Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures, we are presented with the story of how St. Paul evangelise to the pagan people of Athens, proclaiming the truth of the One and only True God to all of them, seeing how the Athenians were all worshipping the pagan gods of the Olympian pantheon, and was even worshipping an unknown God. St. Paul revealed to all of them that what they served and worshipped were merely creations of human hands and minds, and were not the true divinity, which is in fact, the Lord and Creator, Whom St. Paul introduced to them.
St. Paul spoke courageously about the Lord amidst the people of Athens who were renowned for their philosophical thoughts and ideas, and many of whom also held strong devotion to the pagan gods and idols. Hence, his introduction of the totally foreign concept of the one and only God Who created the whole world and the universe, which was very radically different from what the Athenians were used to, is something that is totally courageous and significant for St. Paul to do, and while he did end up having many of the Athenians ridiculing him and rejecting his beliefs and words, there were some among the Athenians who were intrigued by the Christian faith that St. Paul brought unto them.
That was how the seeds of the faith and the foundation of the Church was built in Athens, even in the heart of the Greek paganism and philosophical ideals, which later on would be rivals against the influences of the Christian faith and Church in the later centuries. St. Paul and his hard works and efforts helped to make the Lord known to all those people, and that was thanks to the guidance and strength that God had given to them which allowed them to carry on persevering for the sake of the Lord and His people, for their fellow brethren. Through them, the Church would very soon grow into a large organisation with strong foundations and many believers.
In our Gospel passage today, as we are now getting closer to the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, we are presented with the Lord’s promise for His disciples and followers, that while He would not be with them physically much longer, but He would always be by their side, caring for them and being with them. He would send them the Helper, the Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit, coming down from God the Father Himself, to be with us, to strengthen and encourage us, and inflame us all with hope and power. The Holy Spirit helped and encouraged St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to go forth fearlessly and proclaim the truth of God to the many people of the many nations they had ministered to.
Today, we celebrate the feast of a few saints whose life, calling and ministries can also be sources of inspiration for each one of us, to see how they had been strengthened and inspired by the Holy Spirit, in doing the will of God. St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi all had dedicated their lives in their own ways to serve the Lord and to glorify Him, and each one of us can take note of what they had done so that we may know how we can also act in our lives to glorify the Lord and to proclaim Him to all those whom we encounter in life, in each and every moments of our lives.
St. Bede the Venerable is a renowned monk and prolific writer from the Dark Age England, where he ministered to the people of God and inspired many through his writings and treatises, as he wrote extensively on many matters. St. Bede the Venerable helped to drive the foundation of Christian education in England and beyond, inspiring others to delve deeper into the wisdom of Christian teachings and truths. The Holy Spirit clearly inspired St. Bede the Venerable in his writings and works, through which he himself inspired and strengthened the faith in many of those whose lives he had touched, and all those who have read his works, all the way to our present day and time.
Meanwhile, Pope St. Gregory VII is a great reformer Pope and leader of the Church, who was remembered for his dedication and contributions in reforming the Church very vigorously, implementing many important reforms that rooted out corruptions and wickedness in the Church, driving out worldly matters and corruptions from the Church, from the monasteries and from among the clergy, many of whom had been gradually influenced by worldly practices and concerns, which slowly caused the Church to lose its focus and direction. Pope St. Gregory VII continued to work hard to champion those important reforms, even against powerful secular rulers who sought to make use of the Church and its institutions for their own benefits.
Hence, Pope St. Gregory VII was also well-known for his role in the so-called ‘Investiture Controversy’, as the secular leaders particularly that of the powerful Holy Roman Emperor defended and championed their rights to appoint and invest the bishops in their own land, and the Holy Roman Emperor being the supreme secular leader of Christendom, collided with the Pope, who contended that all spiritual matters, the appointment and ultimately the allegiance of bishops came under the full authority of the Church and the leadership of the Pope alone, and the Emperor had no right to intervene in it. The Holy Spirit strengthened and guided Pope St. Gregory VII in his zeal and dedication to reform the Church and oppose those who sought to corrupt it.
Lastly, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a Carmelite nun and a renowned Church mystic who came from one of the wealthiest noble Italian families during the late Renaissance, who from early on in her life had learnt to dedicate herself to the Lord, practicing self-mortification and meditation which later on would inspire her to join the religious life, initially against the wishes of his father, who eventually relented and allowed her to be part of the Carmelite religious order. St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi became a nun and received a series of visions and revelations through which others came to know more about Christ, an experience that must have indeed be inspired by the Lord and His wisdom, passed on through the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all these great examples of the three saints, St. Paul and many others whose lives we know and are aware of, we can see how the Holy Spirit has inspired many to do the will and work of God in our world. Can we do the same as well with our lives? Can we allow the Lord to guide us through His Holy Spirit, that His wisdom and strength may lead us to walk in this path of faith, and inspire others to come to the Lord as well. May the Lord be with us all and may His Holy Spirit inflame us with His Passion and love, at all times, that we may always glorify Him by our lives. Amen.