Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures first of all the story of the conflict between king David of Israel and his son, Absalom, who rebelled against his own father due to some earlier intrigues and wanted to seize the kingdom from him with the support of quite a few segments of the community of Israel. Absalom rose in rebellion and marched against David, and as we heard in our first reading today, king David had to abandon the city of Jerusalem. Even some of his courtiers abandoned David and chose to welcome Absalom instead.
At that moment, we also heard how Shimei the Benjaminite cursed David and shouted at him even as he and his supporters fled the city of Jerusalem. Some of David’s supporters wanted to punish and kill Shimei, but David stopped them and remained firm in continuing the struggle despite all those who opposed him at the time. It was a very troubling and difficult time for David, but David trusted in the Lord and remained faithful, knowing that God was with him regardless.
It is the sentiment that we have also heard from today’s Psalm, how when our enemies and all our opponents rise up against us, God is our Shield and our Help. And it is in God alone that we can have full confidence and complete trust which nothing else in this world can give us. The Lord has always been true and faithful to His Covenant with us and He will protect and bless all those who trust in Him. For the truth is indeed that no evil can stand before God, and God will have the ultimate triumph over all evil.
This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the story of the Lord Jesus casting out demons and evil spirits from a man in the region of Gerasenes across the Jordan. The man was afflicted and possessed by a large number of evil spirits and demons that called themselves as ‘Legion’ as a reference to their large numbers. The Lord sent the evil spirits away from the man into a nearby herd of pigs that went down the hill in berserk. But the man was completely healed from his previous affliction and was normal again.
No one wanted to come close to the possessed man earlier on, and because of the evil spirits that were within him, many kept a great distance from him. The man wandered off in the wilderness away from the community until the day when the Lord came and liberated him from those evil spirits. And this is in fact parallel to what we have heard of the story of the temporary exile of king David from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of Absalom. Like David who had to leave behind Jerusalem and wander to the wilderness, the possessed man also wandered off in the wilderness of Gerasenes.
But as I mentioned, God was with David and eventually, He gave David his kingdom back when Absalom was killed at the battle of the Woods of Ephraim according to the Scriptural accounts. Although the challenges and trials David faced at that time seemed very great, just like that possessed man who suffered from all the evil spirits that bothered him, but God proved to them all that He was still greater, and through Him, they both received liberation and deliverance from their troubles.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what then is the significance of today’s Scripture passages? They remind us of the need for us to trust in God and to put our faith in Him. We should not forget that God is always by our side, listening to us and providing us with what we need in His own good time. But we often conveniently forget about this and instead turned to many other things of the world we grew dependant on, such as wealth, pleasures, material goods, status, fame among many others.
Today we are called to remember God and His love, His ever caring presence in our midst. We are called to remember all the times which He has stood by our side especially in our moments of great sorrow and distress. God has always been there by our side, and although sometimes we may not be able to recognise Him, but He is always there nonetheless. That is just how amazing God’s love is for each and every one of us.
Today, let us also look upon the faith of two of the Lord’s faithful saints, that hopefully we may live our lives with greater devotion and love for God after witnessing their faith and love for their Lord and Master. First of all, St. Blaise was a bishop of the Church, known today as the patron saint for all those who are working as healthcare workers taking care of those with throat diseases. The unique blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s feast day is still widely practiced today, and many who had throat complaints or troubles seek St. Blaise for his intercession and help.
St. Blaise was a Roman martyr who was a doctor and healer who was called to heal God’s people spiritually, and eventually became the bishop of Sebastea in what is now the eastern part of Asia Minor near Armenia. St. Blaise had many people seeking him for both physical and spiritual illnesses, and it was told that he miraculously healed a person who was suffering from fish bones that were stuck in the throat. St. Blaise was martyred under the Emperor Licinius who carried out one of the last persecutions of Christians, but the legacy of St. Blaise remained till this day.
St. Blaise reminded us all that through God’s grace and help, everything is possible. Even the greatest of ailments, threats and troubles are nothing for the Lord Who is Almighty and All-Powerful. The Lord Himself is All-Powerful over all those evil spirits whom many had feared from the possessed man. If only we trust in God, everything will be right for us if we follow His way. There will be plenty of trials and struggles, but God will help us and lead and guide the way for us going forward. And perhaps now is also a good opportunity for us to ask St. Blaise for his intercession, especially as the world is now facing the threat of the new 2019-nCoV or novel Coronavirus, that are spreading around the world and has killed hundreds of people so far.
Today we also remember the works and life of St. Ansgar, frequently known as the ‘Apostle of the North’ for his missionary and evangelising works among the pagan Germanic peoples. He worked at the forefront of Christianisation of the many areas in northern Germany where paganism were still common and strong among the populace. St. Ansgar also faced lots of challenges and difficulties through his ministry, but he persevered on, trusted in the Lord’s guidance and providence, and remained true to his calling to spread the Good News and the truth of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what we have just discussed earlier on, and pray that each and every one of us will be strengthened in our faith that we will be courageous in facing the many trials and challenges in life, doing whatever we can for the greater glory of God and to fulfil whatever missions that God has called us to. Let us all serve the Lord with ever greater love and devotion from now on. May God bless us all and be with us, and may His love and grace be upon us always. Amen.