Friday, 9 September 2016 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to put our attention into two things, that is firstly, we have to remember the mission which God had entrusted to us all through His Apostles, as St. Paul succinctly placed in what he wrote in his Epistle, that we all are servants and preachers of the Gospel, the Good News of God. We are the evangelisers of this new and current time and age.

We serve the Lord by preaching the Good News which He has brought upon this world, by being witnesses of His death and resurrection. We are God’s servants, and thus we should speak, act and do things in accordance with what He has revealed to us and taught us, or else, others will not come to believe in us if we ourselves do not act in accordance with God’s ways.

And that is in tandem with the second thing that we heard in today’s Gospel, that is about how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy and lack of genuine faith, using the well known parable of the plank and the eyes. They were rebuked as those who wanted to remove the sins in others while they themselves committed great sins and yet they turned a blind eye to these.

In order to understand this, we have to understand what it was like at the time of Jesus. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and scribes, the elders and the priestly class and caste are among the elites and the highly respected and influential members of the community, and also rightly feared for their influence and oppression of all forms of dissent against their authority.

They considered themselves pious and great in faith, as guardians of God’s laws and commandments. They treasured their customs and traditions, valuing highly their appearances and showy prayers in public as signs of their faith. And yet, in all these, they did not glorify God, and neither did they honour Him as He should have been honoured. They thought only of themselves and their human needs and desires.

And in that, they did not just oppress others around them but they also misled and misguided them to the wrong path. Instead of bringing the people closer to God, they have closed the path off to many, and including themselves as well. That is a reminder for us not to be like them and not to act as they have acted. We must instead be true to our faith and be committed in all things, that whatever we do, we do not for ourselves, but for the greater glory of God.

Perhaps the example of today’s saint, St. Peter Claver can be a source of inspiration and example for us all to follow from today on. St. Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest who went forth to the New World, what is today called the American continent. He went specifically to the Spanish colony in what is now Latin or South America, ministering to the people there, preaching among those who have yet to accept the Lord as their Saviour.

It was told that many people listened to his sermons and preachings, and as many as three hundred thousand people converted to the Faith and gave themselves to be baptised through his works, and that he baptised them all by himself throughout his forty years of working among them. He was hardworking and dedicated to his mission, that is to save the souls of those who still lived in the darkness and in ignorance of the Lord and His saving works.

St. Peter Claver did not allow himself to succumb to the same temptations facing the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Despite of his privileged position as a priest and as a Spanish, which accorded to him immense benefits and privileges as both a member of the clergy and as a European versus all the natives and the pagans living in the New World, he lived simply and even when given privileges, he chose to live among the slaves, to whom he had dedicated his life’s works to.

The examples of St. Peter Claver should serve as a reminder to us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as the disciples and servants of our Lord, we must live according to what He has commanded us to be, that is to love and to give ourselves in love to one another, just as St. Peter Claver had done. And he also gave himself to the poorest, the weakest, those who were oppressed and who were at a disadvantage.

Let us all therefore vow to make ourselves better disciples of the Lord, by following in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, the saints and servants of God, and not fall into the temptations of this world. May God help us to love each other ever more sincerely with each passing day. God bless us all. Amen.

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