Tuesday, 24 January 2017 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded by the Lord and His Church through the Scripture passages we heard today, of the need of obedience and action in order for us to be truly justified and worthy in the sight of the Lord. It is not enough that we should just practice external observances of our faith, but instead, we must embody everything we believe in our own actions and deeds.

This is particularly relevant in the context in how these passages were written. At a time when disobedience against the rules and regulations imposed by the elders and the teachers of the Law were heavily discouraged and punishable, the people of God by then had lost the true meaning of the Law of God, which they had received through Moses, and obeyed them without understanding. And those who imposed them, forced the people to live strictly according to the Law also without knowing the intention of God’s Law.

The Pharisees, elders and teachers of the Law insisted that all the observances of the Mosaic laws must be adhered to, from rules on how a person should observe fasting, how one ought to wash his or her hands before a meal and when entering into another person’s house, as well as the laws regarding Sabbath and the strict instruction to avoid any works on that day, or else those who disobeyed would be expelled from the synagogues and shunned by the rest of their society.

In one count, there are approximately six hundred and thirteen set of laws, rules and regulations which the people had to obey, from the rituals of cleansing and purification, as well as ways to pray and fasting, right to the way for offering sacrifices, and the different purposes of each sacrifices of animal fats, blood, and others. These were imposed on the people, and became a great burden for them, because many of these were not what God intended for His people, but how the people themselves twisted the observances of the true Law, and utilised it to their own purposes.

That was why Jesus revealed to His people, what God actually intended for them, and what God wanted them to do for Him. It was not all the external observations of the laws that is important, but rather whether each person is able to commit themselves to God through the Law, and learn to give Him their love and commitment. It is no use for someone to observe the fullness of the rules and regulations, with the example of the Pharisees who openly displayed their observances before others, and yet God was not in their hearts.

It is pointless if we pretend to be pious, devout and holy, and yet in our hearts we store a greater malice of pride, arrogance and human greed. To want to be seen by others and be praised because of their deeds was the exact reason why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy. They had no God in their hearts, but rather their own ego and selfishness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what God wants from each one of us is simply our love, just as He had loved us first. His laws as summarised by Jesus our Lord is indeed simple, about love, the love of God shown upon mankind, and the expectation that we also love Him back equally, and to put Him at the centre of our lives, so that His love lives inside each one of us, and we therefore may live in Him.

Let us all follow the examples of St. Francis de Sales, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Francis de Sales was a devout bishop and holy man, whose deeds and works were renowned far and wide among the communities of the faithful during and after his time. But when he was young, he was born into a noble family and followed worldly pursuits as what was expected of someone of his class at that time.

However, as he continue through his education in a seminary, and going through various spiritual experiences, he discovered a moment of conversion and change, when he realised that God loves him and each and every men and women. And based on that fundamental truth, St. Francis de Sales dedicated his life to God from then on, and left behind the worldly pursuits and ambitions.

He left behind everything and became a priest, and was renowned from then on by his zeal and faith in God, by the clarity of his sermons and preachings about the faith to the people. And by explaining the love of God which He had shown through the Church, he managed to convince many to repent from their old ways of sin and enter into conversion and change just as he himself had done many years prior.

St. Francis de Sales was renowned for his patience and humility, his loving and caring nature, his gentle attitude, which are all the characteristics of God’s love. Therefore, based on his examples, all of us Christians must also follow in his footsteps, practicing our faith in our own lives, so that we too may have the Lord at the centre of our lives, and be transformed wholly from creatures of sin and wickedness into creatures of love.

Let us all devote ourselves, our time and our efforts to love God in all the things we do, and we can start this by thanking Him for all the blessings and graces we have received, and then sharing them with one another, loving and caring our brethren, and even strangers who are in our midst. Let us live our lives with purpose from now on, that is to obey the will of God, and therefore we will be found worthy when the Lord comes again as He had promised us. May God bless us all. Amen.

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