Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of our Christian mission in life, that is to be ever more faithful and committed to God. We must always keep in mind that as Christians, we have been given the mission and responsibility to proclaim the Lord and His truth through our lives and actions, our every words and deeds. The salvation of God will come to all those who have worthily carried out these missions in the way they live their lives, with real and genuine faith and not just with empty gestures and meaningless actions merely to put up appearances, as hypocrites and unbelievers had done in the past. The Lord had told us to be truly faithful to Him, and not to just make empty promises to Him.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelation of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the words of the Apostle to the Church in various places and communities established all across the region of Eastern Mediterranean Sea, which was at that time called the ‘Seven Churches of Asia’. The Apostle delivered what he witnessed and heard from the Lord through the visions he received, in which God was telling the Angels and spirits in charge of those seven Church communities, to remain steadfast in their faith and remain faithful to God, and not be easily swayed by the temptations present all around in the world. The Apostle spoke of the Lord’s reminders to His people to resist the temptations of the flesh, of pleasures and all things that will easily turn the faithful towards the wrong path towards damnation.
The Lord spoke to His people of what they ought to be doing as Christians, as those whom He had called and chosen from the world. They should live their lives righteously and with obedience to God’s will, His Law and commandments, and not to follow the wicked ways of this world. He reminded all of them that they should not be easily swayed or tempted by the allures of worldly pleasures, joys and comforts, as what many among the faithful had done at that time, in the various communities of the faithful then existing, and quite a few of those people did not stay and remain faithful to the Lord, but continuing to follow their own flawed ways and the ways of wickedness and evil. And their actions and deeds led to scandal within and outside the Church.
That is why the Lord warned them all through His Apostle, St. John, that they all ought to listen to Him and obey Him once more, and reject the wicked ways that they had been trodding along all those while. The Lord did not want them all to continue walking down that path to ruin and hence, He gave them a reminder and help, so that they might realise the errors of their ways, as He truly loved all of them, and wanted them all to be saved, by genuine and true reconciliation with Him, being forgiven from all of their sins, by the power and grace of His most compassionate mercy, and His enduring love and patience. Through the love that He has shown us, we have received once again the sure hope of life and freedom, of the promise of true happiness and joy that God alone can provide us.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known story of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with Zaccheus the tax collector. Zaccheus was a notorious tax collector who had earned a lot from his trade, in gaining much wealth from the taxes he collected, and he was despised like the other tax collectors for that. At that time, tax collectors were often negatively viewed by the other people, especially so by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, namely all those religious and intellectual elites who considered themselves as being the righteous and worthy guardians of the people of God, and who zealously guarded their way of living the Law of God. They deemed the tax collectors as among the worst of sinners, unworthy of God and His salvation, because of their actions and wickedness in life.
They were considered and deemed as traitors to their country and people, as they and their actions were deemed as selfish and wicked, in persecuting and extorting the people for their own desires and wishes. They were therefore often ostracised and treated badly by the people, because of this prejudice which existed back then, and then continued to be repeated by the same people who sought to justify themselves for their righteousness and piety like those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Zaccheus was an embodiment of this so-called wicked man, unworthy and undeserving of God and His grace, His salvation and love. And yet, the same Zaccheus went all out in seeking the Lord and trying to reach out to Him. He climbed a tree just to see the Lord because of his short stature, and he risked his life and threw away all of his pride and ego in publicly declaring his faith in the Lord.
Not a lot of people can do what Zaccheus had done, in publicly admitting his mistakes and publicly promising to rectify the mistakes and wickedness he had committed. Zaccheus promised before all assembled that he would return and compensate all those whom he had extorted and gained from illicitly, not just by the same amount, but even thrice and four times more of what they had lost. Through that act, Zaccheus had shown his determination to abandon his past, wicked and unworthy way of life, and embracing God’s love, compassion and mercy, which the Lord gladly extended to him, Zaccheus was well on the way to redemption and therefore to enter into the glorious kingdom that God has promised to all those who are faithful to Him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard these readings from the Scriptures, each one of us are therefore reminded that as Christians, all of us should embrace the Lord and His truth, and abandon our wicked way of life, listening to Him and following Him wholeheartedly in the same way that Zaccheus had done. We also have yet another example and inspiration whom we can follow in one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating this day, namely that of St. Albert the Great, also known as St. Albertus Magnus, a great saint and servant of God, a great philosopher and Doctor of the Church, known for his immense contributions in Christian philosophy and theology, as well as various other aspects of the faith, in which he had inspired countless others to follow the Lord faithfully as he had.
St. Albert the Great spent a lot of time and effort in doing the will of God, in his role as a great philosopher and teacher of the faith, inspiring many younger generations of the servants and followers of God to gain more knowledge and understanding of His truth and love, which he passionately carried out, through his many writings and teachings, his efforts, as a servant of the Church, in carrying out the missions entrusted to him by the Pope. As the Bishop of Regensburg, he was known for his great humility and piety, and his great love for his flock, dedicating his time and effort for the salvation of souls. He did not seek worldly glory or ambition, and did all he could to glorify God by his every actions, deeds and his way of life.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired to follow the Lord in the manner that these faithful and dedicated predecessors of ours had done, and let us all renew our commitment to God, to live our lives ever more worthily from now on. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen our resolve and courage to continue living our lives virtuously and worthily in accordance with what He has taught us to do. May God bless us always, now and forevermore, and may He bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.