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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Reflection 2020-07-20 Mondy 16th Week in Ordinary Time – St Apollinaris

Micah 6:1-4; Psalm 50; Matthew 12:38-42
The Readings today are related and they speak of Repentance. In the First Reading God asks his people through Micah what he did that wearied them when he has freed them from slavery. The people responded, they have come with burnt offerings, and they were willing to give their firstborns for their sins. God responds, he has told them what is good and what he wants:
  1. To do justice. This is to give what others deserve, first of all to God who deserves worship and honor.
  2. To love kindness. This is sometimes translated as to love mercy.
  3. To walk humbly with your God. Some translations have this as: to with your God. This simply is to follow God.
What this means is our sacrifices mean something only when we are consistent in our faith. This is the reason why Jesus rebuked the scribes and the Pharisees, because despite seeing the various signs Jesus did, they still demand a sign from him. They were meticulous in obeying the Law, yet, they would not accept the One who fulfills the Law. When I reject the authority of God by doing what I want, rejecting his teaching, I am not doing justice to God. When I readily condemn others rather than accept them and invite them to Jesus, I am not showing mercy. I am also not showing mercy if I just tolerate their sins without correcting them. When I refuse to follow Jesus, when I refuse to walk the path he tells me, I am not walking humbly before him.
Several days ago, we read about the parable of the seeds that fell on various grounds. The first fell on the path. These are those who choose to walk their own way. The second fell on rocky ground. These are those who do not love mercy because they see their faith as based on emotions so all they avoid offending people. The third fell on thorny ground. These are those who choose riches and cares of this world over God. They do injustice to God. The last are those who hear and understand the word. They may not comprehend it, but they guarded the word, meaning, they sought the will of God and did what he wanted. It is by obeying God that we do justice to him, that we love mercy and that we walk humbly with him.
We celebrate St Apolinaris today. St Peter made him Bishop of Ravenna. He performed miracles, and preached the Gospel to the people in his diocese. But this attracted attention from the non-believers who beat him and drove him from the city. Despite being driven out of the city four times, and each time, he came back and continued his work. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he was persecuted quite badly: hacked with knives after which scalding water was poured on his wounds. He was beaten in the mouth with stones because he would not stop preaching. He was thrown into a dungeon so he can starve to death but was released a few days later. When he returned a fourth time, he was arrested and beaten to death. Before he died, he prophesied the persecutions will increase but the Church will ultimately triumph.
Today, we see the Church is under attack. In France, Catholic Churches are burnt. In the US, one organization called for destroying any images of a white Jesus and Mary. Churches are vandalized, statues of saints are torn down. In the midst of all these, we do not know how we will react and can only pray that we will hold true to our faith. I personally would not say I will stand firm because I know, I may turn out to be like Peter who boasted of his fidelity to Christ and later betrayed him. But we are all called to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with our God. St Apolinaris showed us how this is done, by giving up his life to Christ.
Lord, you call me to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with you. May I always do justice to you, acknowledging you as my God, not only in my words, but also in my actions. May I love mercy, by always repenting of my sins, and calling others to you. May I walk humbly with you, by obeying you and giving my whole being for you to do as you will. St Apolinaris, pray that I may hold fast in my faith, proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

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