Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how Jesus healed the son of a widow from Naim, bringing him back from death into life, in which He showed to the people, the loving and merciful aspects of God, who truly loved and cared for all of us. He had pity on the mother who was sorrowful for having been left alone by her son, and brought them back into true joy and happiness in God.
And in the first reading, in the letter written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, about the nature of the Church of God, and how in the Church, which is in fact comprised of all of us who believe in Christ the Lord, there exist a certain hierarchy of its members, which allow the Church to function as a body, just as in our body we have various organs and parts that have distinct functions working together in order to achieve certain goals and actions.
St. Paul mentioned how each members and each people in the Church have their own distinct gifts from the Lord, also known as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostles and disciples themselves had received during the occasion of the Pentecost day. Everyone had been called by the Lord for a specific purpose and task, and one ought not to think proudly of himself or herself so as to assume that they can gain for themselves the entirety of the goodness and the gifts of the Lord.
Thus, the Church of God, which is centred on our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and we as the members of His Body, has a specific task in order to carry out and continue the good works which Jesus had initiated in this world, that is the works of love and mercy, as He showed through the rising of the son of the widow of Naim from the dead.
The Church of God comprised of many different people, and indeed, different groups of people, from the laity to the ordained ministers, that is the sacred priesthood and those who dedicated their lives in the service of God, and everyone else, including those of us who belong to the group of those who serve the Lord and yet also still live in this world.
And even among the priesthood, we have various roles, such as the bishops and then the priests themselves. Bishops are those who have been given a greater role in the Church, as overseers of a group of priests and the laity, and they are entrusted with the sheep of the Lord’s flock, as the shepherds, who are then led by the chief shepherds on earth, that is the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ in this world, the representation of the Chief Shepherd of all, Jesus Christ.
The bishops therefore lead the Church in the works of love and mercy, and are also entrusted with the supervision duty of the body of the faithful in the Church, and they are also entrusted with the management of the Church. That said, there are also many others who are also involved in the management of the Church, both among the laity, as well as those in the priesthood and the ordained ministry.
The priests serve the people of God in various means, that is by providing them a spiritual guidance and protection against the harms of the devil, and in some cases also by providing alms and charity works for them. Then, the deacons, as we heard in the New Testament, were appointed as those who would serve the people of God directly, aid in the works of charity of the Church, to aid the priests and the bishops, so that they can channel to the people of God, particularly the poorest and the weakest, the love of God through His Church.
Yet, it is sad indeed, that many today in the Church aspire to have everything in their greed and lack of faith. Many began to question their roles in the Church and some even fought in the name of what they described as equality. Therefore we have those who proposed such outrageous ideas such as the abolition of the sacred priesthood and the ordained ministry, as well as the ordination of women to the priesthood.
Those who proposed and supported such proposals failed to understand that each of us in the Church have our own unique roles which help to supplement each other and therefore, it makes the Church stronger. To go against this natural law of order would in fact mean to destroy the unity and strength of the holy Church of God and undermine its authority in this world. Every one has been given a specific and particular gift which enables us to have our own roles in the Church to carry out what the Lord had planned for us.
Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate together as the Church the feast day of two great saints, whose life will inspire us to appreciate the beauty of the order and hierarchy in the Church, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, both holy martyrs of the faith, at the time of the persecutions of the Roman Empire.
Pope St. Cornelius was the Pope and the Vicar of Christ in the middle of the third century after the birth of Christ, during the reign of the Emperor Decius, the great persecutor of the faithful. Then St. Cyprian was his contemporary, as the Bishop of Carthage and the supporter of Pope St. Cornelius’ view regarding the faithful.
The two saints lived in a difficult time, when Christians and all who believed in the Lord were persecuted heavily and when their very lives were threatened by the Roman authorities. And amidst those persecutions, there were those among the faithful who submitted to the will of the state and the Emperor, and gave offering to the pagan idols, essentially an act of apostasy, or leaving the Church of God, who should be thereafter be treated the same as the pagans.
However, some of them repented their sins and returned to the embrace of the Holy Mother Church, and were received back among the faithful as long as they were sincere in their repentance. But, there were those in the Church who were opposed to the return of these so called traitors and apostates and demanded much stricter regulations to even allow them to be readmitted into the Church.
St. Cyprian and Pope St. Cornelius were the champions of those in the Church who would allow the faithful who had gone astray to return to the Church as long as their repentance was sincere. They worked hard among the faithful and among those who had gone astray to bring them back towards the Lord and to heal them from the afflictions of their souls. The laity themselves also played their own parts and supported the works of their shepherds, while they also kept their faith alive and strong despite even great persecutions.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, these saints, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, who were both eventually martyred for their faith, had showed us the model of their faith, which showed love and mercy for the least of the society, those who were rejected because of the stigma of their status as apostates and betrayer of their faith. They showed that while in the Church itself there were already many different groups of people, there would always be a space for those who realised their errors and repented for their sins.
Let us all therefore reflect on the Scripture readings of this day, and grow to find in our hearts, the role that we can play as part of the Church of God. Let us all work together to continue the good works of Christ, to bring God’s love to all the peoples, and to heal many from their afflictions, both physical, and even more importantly, to heal the spiritual aspects of many people.
May Almighty God, together with the intercession of the holy saints, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, bless us this day and guide us, so that we may also follow in their footsteps, to serve the people of God and love one another in the Lord. God bless us all and bring us into His light. Amen.