Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the call to holiness and to be converted to God’s truth. We are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul in his conversion to the Christian faith and how he dedicated himself to serve the Lord with all of his heart after early on he was a fanatical opponent of the Christian faith. And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the interaction between the Lord and the sisters Mary and Martha, and how God reminded us to choose the ‘better part’.
Beginning with our first reading today, we heard St. Paul recounting his own conversion experience, and how he abandoned his past disobedience against God, his misguided fanatic zeal in hunting down the early Christian converts especially among the Jewish people. That was how this great enemy of Christians and the Church became almost overnight, the greatest defender and champion of the faithful. St. Paul had a choice when God called him on the way to Damascus, on whether he wanted to continue in his past way of life, or if he wanted instead to embrace God’s call and transform himself.
Had St. Paul remained in his past life, as a prominent young Pharisee and also a Roman citizen, he was bound to have a very good life and could have possibly been a very influential member of the Sanhedrin and the ruling elite of the Jewish people, and would also likely be quite influential among the Romans and the Gentiles. Certainly for sure, his life would not have been so difficult and challenging as how he had suffered and laboured so much for the Lord’s sake. Yet, this was the path that St. Paul had chosen in the end, and he committed himself to it wholeheartedly.
St. Paul chose the ‘better path’, entrusting himself to God despite having to let go of his comfortable and influential old life, a life that would have guaranteed worldly safety and satisfaction, a life without much difficulty and hassles. But he chose to leave these comforts and assurances behind, for the better assurance in God. Although he endured a lot of trials and sufferings for the many decades after, but in the end, as he has faithfully committed himself to the very end, he was sure of the Lord’s promise and the eternal glory he would receive with many other faithful ones.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were close friends of the Lord with their brother, Lazarus, whom the Lord raised from the dead. And when the Lord Jesus came by their house, we saw the difference between the reaction of Mary and Martha in welcoming the Lord to their place. While Martha was very busy doing all she could to prepare the place well for the Lord’s coming, Mary was sitting by the side of the Lord, spending time with Him and listening to Him.
Martha certainly had good intentions, and she did what she thought was the best to welcome the Lord and be hospitable to Him. However, in her excessive preoccupation and desire to serve the Lord in the way she thought best, she had forgotten about what was most important, just like St. Paul earlier, when as Saul, he persecuted the Christians out of misplaced zeal in trying to protect the interpretation of the faith according to the Pharisees, which was then threatened by the Lord and His revelations and teachings.
Both Martha and Saul were trying to do what they could in their own way to serve God, but when they tried to do so on their own, and becoming swallowed by the intensity, by their emotions and desires, they ended up losing sight and focus on what they really ought to focus their attention on. As they pursued their intentions, they were distracted by the temptations of pride and the desire in their hearts, the pride of their achievements and the desire to be acclaimed and praised for their efforts. For Martha, it was likely to be praised for her hospitality, while Saul wanted attention and achievement in destroying the Christians.
But as we have heard, these were the wrong paths, which Martha was reminded by the Lord, and Saul was called from, and in the end, Martha realised that what was important, was not how meticulous her preparations and plans were, but spending time with God Who has come to her place to spend His time with her. Similarly, Saul came to realise that his path had been wrong, and from the moment of his conversion, he chose to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and devote all of his energy and efforts to glorify God from then on.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today to reflect on the path which we should take in life, in serving God wholeheartedly as we should, and in keeping to the Lord’s path faithfully even when we may encounter difficulties, trials and challenges along the journey. We must realise that while the path that God has showed us may seem to be less promising, more challenging and difficult, but in truth, it is the ‘better part’ and the path that we all should choose, for in the Lord alone lies our hope and true joy.
Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of St. Bruno, a dedicated servant of God, who was remembered as a great priest and intellectual, who committed his efforts to lead more and more among the faithful towards God. And St. Bruno was also known for rejecting the position of bishop, which could have easily been his, if he had chosen to do so. However, St. Bruno chose to walk down this more tedious path, living a holy existence and life, gathering some others to live in a prayerful community, away from the distractions of the world.
St. Bruno chose to walk down this path in responding to the call that the Lord has made to him, calling him to a life of holiness, to be a great witness and example to all the faithful, on what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. St. Bruno is a humble person, who spent his days and moments in doing everything to glorify God through prayer and virtue, and which is something that we can be inspired from and follow as well. Through all that we have heard today, we are presented with the choice, do we want to follow the Lord and take His ‘better part’ or do we want to indulge in worldly desires and pleasures, and seek for worldly satisfaction instead?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to live our lives virtuously as Christians from now on. And we are called to be holy and virtuous in all things, and most importantly, centre our focus and attention on the Lord, as the centre and heart of our very existence. Are we willing and able to reject the allures of pride and greed, the temptations of worldly pleasures and corruptions, and rediscover our true and genuine faith? Let us all discern this carefully as we commit ourselves ever more faithfully to the path that the Lord has shown us and guided us through.
May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us in our journey, that all of us may draw ever closer to Him, and inspire one another to stay together and remain true to our Christian calling in our respective lives and in our various communities, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to God, from now on, in all things, in all of our words, actions and deeds. Amen.