Archbishop’s Teaching

Eighth Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 25 / 31-46

Time of the Epiphany
Eighth Sunday after Epiphany
Homily if His Excellence Msgr. Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

Matthew 25 / 31-46
Sunday of the Righteous and the Saints

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are on the Second Sunday of Commemorations before entering the blessed
season of Lent. We remember the Righteous and the saints, those we know by
name and those for whom we have a particular devotion. The saints of our
country, our region or our village, but also all the saints, men and women, from
all countries and cultures, whom the Church solemnly proclaims as witnesses
of the love of God.
However, the saints do not descend from heaven like drops of winter raindrops!
Their stories are not always rosy; do we know what sufferings they have
endured? What battles have they fought? What insults have they received? But
deep down, do we really guess what their secret is? Why were they called just
and holy despite their vulnerability and their sinful condition, shared with
every human being? Why do they "receive from the hand of the Lord the
kingdom of splendor and the diadem of beauty..." as the book of Wisdom
reminds us?
Why are they part of this "assembly of the firstborn whose names are written
in heaven..." as the letter to the Hebrews emphasizes?
We find the answer by meditating on the words of the Gospel of this Sunday, the Gospel of the last judgment, the Gospel of Christ the King and Shepherd. By meditating on the words of Jesus, we may at first be a little shocked to know that God will judge us only on the basis of our love we have for Him, this God incarnate in the love of neighbor.
We will hear the voice of God, deep in our conscience, telling us: "What have you done to your brother?" And this brings us back to the story of Cain and Abel. Judgment passes through love of our neighbor, whoever he may be, lovable or repugnant... Our prayer would be in vain if we do not go to the one who cries out to us to help him stand up, listen to him and understand him, and to be patient with him without judging him and to forgive him when he has offended us.
Impossible you say! Yes, but the sanctifying grace of Christ can work wonders in us if we let it work in our hearts to make them like his, gentle and humble, if each and every one of us learns to surrender to the mercy of the Lord despite our weaknesses and our sins, so that we may live with and for others.
This is what the righteous and the saints have lived. They accomplished the will of the Lord not out of fear of judgment but out of love for this God-Love who sent His Son to save them and His Spirit to make them sons and daughters of God in the image and likeness of the only Son. For this reason, they are for us faithful witnesses of the faith, and signs of love and hope in our Christian life.

In celebrating all the righteous and the saints of Your Kingdom, we celebrate Lord, Your action in their lives. Like them, You call us to be holy as You are holy. We cannot do it without You. Give us Your grace, every day, to respond faithfully to our vocation to holiness and to hear You say to us: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, enter the Kingdom...", we ask You this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints. Amen.

† Selim Sfeir
Archevêque Maronite de Chypre

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