Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today it was told to us about the great help and grace that we can gain in the Lord our God, who is our Help and our Saviour. He is willing to make us great and give us much blessings, provided that we allow Him to come into ourselves and transform our lives for the better. If we allow Him to make a difference in our lives, then all that we do will be great and successful, for no one that does the will of God shall go unrewarded.
In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus told His disciples about John the Baptist, who is the messenger sent by God, the prophet and servant who would prepare the way for His own entry into the world. John was indeed Elijah the prophet, who was taken up into heaven by God at the end of his first ministry, on flaming chariots as witnessed by Elisha, his disciple and successor. The same Elijah then, as prophesied, came again into the world in John the Baptist.
Elijah was a great prophet, and in him the grace and power of God was truly evident. He healed many people from their afflictions, performed many miracles, feeding and providing for the widow of Zarephath, and even brought dead people back to life. He made flames to fall down from the Lord onto his sacrifice when the pagans and the Baal worshippers contested him at the mount Carmel.
All these miracles and wonders were the sign of divine favour and blessing, which He bestowed on all those whom He had sent into the world to be His servants and messengers, and also to all those who live uprightly and justly in the presence of our God. The same spirit and power bestowed upon Elijah, was therefore also bestowed on John the Baptist, who then called the people of God to repentance, much as Elijah had once laboured to bring the people of God back from their past sinfulness.
That was why Jesus mentioned John in such a way, that he is indeed greater than any who came before him, and yet, at the same time, he as the servant, is not greater than his own Master, who would come after him, in Jesus Christ. But the readings today, particularly the Gospel, are indeed not about comparing one to the other, not about comparing John the Baptist and Jesus our Lord, for it is truly a lesson of who we should be and how we should act, as the disciples of Christ.
It is a lesson and reminder of humility, the humility of both John the Baptist and ultimately, of Jesus Himself. John the Baptist was bestowed with great power and authority, and yet, he humbled himself before God greatly, proclaiming publicly that he is not the Messiah, and how he would not even be worthy to untie the straps of the sandals of His Lord. When more and more people flocked to Jesus and followed Him instead of John, he was happy, and truly pleased, that with the words we should indeed reflect on, ‘He shall increase, while I shall decrease.’
And Jesus, we knew that He is God, and being the Son, He is equal with God the Father and Almighty in all things. However, as St. Paul mentioned in his letter to the Philippians, that He does not dwell on that equality as something to be grasped. But rather, He lowered Himself and assumed the nature of a servant, and in that humility, He was exalted and His Name is glorified above every other names (Philippians 2 : 6-11).
As we can see, that our Lord is good and great, and He has done so much in order to help us attain our freedom from the slavery of sin and to gain the eternal life promised to us. However, many of us are unable to obtain this, because our pride often stands in our way. Pride prevents us from acknowledging our sinfulness and our corruption, and that is why we are often reluctant to seek the Lord, because we either think that we do not need Him, or that we are thinking to highly of ourselves to stoop down to acknowledge our shortcomings.
Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope of Rome and Leader of the entire Universal Church. Pope St. Damasus I was born at a time just after the ending of the persecution of the Faith, and grow during a time when the Faith increasingly become accepted as the norm in the late Roman Empire, until it eventually became the official and only Faith of the Empire.
Pope St. Damasus I was elected Pope at a time of great turbulance. Although the Faith has become increasingly firm and rooted in the world, and more and more accepted the Faith, but conflict and divisions arose more and more frequently, endangering the unity and the works of the Church. Clashes and riots accompanied the papal election that elected Pope St. Damasus I, because of rival candidates and infighting in the Church, which caused great pain to the faithful.
Pope St. Damasus I was not elected as the Successor of St. Peter without opposition or difficulty, but nevertheless, he carried out faithfully the duties and responsibilities which had been given to him. He was very firm against heresies and all the aberrations of the Faith, and he stood to condemn all those who had misled the people of God for their own benefits.
He worked hard in conjunction with many other great saints and fathers of the Church, including St. Jerome and St. Basil of Cappadocia. Pope St. Damasus I continued to dedicate himself faithfully in the service of God and His Church, and despite his position, he remained always humble and devoted to the cause which he had been called in service to. Through his dedication, he brought forth much good for the people of God, and helped the works of so many other saints at the time, building up further the foundation of the Church of God.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we not walk in the footsteps of Pope St. Damasus I? Shall we humbly go our way and seek the Lord in all things, and especially seek Him for His forgiveness for our transgressions? Let us no longer be stubborn and put our pride aside, so that our Lord may come into us, and transform us into peoples of goodness. May Almighty God, our Lord, be with us all, and make us to be like His faithful servant, Pope St. Damasus I and bring goodness to one another, the people of God, His Church. Amen.
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