Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are being reminded by the Scripture passages we heard, to be truly dedicated to God and not just paying lip service and empty, meaningless gesture to the Lord, as those whom He has called to be His followers. Each and every one of us share in this responsibility that we have received from God, to be genuine in our faith and to be fully committed to Him at all times, offering our heart, mind and our entire being to Him.
In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Hosea in which the Lord condemned the actions of those who have disobeyed Him and led the whole people into sin, in retrospective from the founding days of the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, during the time of the prophet Hosea’s ministry, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah had been divided from each other for almost two centuries, and the people of Israel had been led away to sin, by the decision of its first king, Jeroboam, who established a parallel and separate worship in Bethel.
The united kingdom of Israel of kings David and Solomon was torn apart after Solomon’s death by his disobedience and sins at the end of his life, and Jeroboam was chosen by God to be the king over the ten northern tribes of the Israelites, and Jeroboam was of course expected to reign responsibly and with faith. However, that was not the case, as soon after he was made king, feeling insecure of his own position and fearing that he could lose all that he had gained, he committed a great sin before God.
That was because despite the division of the kingdom, the people of Israel were still one people, and although they were administratively divided into the northern and southern courts in Ephraim and Judah, but they were still the people of God, and they ought to worship the one and only True God, and that was why they were still obliged to come to Jerusalem, to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him in Jerusalem, in the Temple that king Solomon had built for the Lord.
Instead, king Jeroboam, without consulting God or His prophets, and fearing that the people’s loyalty would return to the House of David if they were to continue to go to Jerusalem to worship God, decided to establish his own separate worship in Bethel, in his own kingdom, making a golden calf idol and altar, stating that all of his people ought from then on worship only in the places approved by the king, no longer to Jerusalem. He also established his own priesthood in contravention to the Law.
By his own pride and ego, his own fears and insecurities, his lack of genuine faith, Jeroboam had led the people to sin, and in time, pagan worship and idols were to be common throughout Israel. Jeroboam and many if not most of his successors were unfaithful to God, and as described in the Scriptures, committed what were wicked in the eyes of God and men alike. All their illegal and unworthy priests offered sacrifices on the altars in Bethel and other places, but their offerings and sacrifices were meaningless as they were not made with faith.
Are we then willing to take note just how it is important for us to love God with all of our hearts, to give our all to serve Him and to follow Him, and not to be distracted by the many worldly concerns and matters we may encounter in life. In our Gospel today, we heard of the Pharisees criticising and opposing the Lord Jesus and His works, because they accused Him of colluding with the prince of demons in His miraculous casting out of demons, and they accused Him of blasphemy and fraud, refusing to accept His teachings and works, or believe in His words.
All of these were caused by the jealousy and fear in their hearts and minds, as they saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat to their own power, privileged existence and position in the community, and they did what they could to try to stop the Lord, plotting against Him and making false accusations against Him. In this regard, they committed great sins against God, and they did nothing differently from king Jeroboam who led the people to sin by his fear that his kingdom would be snatched away from him.
That is why, for all of their pious actions and many shows of faith in public, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often subjects of the Lord’s rebuke, as they offered their prayers and made their sacrifices for meaningless purpose, as their attention was not on God, and they were distracted, serving their own selfish desires and wants, rather than to obey the Lord wholeheartedly as they should have done. And they led the people into sin by their own lack of faith and true, genuine love for God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be truly faithful to God and to be genuine in our faith and devotion to Him. We are called to be His genuine followers, giving our whole heart in following Him, working for His greater glory and to devote our time, effort and attention to serve Him. He Himself had said, that the ‘harvest are plentiful, but the labourers are few’ and how there are great need for more workers and labourers to work in the gathering of the harvest of the Lord.
This means that all of us are expected to give our best in serving the Lord, in following Him and in walking in His path, to be good inspiration of faith, and to be righteous and just, obedient and genuine in our actions to one another. Are we able to do these, brothers and sisters? Are we able and willing to give ourselves to Him as many of our holy and dedicated predecessors had done? Let us not be distracted any longer by the various temptations that we may have, and let us renew our focus and faith, our commitment to God from now on. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, now and always. Amen.