Thursday, 11 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the clear theme of today’s Scripture readings is compassion and forgiveness, which God has shown unto us His people, and therefore, we too are expected to show the same compassion and forgiving nature as the Lord had done, in our own dealings with others around us. That is the key message that I want all of us to heed today, especially when we live in a world that is increasingly unforgiving in nature.

In the first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, God spoke to Ezekiel that he might convey His intention to His people, that because of their sinfulness and wickedness, they have brought ruin upon themselves and brought about their exile and humiliation among the nations. They have been shamed and brought low and their enemies took advantage on them.

At that time, the prophecy would come true, as Ezekiel and his fellow exiles went ahead of the rest when the king of Babylon first ransacked Jerusalem and Judah and brought part of the people to exile. The remainders led by king Zedekiah of Judah and his people held onto Jerusalem for a while longer, and when they rebelled haughtily thinking that they could trust in the power of men rather than God, they were crushed.

Thus ended the glorious kingdom established by Saul and made strong by David and Solomon, the faithful kings who followed the Lord and devoted themselves in faith to lead the people of God. For the waywardness of the people and their kings that followed after, the sins of Jerusalem and Judah piled up to such an extent that in the end, they suffered the consequences of their sins and disobedience.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to listen to what Jesus our Lord mentioned in the Gospel. He told His disciples about the servant who was indebted to his master, and who was about to pay the consequences of his debt, by being sold into slavery with all of his family and his possessions. But the servant begged the master for mercy, and the master did have mercy on him, not only forgiving him from all his debts, he also set him free.

Yet, that same servant, after he had been set free and forgiven from his heavy debts, went to another servant who in turn owned him some money, albeit far less than what he himself ever owed his master. And when that servant begged for mercy and forgiveness, for him to be patient while he tried to gather the money to pay him back, the wicked servant refused and sent the other, poor servant to be tortured and to suffer.

In this parable, the master is the Lord our God, Who shows mercy to all those who beg Him to forgive them, as long as they are sincere in desiring the mercy and the forgiveness of God. And the servants represent us all mankind, of all our various needs and kinds, who serve the Lord, and then who committed mistakes and sins in our lives, that is our debt to our true Lord and Master.

And just as that servant did not forgive the debt of those who were indebted to him, we mankind also often keep grudges and vengeance, and we also found that it was not easy to forgive those who have wronged us. We tend to keep our negative judgment and prejudice on others, and that resulted in our inability to appreciate the greatness of God’s love and compassion for us.

We cannot just profess that we believe in God, and yet in our actions, our very deeds and dealings, we have too much ego in us and we have too much pride and hate in us to be able to learn to forgive each other and to love one another without ulterior motive, resulting in the Lord condemning our own actions and deeds because through them we have not followed what our Lord had done to us.

God has forgiven us, but yet we do not forgive our brethren? Let us then take note at what we often pray as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster. There is that part which mentioned the petition we gave to the Lord, for Him to forgive us our sins and trespasses, just as He has forgiven us first our own sins and trespasses before Him. If we want to be forgiven, then we must forgive those who have sinned against us first, and also to ask for forgiveness if we have wronged someone else.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, a renowned holy woman and one of the greatest saints of her time. St. Clare was a pious and devoted woman who gave her life to serve the people of God and the Church, as a member of the Franciscan order, as one of the first followers of the renowned St. Francis of Assisi, sharing in his passion and desire to help the poorest and the weakest in the society.

She helped to establish the Order of Poor Ladies, the female counterpart of the Franciscan order, helping to gather like-minded and devoted young ladies who wanted to give their lives in commitment to the service of the people of God, grounded on faith, charity and service. And she led the efforts of the new order, by leading the devout women in the service to the poor, in evangelising the word of God to the sinners, and to serve God in all possible ways.

It was told in what is now a very famous and renowned story that once the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II during one of his many wars in Italy, came to the convent where St. Clare and her followers lived and worked. And St. Clare, not fearing for her life in the face of the bloodthirsty and angry soldiers, picked up the holy monstrance bearing inside it the Most Precious Body of our Lord, lifted it high up above her head just as the soldiers barged into the chapel.

And so terrified the soldiers were at the Real Presence of our Lord, that they fled the place and left the city unharmed without striking at the people. And thus, we saw how God showed His love and mercy to His people, for He will care for those who kept their faith in Him, and He will never abandon them. Therefore, let us follow the examples of St. Clare and the other holy saints, and devote ourselves anew to the Lord.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, and may He strengthen our faith that we may find our way to Him, with the strong belief and conviction that He will always be with us to the end, never leaving us in the darkness. May He bring us into the light and bless us forevermore. Amen.

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