Liturgical Colour : Green or Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear a very powerful story, one which certainly resonates with all of us. Firstly, it is that we ought not to let our apparent inferiority and weakness be an obstacle to us, and allow others to belittle us because of our apparent shortcomings. That is because, brethren, even the least one among mankind, and the worst of all sinners have hope in them, that is hope in Jesus the Lord.
It is often that people are ostracised, bullied, and treated badly, simply because they appeared weak to their surrounding people, simply because they are perceived to be inferior, and therefore, to the people around them, they are not worthy of anything good. We are indeed ourselves also guilty of the same thing, as we often let our prejudices and pre-formed generalisations and mindsets to interfere in our approach to these less fortunate ones.
And that is how we belittle others around us and ostracise them, often even without we ourselves knowing that we had done such evil acts on our fellow brethren, simply because we are often not aware of the impacts of the actions we had done. Indeed, in fact, we have to make the habit of continuously reflecting on our own actions, especially our own shortcomings, that we become aware that as mankind, each of us have our own shortcomings, our unworthiness before God, and therefore we should not judge others, less so belittling them or treating them badly.
That was exactly what the Pharisee in the story of Jesus in the Gospel today had not done. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are the supposed experts and examples for the entire people of God, because of their piety and strict observation of the entire Jewish laws. Yet, as Christ had repeatedly pointed out in many different occasions, they did not truly have God in their hearts, as what they truly yearned was the glory and praise of men instead of the love of God.
They give in to their pride and arrogance, especially being placed in high esteem by the people, that they often judge others whom they deemed to be not as ‘holy’ as they were. They condemned prostitutes, tax collectors, and those they had considered as sinners in general. They failed to notice that they too were sinners, and in condemning these people, they have in fact judge others, while they themselves ought to be judged for their own wickedness.
They acted mighty and proud, proud with their great ‘piety’ and ‘obedience’ to the Law, but in fact, all these were empty, because they did not have God in their hearts. It is such that they have always been in the way during the Lord’s ministry in this world, planting obstacles wherever they could, and sowed dissent and trouble for Jesus and His disciples.
They failed to see the great repentance in the woman, the great humility in her as she approached the Lord and Saviour. She showed her regret for her sins through her tears, and through her complete humility. She did not show her faith, love, and dedication for the Lord through loud and long prayers as the Pharisees had done, but through her concrete actions. And to the Lord our God, her faith and love for Him was truly far greater than all of them combined.
Prayers are important, brethren, as it is our way to communicate with the Lord our God, in a two-way communication between Him and us. That is why, it is even more important to make sure that the prayers that we make truly are prayers worthy of our God, that is not like the prayers of the Pharisees.
We must humble ourselves before the Lord as the prostitute had done, seeking for God’s most merciful heart, throwing far away our pride and arrogance. The Pharisees liked to praise themselves and their ‘piety’ in prayers, and did not humble themselves for their sins. This is what we must not do.
Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast day of St. Januarius, who was once the Bishop of Naples in the early Church in Italy. St. Januarius lived and ministered through the times of difficulty for the Church and the faithful. He worked hard for the faithful, and ministered piously, even despite the harsh persecutions of the faithful, by the Emperor Diocletian, who led the last great persecution of the Church.
St. Januarius died protecting his faith and in his loving service to the people of God. As a result, he provided much ground for the Church to continue to grow and he also defended the faith against threats both external and internal. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us follow in the footsteps of St. Januarius, to serve the Lord with passion and commitment. Let us also be humble before the Lord our God. May the Lord who is merciful and loving, continue to watch over us and protect us sinners, that we may return to Him and praise Him forevermore.