Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Holy Virgins or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures which first of all told us of the prayer of the king of Israel, Solomon, son of David, who prayed to God at the beginning of his reign asking for wisdom and good judgment, that God would bless him and help him to make up what he lacked in experience and ability. God blessed Solomon and praised his humility that he has not asked for worldly glory, wealth and power which were things commonly desired by those who were in power, like kings and lords.
God blessed Solomon for his steadfastness, honesty and sincerity, as Solomon readily admitted his youth and inexperience before Him, and also looked up to his father David as a great example he admired and aspired to follow in the actions he had taken in leading a righteous and just reign. God blessed Solomon with more than what he has earlier asked for, not just for wisdom and guidance, but even all those things which he had not asked for earlier on.
Solomon had a heavy responsibility and burden on his shoulders as king, especially as he succeeded his father David who had been very successful as king. David reunited the people of Israel once divided in civil war after the death of Saul, the previous king, and he also expanded the borders of the kingdom and brought great prestige and honour to the people of Israel. David provided a steady foundation that allowed Israel to enter into a great golden age, which continued and peaked under Solomon’s reign that God had blessed as He promised earlier on.
Solomon carried on his duties responsibly and reigned with great wisdom and justice over all of Israel, ruling Israel at the height of its glory and power. He also built the famous Temple of God, also known under its namesake the Temple of Solomon, upon the foundation and preparation that his father David had gathered beforehand. He was faithful to God for much of his reign, but unfortunately, if we read on more through the account of his reign from the Book of Kings, we will find it unfortunate that at his old age, Solomon began to be swayed by his many wives and concubines, many of whom continued to practice their pagan worship and customs.
Many of the successors of Solomon as kings in Israel and in Judah after the division of the kingdom were unfaithful to God and they led the people into sin, as they were the ones entrusted with the guidance over the people of God, and yet, they themselves were in error and led the people, the flock of God further away from their God and deeper into sin. And this is when we ought to look again into our Gospel passage today, when we heard about the Lord Jesus and His actions during His ministry with His disciples.
It was told that the Lord and His disciples were tired and exhausted after continuous work and encounter with many of the people who constantly brought their sick ones over for the Lord to heal them. And when they wanted to take a break, the Lord saw how many people were still coming to Him and seeking His help, even finding the way to discover where He and His disciples were despite their best effort to slip away. The Lord then continued to teach them and work, seeing how the people were like flock of sheep without a shepherd to guide them.
The Lord Jesus was the one and true King of Israel, Who as the Heir of David was the One promised by God to be the King that would sit on the throne of David and perpetuate his house. And yet, as the Lord Jesus Himself showed, His kingship was different from the many other kings of Israel who had not been faithful to God and led the people to the wrong paths. We can see how Jesus placed the needs of His people, His flock, above that of Himself, caring for their needs and loving them, even when He was tired and in need of rest.
Through all of these, God wants all of us to know that to be His followers and servants, to obey His will and commandments and to be the ones whom He had called and chosen, is something that will not be easy and straightforward for us. Those kings of Israel were chosen by God and had the obligation of being God’s vicars in taking care of God’s own people, the Israelites, but many of them fell to the many temptations present in our world, the temptations of money and wealth, of fame and glory, of lust and pleasures of the flesh among others.
As long as we allow our desires, pride, ego, ambition and all those temptations to mislead us, we will likely end up getting more and more distant from God and be like those who have not been faithful to their calling. The Lord Himself showed us what it means for us to work for the sake of the greater glory of God, which often requires sacrifices of time and energy, effort and resources. And today perhaps we should also look upon the good examples set by the two servants of God whose feasts we are celebrating.
St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Jerome Emiliani are two saints whose lives are truly extraordinary and they show us what being true and faithful disciples of the Lord is indeed about. They dedicated their lives in service to God, through prayers and work, that each and every one of us can also be inspired to follow in their footsteps too. If we are able to walk in their footsteps to follow the Lord, then we are heading in the right direction in life.
Let us begin first with St. Josephine Bakhita. She had a difficult early years of her life, being abducted from her family and community at a young age by slavers who made her into a slave and forced her to convert to a faith that was not her own. St. Josephine Bakhita had to endure much suffering as a slave and endured all sorts of humiliation and difficulties when she was treated less than a proper human being, sold from one place to another, until eventually she met her last employers, the Italian Vice Consul in Khartoum, Sudan who treated her well and eventually passed her on to another Italian family, who then gave St. Josephine Bakhita to encounter Christ for the first time through the Canossian Sisters when circumstances put her under their care.
Through the help of many people, St. Josephine Bakhita eventually was freed from her slavery with the support of the court and the authorities, and she became a Christian, and in time, joined the Canossian sisters into religious life. Her past, painful and difficult experiences in life did not make her to be bitter in life. On the contrary, she worked devoutly and always remembered the suffering of her people in Africa throughout her many years living as part of the Canossians, leading her to be well-respected by everyone for her faith and dedication to God.
She also forgave her abductors, persecutors and all those who had given her a terrible life during her first and early years. She would even thank and bless them, as she said that were it not for them, she would not have become a Christian and to be where she was then. It was God who called her out of slavery, much as how He liberated His people out of Egypt, and gave her a new life, to be a testimony of His glory and wonderful works among His people, and St. Josephine Bakhita’s life is indeed a powerful testimony of her faith.
Meanwhile, St. Jerome Emiliani was a man who ran away from his family during his teenage years to join the military, and then became official in the government. He encountered God through miraculous survival from a siege, which he attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God, which gradually began to touch his life, and in his later years, St. Jerome Emiliani dedicated himself to the care of the poor and orphans, those who are sick, opening houses and places to be where they can be taken care of and treated.
St. Jerome Emiliani was thus known for his extensive labours of charity, opening hospitals and orphanages, as well as dormitories for former prostitutes, caring for many and touching the lives of countless thousands. Together with some priests who supported his efforts, eventually St. Jerome Emiliani laid the foundations for the Congregation of Regular Clerics, composed of all those who share the same ideals and charity of St. Jerome Emiliani, in reaching out to the people of God, especially the less fortunate and weaker ones among them.
St. Jerome Emiliani embodied what the Lord Jesus Himself had done as described in our Gospel passage today, in caring for the needs of the poor and the needy, consoling orphans and all those who seek God for help. Together with St. Josephine Bakhita, they truly show us what true Christian virtues and charity are all about, and how each and every one of us are also able to follow in their footsteps to serve God in our own capacities and with our own abilities and talents.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing and able to follow in our predecessors’ footsteps? Are we capable to making the commitment to serve God as we should? Let us all ponder on this and reflect on how we can probably be better Christians and disciples of Christ from now on through our lives and through our commitment to live up to our calling as those whom the Lord has called to be His followers and disciples. May the Lord be our guide and may He strengthen us all in faith, at all times. Amen.