Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded that God’s love is enduring, everlasting and wonderful, and His steadfastness and faithfulness to His Covenant and the commitments He made to us are amazing. As we heard from St. Paul in our first reading today, as well as from the Lord in our Gospel passage today, following the Lord requires us to be open to this love, to be humble and to recognise just how blessed we have been by God all these while.
In our first reading today, we heard from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, as he spoke to them regarding the matter of the Jewish people and their status as God’s first chosen people. At that time, the Jewish people were spread all around the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, forming various diaspora communities including that in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, which had a sizeable Jewish community. It was to these Jews and the Gentiles in Rome that St. Paul wrote to in his Epistle, as there were some among them that became believers and turned to the Christian faith.
The Jewish people were the descendants of the Israelites, and were called so because they mostly lived in Judea, the former lands of the kingdom of Judah. They were the remnants of all those who have once inhabited the land of Israel, the Promised Land, the first people that God had chosen to be His own, but which as God revealed, not to be His only people, for God extended His love and grace to all the peoples of all the nations, beginning from the Jews themselves, and then to all the nations. He sent His Son to be born among them, and to proclaim the salvation of all, Jews and Gentiles or non-Jews alike.
St. Paul therefore reiterated that he himself was a Jew, namely one of the Jewish people, a descendant of Abraham and even mentioning his tribe, the tribe of Benjamin. He did this because some of the Jews might have seen his actions in his missionary travels and works as being anti-Jewish and pro-Gentiles in nature, as he often reached out to the Gentiles and sought them, preaching in their midst and many of them became Christians. Many of the Jews became believers too, but some of the disagreements between the Jews and Gentiles might threaten the unity of the faithful.
That was why St. Paul reminded and reassured the Jewish community that they were still beloved and precious in the presence of God, as God’s chosen people. But God’s love has also been extended from them, to the other peoples of all the nations, and not exclusively belonging just to the Jewish state and race alone. This is unlike the point of view and ideology that some among the influential members of the Jewish community, such as the Pharisees and the chief priests promoted.
In our Gospel passage today, the Lord also highlighted the folly of the attitude of those who saw themselves as being superior to the others they deemed to be less worthy and less important than they were. The Pharisees liked to seek the first and most important places in events, seeking fame and recognition for their own prestige and power, their own intellectual superiority and piety. It is these attitudes which prevented them from being able to embrace the Lord and His truth.
They saw themselves as the exclusive recipients of God’s promises and Covenant, as they saw the Jews as the only chosen people of God, and themselves as the only ones worthy in the community, rejecting and condemning those like the prostitutes and tax collectors, or those who had diseases and were possessed by evil spirits as sinners, ignoring that they themselves were sinners who were in need of God’s forgiveness and healing, and how in their own actions, they were no less sinners than those whom they looked down on.
The Lord has reminded all of us, through St. Paul and what he had written passionately for the faithful in Rome, that all of us are beloved and dear to Him, all His chosen people whom He has called to follow Him, where distinctions and divisions no longer matter, whether Jew or Gentile, whether rich or poor, whether strong or weak, or by any other artificial categorisations that we often divide ourselves into. God loves us all sinners and wants us to be reconciled to Him, so that we may find our way back to Him and be redeemed.
Now, the question is, are we willing to allow the Lord to lead us and guide us in our path? Are we able to be humble and to listen to Him speaking to us in our hearts, and not be prideful and stubborn unlike those who look highly upon themselves and considered themselves to be superior or more worthy than others, sowing division and discord in the community, and being elitist and exclusivist in their attitudes? This is not what we as Christians should be doing, and instead, we should be more welcoming to others, and reach out to those who are in need of help.
Let us all therefore live our lives worthily as Christians from now on, and let us commit ourselves to the Lord anew, with a new spirit and conviction, and let us all draw ever closer to Him and His presence, obeying His Law and commandments, and being good role models for one another in faith, and helping one another to stay faithful and to remain firm in our devotion to God. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.