Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we hear very, very clear message from the Lord through the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels we have heard from, that it is important for us to distinguish between acts that please God and the acts that are disapproved by God, as things evil and unworthy for us as the children of God. And indeed, we are also called to reflect on the obedience and the works of Jesus Christ our Lord, the new Adam, as compared to what our first ancestor, the old and original Adam had done.
And it is also important for us to take note the kind of faith that we have, whether we have the faith of hypocrites or instead if we have the faith of those who sincerely desire to follow and seek the Lord in their lives, amidst all the difficulties and challenges, and despite the fact that we mankind are often sorely tested and tempted by sin. The importance of sincerity in our faith, and the crucial nature of our desire to seek God’s forgiveness cannot be overlooked.
The key idea here is that we are all always first of all, sinners and sinners among sinners. This is because ever since Adam, our ancestor and Eve, his partner, disobeyed God and His will, and instead following Satan into his rebellion, mankind have fallen into sin, and the sins of our fathers also passed down to us, as our original sins, which continued to be on our way in our effort to seek out the Lord and His forgiveness.
But God who loves us very much, did not let us to languish and suffer in the darkness and pain. Instead, He sent us the greatest help He could give, that is to give His own Son, part of Himself and His Trinity, to be our Saviour and Redeemer, and by no other means than to give up Himself and offer Himself as a worthy sacrifice as the Lamb of God, to shed His Blood, and thus gain salvation for all of us who believe in Him.
Jesus Himself showed the kind of obedience which all of us ought to emulate, that is obedience unto death and perfect obedience without doubt and interference of our own self-interest. This is the kind of obedience we need to have on the matters pertaining to our faith in God, and indeed, this is the kind of faith we need to have, and not the kind of faith which the Pharisees and the elders of the Israelites once had.
Their faith is an empty and superficial faith, which did to them no good and brought them no closer to salvation and grace in God. In fact, their actions did not reflect what they professed to believe. What they did was in contrary to what they preached to the people, that they truly deserved their title of hypocrites, as Jesus said of them.
Their hypocrisy was made clear when they paid mere lip-service to their faith and to their God. They did not love God, and neither did they love their fellow men as the Lord had asked them to. Instead, they loved only themselves, and in their actions, they oppressed the people of God entrusted to their care, and misguided them to follow their wicked examples. Therefore, their sins were even greater, for not only that they did not do as they should have done, but they also misled others into the darkness.
They were exactly like the son who said to his father, that he will obey and do his desires, but in the end he never acted as what he had said. This is the essence of hypocrisy, on faith that is not based on real action and genuine love, as well as devotion to God, but based on lip-service and superficial actions, designed to show off their piety and supposed obedience to God, where in fact they served only their own ego and human desires.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, our faith cannot be merely just superficial in nature. Instead, it must be alive and vibrant, based soundly on the centre tenets of our faith, as Jesus had taught His disciples and passed down to us through His holy Church. And thus, as we all believe, that our faith must be based on action and real deeds, as we justified not by faith alone, but through faith made strong, living and reinforced through the acts of love and devotion, to both God and our fellow men.
I would also like to share with you the lives of two saints, whose feasts are traditionally celebrated on this day, namely that of St. Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia and martyr of the faith, as well as St. Lawrence Ruiz or also more commonly known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who together with many other of the faithful were martyr saints of the faith in the persecution of the faithful in the Shogunate era Japan.
St. Wenceslaus was the Duke and thus ruler of the area known as Bohemia, now the modern day Czech Republic and parts of Slovakia, which at that time was still a mixture of pagans and Christians, and the opposition from the pagan worshippers to the conversion to the true faith was still great and truly was a great challenge facing St. Wenceslaus.
Nevertheless, St. Wenceslaus, as the ruler of his people and as a servant of the One True God did not give up amidst the difficulties, and he continued good works to establish the faith in his lands, building up churches and properties to help the evangelising works of the Church, and devoutly committing himself to many acts of charity and pious celebrations, leading more and more people to embrace the true faith and be saved.
Opposition and challenges faced St. Wenceslaus throughout his life and reign as Lord over Bohemia. Squabbles between the nobles and lords, and uprisings by the pagan believers were occurring frequently, but St. Wenceslaus handled all of them with patience and with firm faith in the Lord. Yet, this is where also he met his ultimate end, though he faced it with firm faith in God.
St. Wenceslaus was murdered by the plotting of his own brother, later known for his bloodshed and vile acts, together with many barons and nobles who were displeased with the pious and good actions of St. Wenceslaus. Thus the holy servant of God met his end at the hands of pagans, and even these were Christians who professed to have faith in God but proved the contrary through their actions and deeds, whereas St. Wenceslaus remained faithful and true to the faith till the end, walking righteously in the way of the Lord.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz or Lorenzo Ruiz was a Filipino layman faithful, who lived in the Philippines in the early days of the Spanish colonisation of the Philippines. He was raised as a devout faithful and a pious servant of God by his parents. He lived a peaceful and normal life, raising a family in good faith, until the day when he was framed for the murder of a Spanish, which was a capital offense at that time.
St. Lorenzo Ruiz therefore sought refuge and boarded a ship destined for Japan together with several missionaries bound for that country as well. At the time, the Japanese people were ruled by the military governor, the Shogun, as the supreme ruler of the country. Japan had just gone through a long period of warfare and instability, which was ended by the new shoguns, of the Tokugawa family, taking over power in Japan.
In previous years, the various Japanese warlords and lords had been sympathetic to the faith and the missionaries, which managed therefore to gain salvation for many thousands of souls, and the Church was indeed growing rapidly at that time. However, the coming of the new order brought with it a very intense wave of rejection and persecution of the faith.
Thousands upon thousands were tortured, persecuted and forced to choose between abandoning their faith and their life. Many abandoned their faith, leaving behind their salvation for the sake of their temporary life and happiness, condemning themselves to an eternity in hell, but there were also many who remained strongly faithful to the Lord, and chose suffering and death rather than to succumb to the temptation of pleasure and safety offered to them.
Similarly, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his many fellow martyrs refused to allow themselves to be tempted and persuaded by Satan and his allies, and they remained true to their faith, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord, and in the process became holy martyrs of the faith, and became inspiration for countless faithful, especially many of those who were also enduring persecutions and oppositions from the world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the two saints which I shared with you just now are truly should be what can inspire us all to follow their examples to live our lives with faith, but not just with any faith, but a genuine and living faith, found firmly on piety and real action, that is charity and love, hope and perseverance, and in actions that truly show that we practice what we believe in and not just paying lip-service to God, as the Pharisees and the elders of Israel had done.
Let us all follow the examples of the saints and holy men of God, and the example of the great piety and obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and finally the very obedience of Jesus Christ our Lord Himself, the new Adam, whose perfect and complete obedience to the will of God counteracted the actions of the first Adam who had brought us into sin and destruction.
May Almighty God therefore free us from our bounds to evil and death, and through the actions of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, let us therefore be made worthy and be glorified in Him, so that we may be justified and receive our eternal glory through what we have done in this life, in living our faith graciously and with full obedience in the Lord. Amen.