, it was a practice that was deemed abhorrent and disgusting by the Greeks and the Romans. Hence, if the Church were to require all the faithful to be circumcised as per required by the Jewish laws and customs, then it would have been very difficult for the Gentiles, many of whom found Jewish customs and cultural practices incompatible, to become Christians and to be the followers of the Lord. The strict and outdated dietary restrictions of the Law was another of this obstacle and hurdle.

That is why, guided by the wisdom of the Lord through the Holy Spirit and through the prayers of the Apostles, we heard how St. Peter led the whole assembly of the faithful in the prayerful and careful discussion, discernment and the decision about the path that the Church ought to take going forward then, in the manner of how the faithful ought to be faithful to God. St. Peter related his examples ministering to both the Jewish and Gentile converts to the faith, and told them how everyone were called to follow the Lord, to follow what He Himself had said and taught to them, and to do what the Lord has called them to do. The Church should not make it difficult for all those who seek to be disciples and followers of the Lord, but should instead be most supportive in how they reach out to the people of God, to all those who are marginalised and forgotten.

Essentially, all of us are reminded through these Scripture passages today of the need for us all to rediscover our faith in the Lord and to centre our focus and attention on Him, instead of being distracted by the many temptations and false paths, distortions and many other fallacies present all around us. We should not be like those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who spent so much of their time focusing on the nitty-gritty and the specific tenets, rules and regulations of the Law and commandments of God, and ending up forgetting why the Law and commandments were there in the first place. They were meant to help lead and guide the people who have been lost to the Lord so that they might find the path back towards the Lord and towards His saving grace. Unfortunately, that Law and commandments then had been misused to be tools of power and self-justification, as well as self-glorification and pride.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, we are reminded by the Lord Himself to return to the very roots and origins of the commandments of God, which the Lord Jesus summarised very well into two main categories, that is the love for God, the love and devotion that we ought to show Him at all times, greater than anything else, and then also the love for our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly for all those who are in need of help. We should not think that we are better and more worthy than others simply because we observe more of the Law and the commandments of God, or because we are more stringent and particular in how we carry out living our faith life. Instead, we should remind ourselves that being Christians first and foremost is a call for us all to be loving just as our Lord, our God and Father is loving and kind towards us.

That is how all of us can be better and more committed Christians, not by doing things that we think make ourselves holier or better, or worse still by putting others down or by thinking that by our actions and merits, we can gain glory or status for ourselves. We should instead follow the examples of the Lord Himself, Who went to the most marginalised and all those who were most prejudiced against in the community, reaching out to them with love and proclaiming to them all the words of God’s salvation and reassuring them of God’s love and grace. All of us as Christians should do well therefore to love our fellow brothers and sisters as much as we love ourselves, and love the Lord our God first and foremost above all else, above all other things in life. We should renew our commitment to Him and be good examples and role models to each other in how we live our lives as Christians.

May the Risen Lord continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He empower us all to live ever more worthily and courageously in His path. May the truth and the love of God guide us always in our path, that we will always draw ever closer to Him, with each and every passing moments. Amen.

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