Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all reminded of the sufferings which we may have to face for having remained faithful to the Lord, all the trials and hardships that may be ours if we walk down this path that God has shown us. However, we must not lose faith because God has always been by our side, guiding us and being with us even in our most difficult moments. We are also reminded that in our lives in this world, we may often encounter moments when we are required to make compromises and to do as the world requires of us, as after all, we are still living in this world and are parts of how this world operates and works. We cannot totally and completely separate ourselves from the world, and as Christians, we are all expected to live our lives worthily in this world so as to proclaim by our lives and actions, the truth and glory of God, His Good News and all.
In our first reading today, from the Book of Tobit we heard of the account of how Tobit faced a very unfortunate circumstance of having to endure blindness, of not being able to see anything at all. Yet, despite all that he had to go through, Tobit did not lose heart and remained firmly steadfast in his righteousness and conviction to live honestly, and that caused some friction between him and those who were around him, his brothers and his own wife. Tobit was really suffering, much as another character from the Old Testament had also suffered, namely that of Job. Both Tobit and Job encountered unfortunate incidents that affected even their own flesh and health, with Tobit losing his eyesight while Job had to endure from itchy and painful boils, each of these having negative and debilitating effect on their health and also relationship with others around them.
Nonetheless they both remained righteous, upright and dedicated to God in all things, and they did not let fear or uncertainties to affect or distract them from their faith and trust in the Lord. Indeed, naturally they did waver from time to time, lamenting their conditions and the hardships that they had to face, but they never blamed God for their condition. Instead, they actually blamed themselves for their misfortunes and sufferings, and they convinced others that the Lord alone is the Master and the One Who rule over all things, and He alone is the One Who allows all things to happen, and all of us as His beloved people, as His servants have to follow the Lord and obey Him in all of His Law and commandments, and we must walk in the path that He has shown us. Then, as mentioned, we must also be good and upright in our lives in this world as well, in obeying whatever orders and laws that the worldly authorities around us have for us, as long as they do not directly contradict the Law of God.
In our Gospel passage today, that is what the Lord Jesus mentioned to His disciples and followers, and to those who went to Him to question and test Him, namely the Pharisees and the representatives of the chief priests, as they all tried to test and question Him on the matter of paying taxes to the Roman state and to the Emperor as was required of all those who came under the dominion of the Roman Empire. It was a really difficult situation for the Lord because no matter whether He answered yes or no to the question, He would have faced problem either way. The chief priests and the Pharisees would have wanted to trap the Lord by doing so, as if He answered yes to the question, then they could all accuse and discredit the Lord before the Jewish people, quite a few of whom back then harboured hatred against the Romans and refused to obey the laws and taxes imposed on them.
On the other hand, if the Lord had answered no to the question, then the chief priests and the Pharisees, some of whom had close ties to the Romans, could have then accused Him of disobedience and for trying to incite rebellion against the Roman rule. This was what they would later on accuse of the Lord of doing when they brought Him at the moment of His Passion to the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, of the Lord Jesus claiming Himself to be the King of the Jews. Hence, either way, whether the Lord responded with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the question, it would have led to serious repercussions to the Lord and to His followers. But the Lord did not do that, and instead, He said that one ought to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, as the taxes were paid with the Roman coins that ultimately came from the Roman state itself, and one ought to give to God what belongs to God, that is ultimately, ourselves.
Through what the Lord had told His disciples and those who questioned and tested Him, the Lord wanted to highlight that we should live our lives well and obey whatever the law that the land and our states have, so long as they do not contradict the Divine Law and commandments. At the same time, we should also do our part in fulfilling the Law and commandments of the Lord as is expected of us. We should our lives in a righteous and worthy manner as Tobit and other faithful servants of the Lord, our holy predecessors had done. Are we all able to commit ourselves in such a way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to devote ourselves ever more to the cause of the Lord? These are the things that we should ask ourselves as we continue living up to our Christian calling and mission in life. And we should also look upon the great examples set by our holy predecessors.
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Norbert, also known as St. Norbert of Xanten, a German bishop and founder of the religious order known as the Premonstratensian Order of Canons Regular. He was a priest and preacher who was particularly concerned about the lax nature of discipline amongst the priests and the immorality, worldly vices and wickedness that had grown rampant at that time within the Church, among both the clergy and the laity alike. Through his efforts and works, the Premonstre Order of Canons Regular was established, with customs, rules and practices combining aspects of several other more established religious orders, inspiring many people from all origins to come and join his religious order, which soon grew quickly in various places and in different countries.
He was also appointed as the Archbishop of Magdeburg by the Pope, in which role he instituted wide-ranging reforms in his local diocese, in uprooting the many corrupt practices of the Church and the community at that time. Not everyone approved and supported St. Norbert’s actions, and he faced not a few assassination attempts by those who disagreed with him and his reform works and efforts. Yet, all of those did not discourage St. Norbert who continued to carry out his reforms and works, a spirit and commitment that remain inspirational to countless generations of Christians right up to this day. St. Norbert never wavered in his hard work and efforts to lead more and more souls ever closer towards the Lord, and to help many to become more disciplined in how they lived their lives and in how they carried out their Christian actions.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all therefore reflect on the words of the Scriptures that we have received and the actions and life of St. Norbert that we have just discussed. Let us all always remember to live our lives worthily of the Lord as we should, and learn to discipline ourselves and keep ourselves aligned to the Lord and to His path at all times. Let us all follow the footsteps of the faithful servants of God and be good examples and role models of faith ourselves, now and always. Amen.