Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded of the stubbornness of the world and its people in refusing to follow the Lord and believe in Him, despite all that the Lord had done for our sake, and despite all the guidance and patience with which He has given to us, in sending us prophets and messengers, leaders and guides to help us find our way. Instead of listening to Him, many of us and our predecessors persecuted His holy ones, His messengers and prophets, and made it difficult for them to carry out their mission.
It is what we heard in our first reading today in the Acts of the Apostles, the account of what happened when St. Paul and his companion, Silas was met with trouble in the city of Philippi in Greece, where the slave owners of the city rose up against them and got them to be arrested and thrown into prison. If you are wondering why is it that the slave owners rose up against the two servants of God, it was likely because both of them had such a great success in the city that the slave owners feared that the Christian faith would gain such a foothold there that the slaves would rise up against their owners.
That is because unlike the other pagan religions and beliefs, the Christian faith advocated justice and equality to all, that all are equally beloved by God, whether they are Jews, Greeks, Romans or people of any other origins or nationalities, and God does not distinguish between the rich and the poor, or the strong and the weak, and definitely neither whether they are free or enslaved. This is something that was against the social norms at the time, and was against the norms of slavery that was very common during that time throughout the Roman Empire.
That was the time when slaves were running large part of the economy, through their work in various segments of the community, treated with disdain and disregard, manipulated, exploited and humiliated, considered and deemed as less than human beings by many, shunned and rejected despite all that they had done for the greater community. Hence, the Christian message of love and hope certainly has a great hold on those people who have been marginalised and treated unequally, and this was something feared by those slave owners.
This is why St. Paul and Silas faced such difficulty, persecution and trouble, that they had to endure prison and suffering for the sake of the Lord. The greed and fears of man led to the refusal of those slave owners from listening to God’s truth and from obeying His laws and commandments. The Lord has patiently sought them, but many hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to accept that truth and the love which God’s servants had been bringing upon them. Yet, He still reached out to them and called on them to turn away from their sins and repent from their past mistakes.
The Lord mentioned in the Gospel passage today how the sin of the world is disbelief, the lack of faith in Him and the lack of trust, and often the inability to free oneself from the temptations of worldly pleasures, the allures of glory and power, the attraction of human desires and pride. And this is shown in the account of what happened to St. Paul and Silas. But yet, even through that suffering, as we heard, something good still came up, as when God rescued His servants, by causing a great earthquake to shatter the prison and free them, not only that He freed His disciples, but through that, more souls were saved, when the jailor and his whole family became believers through the efforts of St. Paul.
Through what we have heard, we have indeed seen a very symbolic occurrence, when the Lord freed His people, St. Paul and Silas from the prison and from their chains, while the jailor and his whole family, accepting the Lord as their Saviour, they have been released and freed from the chains and bondage of their sins. Ironically, it was those slave owners and slave masters who remained bonded to their sins due to their stubborn refusal to listen to the Lord and His truth.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard all of these things today, we are all reminded that in our own lives, we also should not be like those who have hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord. We have to reflect on our own lives and deeds, on our actions and interactions with one another, on whether we have been truly faithful to the Lord, or whether we have closed ourselves and rejected God, even if we do not actually realise it. These days, there are many people who are faithful in the Lord in name only, and not truly genuine in committing themselves to Him.
How do we know that we are truly faithful to God? It is when we allow God to lead us down the path, and to show us the way forward. Yet, are willing to spend the time and effort to get to know Him more and to listen to Him when He calls on us to follow Him? As long as we allow Him to enter into our hearts and are open to Him, then the path forward will remain open for us, and like the jailor, we too may turn away from our sins, and be saved together with all of our holy predecessors who have gone before us.
Today, we are all reminded to cooperate with the Lord, and learn to resist the temptations of the world, that we may remain faithful and that we may walk with Him courageously, guided through the gift of His Holy Spirit. We have been given the strength and courage through the Holy Spirit, and therefore are called to bear rich fruits in life by living our lives full of love for God and for our fellow brothers and sisters, and doing our best at every possible opportunities, to glorify the Lord through our lives. We should not allow sin and the temptations to sin to chain us and keep us in bondage.
May the Lord be with us always, and may He help lead us all to be free from the chains of temptations and sin, and may He lead us all to His light and truth, and may He also inspire each and every one of us to be the good witnesses of our faith, at all times. Let us all seek the Lord with all of our strength, with all of our heart, and let us all glorify His Name by our lives, now and always. Amen.