Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, through what we have heard from the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we heard the great squabble between the Pharisees and the Sadducees during the hearing scheduled in the Jewish High Council regarding the Apostle, St. Paul, who was accused of sedition against the Jewish laws.
St. Paul was alone, facing the opposition from all those who were against him and all that he had preached and taught among the people. The Sadducees were against him and the teachings of the Lord Jesus, as they feared that their esteemed and special position in the society would be seriously threatened, and they were also against the beliefs in the Christian faith, such as the resurrection from the dead among many others.
They had been fiercely against the Lord Jesus, and harassed Him with questions and challenges throughout His ministry. Therefore, the same challenge and difficulty also faced all those who spoke and taught in His Name, as St. Paul had experienced. And in addition to this trouble, St. Paul, just as the Lord had experienced, also faced the opposition from the Pharisees, the other major group holding power in the society, also fiercely against Jesus and His teaching authority.
The Pharisees include many of those who were experts and teachers of the Mosaic law, that is all those who were supposed to safeguard the tenets and the rules found within the law that governed the Jewish people, based on the Law which God had first given His people through Moses, His servant. However, they ended up being too fanatically attached to their interpretation of the Mosaic law, and became too rigid in their enforcement to the point of ignoring and forgetting the true purpose of the Law of God.
Thus, these influential elders and people were also bitterly against the Lord and His Apostles, as they feared that they would lose their influence should the teachings of Jesus spread throughout the people and the towns of Israel. They were afraid that they would lose their esteemed position, just as the Sadducees were afraid of the same thing, and that their authority would no longer be accepted.
But they did not consider and place God in all of their judgments at all. They were instead driven by their greed, pride and desires, which therefore, as we have probably noticed, was why they were divided among themselves, bickering between themselves, when St. Paul put a contentious matter among them. They fought and bickered so greatly that the Roman governor had to rescue St. Paul from their midst lest he was torn apart by the feuding parties.
In this, we see how, even though St. Paul seemed to be alone, but in truth, he was not alone. God was always with him, and all the whole Church was united with him in prayer. And that is what the Lord Jesus had also prayed to His Father, in our Gospel passage today, asking that all those who believe in Him remain as one people, as one united Church, just as He and His Father were one and indivisible.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are reminded of the fact that we do not exist for ourselves, but rather, first of all, for God. And then, secondly, we exist for each other, for our fellow brethren and for the Church of God. As Christians, we should not be tempted to satisfy our personal desires and ego, over that of our obligations to God and to our need to love and care for one another.
And it is important that we place God at the centre of our lives, just as we can see clearly, how those who did not place God at the centre or as the focus of their lives, like the Sadducees and Pharisees, are prone to division and conflict. And whenever conflict and division arise, it is actually a perfect opportunity for the devil to come in and manipulate us even further, to divide us and therefore, hopefully to snatch us away from God and His salvation.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be role models in faith, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to God, and committing ourselves to faith in Him, putting our complete trust, knowing that He will be with us along the way, and He will never abandon us in our time of need. May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to watch over us all, that each and every one of us may always be united in Him, as one Church, and as one people of God. Amen.