Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord provides and He cares. He is our loving Father, the One who protects and blesses His children. That is what we witness today in the Gospel, where Jesus feed the four thousand men, not counting women and children. He fed them out of His love for us. He knows that the people hunger for His love and for His words and teachings, but He is also aware of their biological need for food, as they devoted themselves so much to Him that they followed Him for days without providing for themselves.
Is there anyone with such love for us? Not only that He cared for us, He even gave His own life in sacrifice for us, that we may live. Indeed just like a shepherd who cares for his sheep and gave his life to them to protect them. He prepares for us a feast everlasting, that we will not want anything again, because He provides for us and feed us food that will never end.
He gave us food, but not just the loaves of bread and the fish that He had given the four thousand men, and women and children. He gave us His own flesh and blood to eat and drink, the Food that sustains us without end. We receive them and be fulfilled. He came into us and dwell within us, and we are marked as His possessions.
We have been well fed by the Lord, and well provided for. But how many of us remember to give thanks to Him? How many of us actually even spurn His offer of kindness and love? The Lord gave us so much, and yet we are often ungrateful. And especially that He had given His own life for ours, to take us out from the realm of death.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. John Damascene, a pious and holy saint, who lived in turbulent times, at the region known today as Syria, which was under the rule of the Christian Roman Empire, but fell to the hands of the pagan and evil Muslim forces, who proceeded to conquer much of the then known world. St. John of Damascus however persevered on and remained faithful to the Lord, and was still in the employ of the Muslim rulers just as he was in the governance of the land during the Christian Roman times.
St. John of Damascus was a learned man who wrote extensively and published many writings, songs, hymns, and many other riches of the faith, many of which are known to us even today. He was firm in his faith and never wavered even once. He put his full trust and faith in the Lord who has provided for him, cared for him, and loved him even unto death.
St. John of Damascus was particularly fierce in his defense of the true faith, when the Roman Emperor, the secular head of Christendom, erred in his views on the faith, adhering to the heresy of iconoclasm. This was when the belief that the Lord should not be represented in graven images spread wildly, likely to be influenced by Islamic beliefs, especially on their mistaken outlook on the Lord, in their misguided ways. They smashed images of the Lord and His saints and persecuted those who believe in the true faith.
St. John of Damascus did not make any compromises on the faith, and keep firmly in the true and orthodox faith, despite the resistance and even threats from the Emperor himself. St. John of Damascus feared not human power and opposition in his love and total dedication for the Lord who loved him and fed him with grace.
Eventually the true faith won, and many souls were saved from damnation by the efforts of St. John of Damascus and many other holy people, the disciples of the Lord who kept true faith in God, the same God who fed the four thousand men, living and burning in the heart of many. To them, the Lord is real, and He is real in Jesus, who was God incarnate into Man, the One who came to save all mankind and bring them to perfect reunion with God.
For the Lord Himself gave us His own flesh and blood, His own Body and His own Blood, for us to consume, that each of us share in His presence and in His being, that He dwells from then on within each one of us, without exception. That was the reality of our faith, the reality of Jesus, the Son of God who lowered Himself to become one of us, and yet still full of divine perfection and love, for the compassion He felt for the hungry people, those who hunger both for food, and for the spiritual food of the Word of God He provided, is truly great.
For there is no love greater than the love that Jesus our Lord has for each one of us, and this is what we have to realise, brothers and sisters in Christ. And that was what drove St. John of Damascus to fight on for the truth, because of God’s everlasting and undying love. For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son, that all those who believe in Him will not die, but will enjoy life eternal.
Therefore, brethren in Christ, let us today, and from now on, renew our resolve to love the Lord, and to seek Him to the best of our abilities. We should not turn away from the love and grace that God poured for us in His care and compassion towards us. Instead, let us face Him and look upon His heart, a heart filled with love for us.
And of course, brethren, do not forget to share that love with one another, that all of us may enjoy together, the love of our Lord, the perfect love He had shown through Jesus, through His feeding of the people, and ultimately, through His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus, be with us, always. Amen.