Thursday, 9 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures firstly about the tale of Queen Esther of Persia, a Jewish woman who during the time of the exile managed to gain the favour of the Persian ruler and was made as his Queen. At that time, the Jewish people were scattered throughout the Empire of the Persians, and while some of them had returned to the Promised Land, but many were still around in other places.

There were many people who resented the Jewish people, for they were different from all the other people. While the other people worshipped many gods and did not have laws guiding their morality and behaviour, the Jewish people after the time of the exile worshipped the Lord, the one and only God as their Lord, and they followed again the laws of their ancestors as it was in the time of Moses.

At that time, Haman the Amalekite, a sworn enemy of the Israelites plotted harm and destruction upon the entire race of Israel, using the connections he had with the Persian ruler to bring about harm to the whole people of Israel. Haman brought about what in his mind is the sure annihilation of the entire people of God, but through Esther the Queen, God in His own mysterious ways had brought His salvation to His people.

Esther prayed wholeheartedly before God in today’s first reading. She humbled herself, fasted and fervently asking God to intercede for the sake of His people. She poured out her heart’s concerns and asked God to help with the predicament that was befalling her people, the Israelites, facing sure destruction and annihilation by the plotting of their enemies

This is what Jesus mentioned in our Gospel passage today, that we need only to ask, and we shall receive; seek, and we shall find; knock and the door will be opened to us. In that passage, Jesus told us about the love which God our Father has for all of His people, His children, everyone whom God had created out of His love. As a loving Father, He will help us and will bless us in whatever way He can, and He will not abandon us in our time of need.

During times of difficulty and persecution, some of us may be wondering, why is it that God remain silent and seemingly did nothing in order to help us. But we have to realise that God is always with us, and He is always there for us, even when we are unable to see Him or when we do not realise that He is there with us. God never abandons us, even when we have often abandoned Him.

Eventually, Queen Esther’s prayers together with that of Mordecai, her uncle’s prayers, as well as the prayers and petitions of the people were heard, and God exercised His power, protecting all those whom He loved, and through Esther, God reversed all those that the enemies of God’s people intended to befall the people of God unto themselves. He rescued all of them and brought them out of their predicament.

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast day of St. Frances of Rome, a holy and devout woman living during the Medieval era Italy, a renowned member of the Benedictine religious order, being a Benedictine oblate member and well known for her extensive charitable activities among the people who were poor, sick and suffering in her community and society.

St. Frances of Rome devoted herself thoroughly and wholeheartedly to help those who were suffering in her community, even though she herself also suffered a lot during her time in this world, having lost her family members to the difficulties and challenges of the world, to diseases and wars. But she placed her complete trust in the Lord, and she did not let her sorrows to overcome her, but instead, using the experiences to keep her going on in life.

The examples of St. Frances of Rome reminds each and every one of us that when we suffer and face anguish and despair, God is always with us. He is suffering together with us, bearing our crosses together with His. After all, He had borne all the burdens of our sins upon Himself, so that through what He had done, dutifully and obediently to the will of God His Father, all of us may be saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all during this time of Lent strengthen our faith and devotion to God, so that despite all the difficulties and challenges we may face in life, we will not succumb to despair and temptation. Let us all trust the Lord our God, Who will help us in our time of need, and Who will strengthen and empower us in our moments of weakness. O Lord, our God, have mercy on us and show Your love to Your people. Amen.

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