Liturgical Colour : Red (Martyrs)
Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how God made a wonderful choice in the one whom He has blessing for, in the one whom the Lord is Himself pleased with, that is David, to be His vicar in the world, to govern His people as their king and ruler, and therefore lead them in the worship of Himself.
David was chosen, not because of his strength, abilities, or wonderful appearance. As the Lord made it clear to Samuel, that He did not see just with the eyes, but He sees also the hearts inside mankind. He chose David because He saw in him the true heart of devotion, which had great love for God and His ways.
As we all should well know, that good appearance does not equate good hearts inside. Appearance can often be deceiving, and it is important for us to be able to see what is inside and what truly makes up a person. And therefore, we should also not be quick to judge on others, especially if they do not behave in the same way as we do things, as the Pharisees had done.
Continuing from my theme on the true meaning of the Law of God from yesterday’s Scripture readings, it is important for us to note that superficial obedience of the law is no good, compared to the true understanding of the purpose of God’s laws that is to bring mankind closer to God, instead of giving them a great burden.
God wished that through His laws, mankind can be turned, and changed, and transformed to be more like Him. Yes, for all mankind to follow God’s laws in good faith and understanding means to be profoundly changed in our way of life and behaviour, that we become truly children of God. God wants from us our love, and sincere dedication, as well as full attention. He does not want from us blind obedience or self-praise.
God sees the heart and He knows everything, just as He saw into the hearts of the people of Israel and the sons of Jesse, discovering David, in whom He found true faith and dedication, one worthy to be the shepherd of His people. Therefore God also sees into our hearts, inside each one of us, that He sees whether we are truly faithful to Him or just paying lip service to Him, or worse, to self-glorify oneself that their ‘piety’ may be praised by those who see them.
The Sabbath is the holy day in the faith of the Israelites, according to the laws of Moses, where God ordered the people to keep the day holy, and to honour Him on that day. Yet, over time, until the time of Jesus, the true meaning of the Sabbath had been subverted by the people, and in the Pharisees, the Sabbath become a dreadful day, where nobody may work or do anything, violation of which was condemned by the rabbis of Israel.
But Jesus made it clear to them, as well as to His disciples and to the people of God, what the purpose of the law, that it was made to serve mankind, that is to help them on their way to reach the Lord. Yes, it is to help and serve them, rather than to punish them or burden them unnecessarily. The sabbath is made for mankind and not mankind for the Sabbath. To do otherwise would mean the idolisation of the sabbath, which was meant for mankind to spend precious time with their beloved God.
The purpose of the Sabbath was so that, mankind, ever vulnerable to the temptations of evil and the corruptions of the world, would find time to spend with their God. A day of rest indeed, dedicated to prayers and communications between oneself and their Lord, not unlike what we have today with Sundays, on which day we go for Mass, and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
On the holy day, we spend our time with God, and we listen to Him. We should not rush it to return to our worldly dealings and businesses, but instead patiently and lovingly spend that time with God, that He may speak to us in the silence of our hearts, and we may get to learn what is His will for us, a way for us to follow. On that day, we do things for the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him.
And in order to do this, it does not always mean through prayer and inaction. Doing good and doing things in accordance with the Lord’s will is also something that should be done on that day. Remember that Christ stressed the importance of doing good for our brethren and loving them. He stressed that doing good things is not forbidden on Sabbath, because doing good is tantamount to serving the Lord and glorifying Him, which is precisely what the Lord wants from each of His beloved people.
The Lord sees the truth in the hearts of all mankind. Again, blind obedience and lip-service does not do one good, and instead they bring mankind to condemnation. The Pharisees purposely tried during many Sabbath days to trap Jesus in His works, and did everything in their power to protest, complain, and resist the good works of Jesus, which was done for the greater glory of God. Their sins were truly great and numerous, despite their outward piety and actions, which supposedly done to draw praise and glorification from mankind.
Will we follow their path? Or will we do as Jesus had done? Jesus taught us that what the Lord wants from us is our love, and to show that love in our words, actions, and deeds. God has given us much love, and indeed had given us great capacity to love. It is now our chance to prove our love and dedication to Him, by showing it in what we do everyday. Let us no longer just see our faith, particularly that of the Mass, as something empty, and that we should also no longer just go for Mass because we are obliged to do so.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Agnes, a well known virgin and martyr who lived at the time of the Roman Empire. She came from Rome, the heart of the Empire and therefore was also known as St. Agnes of Rome. St. Agnes was a secret Christian who was hiding from the persecutions of the pagan Roman Empire.
She was courted by a pagan centurion who tried many times without success to get her, and there were also many other suitors who did not succeed to get her attention. St. Agnes had devoted her life to a life of virginity and total devotion to the Lord. Thus, she refused to give in to the temptations of the centurion, who then reported her Christianity to the authorities, and had her imprisoned because of that. She was tortured and asked to renounce her faith by her prison masters.
St. Agnes suffered tremendously in prison, and reputedly she was even tortured greatly by the painful torture she had to go through, and even was dragged across the street naked without any clothing. She was then martyred for her faith, but unto the end, she would not recant her faith in God, and she remained faithful to the end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Agnes showed us a way to follow the Lord, that is through total dedication and devotion of oneself. She loved God so much, that she did not hesitate to give up even her life to maintain her purity and faith in God. Some followed her way, and they became as we know, our priests, brothers and sisters, the nuns and monks, the friars, those who dedicated their lives wholly to God. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot do the same too.
St. Agnes showed us that our faith cannot be an empty or dead one, or one of mere lip-service. Such faith would waver at times of great persecutions, one which our Faith is increasingly facing these days. We have to show our faith through concrete action, but one based on love. We do not have to go through martyrdom as St. Agnes had, but we certainly have to be ready to defend our faith, not by violence, but through love.
Yes, love one another, our brethren, and even those who hate and persecute us for our faith. Let us show the love of God to everyone, and may God who sees our love then love us back with His infinite love, and grant us peace, grace, and rich blessings! God bless us all. Amen.