Tuesday, 7 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about prayer and its importance, as well as how we ought to pray to the Lord our God, that is with sincerity and genuine intention, and not to serve our own selfish purposes and desires. Prayer is important for our internal spiritual development, and our relationship with God. And it is important that in this season of Lent, we have a prayerful Lent.

Why is this so? That is because it is quite often that many of us when we pray, we do not truly understand what a prayer really is. We think that prayer is a source of help for us when we are desperate and are in need, and that is where we begin to demand for God to act through our prayers. We make a long list of demands and requests to God, thinking that prayer is a source of help for us, and God will definitely listen to us and accede to our request.

But that is clearly very wrong, brothers and sisters in Christ. God is indeed loving and compassionate, but He is not someone for us to demand something from. He will give us what we need, and what He thinks is right for us, at His own time and at His own will. Many of us when we do not get what we want through prayer, then we become angry at God, and then that is when many of us left God behind, thinking that He was not there for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through prayer all of us should and must come closer to God and grow ever more faithful to Him, but that is when we use prayer not as a medium through which we demand the Lord to do something for our lives, for that is not what prayers are for. What is prayer? In truth prayer is the conversation that we have and which we make with the Lord our God.

And being a conversation, a prayer is a two-way dialogue between us and God. It is often that we do the talking all the time, asking God for things, or bombarding Him with our worries and petitions, but we shut God out from our hearts, because we are too focused on ourselves and our needs. And we failed to realise that in the silence and depth of our hearts, God is speaking to us, revealing to us His will and what it is that He wants from us.

This is where we should emulate the example of the prophet Samuel, whose in his youth was visited by the Lord Who spoke to him in his sleep, calling him to speak to him. Samuel, upon the guidance of his mentor Eli, the Judge, spoke to God, ‘Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening’, and God then spoke to him, revealing His intentions to Samuel. How many of us can follow the example of Samuel, in letting God to come in and speak to us in our hearts? Or are we too busy to even take note that God wants to speak to us?

He wants us to love Him just as He had first loved us. He wants each and every one of us to repent from our sins and change our ways, to learn to forgive each other, as we said in the prayer we learnt from Jesus Himself, that we ask God to ‘forgive our trespasses and sins, just as we have forgiven those who have trespassed and sinned against us.’

Therefore, in this season of Lent, it is important that each and every one of us learn to pray right, to learn how to communicate with God properly through prayer, and how we should live our earthly lives that we may be always filled with grace and God’s love. This is a time of renewal and conversion, a time for reconciliation with our God. Let us all listen to the Lord speaking inside our hearts, and learn to take a brief pause in our hectic daily life, so that we may know what God wants to do with our lives.

Let us perhaps follow in the example of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, the holy martyrs in the early days of the Church, who were martyred for their faith because they refused to reject the Lord, and despite the temptations to abandon their faith and receive life. St. Perpetua was a noblewoman who became attracted by the Christian faith, in opposition to her father and relatives, who wanted her to reject her newfound faith.

She was arrested and put in prison, and her relatives visited her and persuaded her to abandon her faith so that she could be freed and resumed her old life of privilege, but she refused to do so, and despite many attempts to torture her, all of the methods failed, and no harm would come to her. St. Perpetua was imprisoned along with St. Felicity, a slavewoman who also believed in the Lord, and also some others of the faithful.

When the time came for them to embrace death, they willingly let their earthly lives go, and bravely stood up for their faith to the very end, not hesitating to preserve their earthly existence, but instead becoming role models and examples, inspiration and strength for many other Christians who witnessed and listened to their fates. In the same manner as well, all of us Christians living today can learn from these two holy and venerable women.

This season of Lent is a time for us to reject wickedness and evil ways, to free ourselves from bondage to sin and to all of our worldly concerns, just as St. Perpetua, St. Felicity and their companions had done. It is a time for us to dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord our God, and to turn ourselves completely and fully to Him, and to entrust ourselves wholly to Him.

Indeed, as St. Perpetua and St. Felicity had shown us in their own lives, that there will be difficult and challenging times, when there will be harsh opposition and vicious persecution against all those who have followed the Lord and believed in Him, but if we are to give up and surrender ourselves to the demands of those who seek our downfall, then we will truly perish, but if we persevere, we shall rejoice and receive the eternal glory promised to us by Christ.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all during this season of Lent commit ourselves to a life of holiness, filled with love and grace. Let us all live a more devoted and holy life, filled with prayer, so that we will not only be ready to celebrate the upcoming Holy Week and Easter season, but even more importantly that we will be ever ready and be ever worthy for the time when the Lord comes again in His glory. Amen.

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