Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to progress on towards the celebration of the most important parts of our Faith, that is the suffering, Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is Sexagesima Sunday, or literally meaning ‘sixty’ as a reminder for us that we are within about sixty days from the coming of Easter.
And on this day we heard about the nature of our lives, of our dwelling in this world, and the answer to all of our difficulties, plight and sorrows. As the first reading, taken from the Book of Job had mentioned, the suffering of this world, the pain and sorrow we all experienced, are like what Job had once experienced when Satan tested and tempted him against the Lord.
If we read the entirety of the Book of Job from the beginning to the end, we would realise that the suffering of mankind was never, ever the intention of our Lord. Suffering is in fact the result of the works of Satan and all of his allies, the forces of darkness in this world, and also more importantly, because of our disobedience against the will of God, that is sin.
Job’s friends accused Job of having sinned and committed wickedness before God. But meanwhile Job continued to complain and lamented for his sufferings, part of which we heard in our readings today, he continued to remain faithful to the Lord and never did once he cursed the Lord or blamed Him for what had happened to him. God showed Job that there are much that he did not understand, and He gave His answer to all of Job’s complaints, and for his continued faith despite his ramblings, he received great rewards surpassing what he had lost and what he had suffered from.
Thus, God wants to succour us and help us, and that was what God intends with us. The psalm today speaks of the healing which we can find in God, and it is this healing which our Lord Jesus Christ had brought with Him as He entered into our world to save it and to save all of us, His beloved people and children. The Gospel today reinforced this, by showing how Christ is concerned with all of His people, from the greatest to the least, and was concerned about spreading the truth He brought into the world to all the peoples.
He worked to heal the people of their afflictions, of the diseases that scourged their bodies, just as Job once was covered with boils and scabs that itched, and far above all these, was the healing which our Lord wrought upon our souls. What is this sickness of our souls? It is none other than sin. Sin is the scourge upon all of us, and it is a great barrier that prevents us from reuniting and being in complete unity and reconciliation with our Lord.
But we truly have no need for fear, as the Lord Himself had spared nothing else but Himself, and incarnate through His own Son, He made Himself the salvation and deliverance for us all mankind. For He is the Word of God, the Divine Word who is God and always is with God since before the beginning of time, and who was incarnate in the flesh to become like one of us, born a Man.
And through Jesus therefore, the word of God became real and concrete in this world, and instead of speaking through messengers and prophets, by the coming of Jesus into the world, God Himself speaks directly to us all, by what Jesus had taught us, and which His Apostles and disciples, and through them the Church, had preserved and passed down upon us.
In the readings for the Sexagesima Sunday, we hear of the parable of Jesus, that is the teaching of Jesus using stories and real experiences to make it easier for people to understand, the translation of the word of God into the words of men. Through what Jesus taught the people, what we know as the parable of the sower, the word of God has the power to bring us from the darkness of this world and from the suffering of the world into eternal happiness and joy with God.
However, as the parable shows us, that the word of God is like seeds planted by the Lord, who is the Sower, and the fate of those seeds depend on what kind of treatment or soil that they land on. This means that from our side, we must put in effort and work to ensure that the word of God can fall on fertile soil, and hence grow to bear rich fruits, that will lead us to our eternal reward, just as God once rewarded Job for his faith.
There will be many obstacles, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the parable shows us, and surely as our own experiences should have told us, that to be truly faithful and devoted to the Lord, and to follow Him in all of our ways is not going to be easy. Temptations of the world, the pressure from our peers and friends, and from the world itself to conform to the ways of the world or be rejected will be great, and it is on our part that we need to put in our effort to resist those challenges and temptations.
Today we celebrate the feast of two saints, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, two people who had very different life stories, and yet their experiences and examples will show us that what God had done unto us, by His coming into the world to offer us His generous mercy and love, is truly unmatched and unprecedented in the history of this world.
St. Jerome Emiliani was once a civil servant who worked in the government sector a few hundred years ago in what is today Italy. He eventually left behind everything to join the sacred priesthood and dedicated himself completely to the Lord and to his fellow men. St. Jerome Emiliani was renowned especially for his great love and care for orphans and all the children who were destitute and filled with problems in their lives.
St. Jerome Emiliani therefore helped to establish institutions and places where orphans and many other people who had been ostracised and rejected could stay as their new homes, and he himself with other priests and servants of God ministered to them and cared for them. He also established houses to accommodate former prostitutes who had repented from their sins.
Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was born in what is now Sudan just a century and half ago, and when she was young, she had to taste the bitter pill of war and violence, as well as the experience of slavery and subjugation by others, forced to accept the religion of heathens by her captors. She was sold as a slave and she was treated very badly, often tortured and not given proper food and place to live in.
By the grace of God, she was freed from her slavery when she was purchased from her previous owners by a Christian diplomat who came into the region and then entrusted St. Josephine Bakhita with the care of his family and children. A court thereafter ruled that St. Josephine Bakhita had not been legally a slave as where she was at, the state had ruled out slavery since before her birth, and thus she was then a freedman.
She was then baptised as a Christian and accepted into the Church by the future Pope St. Pius X, who was then the Patriarch of Venice, as she lived in the region where he had jurisdiction in. St. Josephine Bakhita thereafter joined the Canossian sisters, where she had lived for a while prior to her freedom, and from then on she lived a life of holy contemplation and filled with prayers and dedication to God. Great is her reward at the end of her earthly life.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter, as well as we prepare for the season of Lent that precedes the former, which is soon to come, let us all take all these lessons and words into our hearts. St. Jerome Emiliani cared for the least of the people, the orphans and the rejected, just as Christ Himself gave Himself to the service of all those who have not been loved and those persecuted by others.
Let us all allow God to come into our lives, and through the planting of His words in our hearts, let us all be changed and transformed to become true and faithful children of our Lord, in all our words and deeds. Like St. Josephine Bakhita, the slaves turned freedman and then into a faithful servant and devoted woman, by allowing God to come into our lives, we allow ourselves to be freed from the slavery of sin and detaching ourselves from the things of this world.
May Almighty God bless us all, guide us all back to Him and in Him may we find satisfaction, succour and enlightenment, that we may all rejoice in Him in His everlasting glory, as we receive the great rewards for our faith, and may all of us be healed from the earthly and worldly afflictions. Amen.