Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard about God Who is ever faithful to His beloved people, Who kept to the words of His covenant with them, and He will not abandon them. And when they call out to Him, He shall answer them and deliver them from all of their troubles, if they remain faithful and true in their commitment to Him.

In the first reading today, the three friends and fellow countrymen of Daniel, namely Azariah, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, got into a great trouble with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, their master, who have conquered the country of the Israelites and brought the people of God into exile at Babylon. And as they lived in the foreign land and under the rule of foreigners, they were forced to even worship pagan gods and idols, under the threat of death.

Yet, even when they were faced with persecution and the king himself forced them to choose between worshipping his golden statue or death, they stayed true to their faith and defied the orders of the king, knowing that God is always on their side, and will provide for them in all that they need. They knew that everything they had, including their very lives, were all gifts and blessings from God. If it was God’s will that they should perish while keeping their faith, then they would let God’s will be done.

It is this kind of faith which Abraham, our father in faith also once had. He trusted completely in the Lord, following where He wanted him to go to, and giving his all to walk in the path of the Lord. And because of the great faith he had, even to the point of offering his own beloved son, as the Lord asked for, when He tested his faith, God blessed Abraham greatly, to his descendants and to his descendants’ descendants.

But God does not reward the descendants of Abraham by their birth from the line of Abraham alone. That was what we heard in the Gospel today. That is why we all also call Abraham our father in faith. We followed the Lord and believed in Him much in the same manner that Abraham had been faithful, and by that virtue, we have given the same share of the blessings which God had promised to Abraham and to his faithful descendants.

Why is this important, brethren? That is because the people of Israel, even at Jesus’ time, as we saw in the Gospel today, often used their ancestry, their descent from Abraham as something to be proud of, and to belittle and discriminate others. For the same reason, the Jews at the time of Jesus looked down on the Samaritans and the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people, because they looked at themselves as those whom God had chosen to be His people by the virtue of their ancestry, while others do not deserve God’s grace because they do not belong to them.

Yet, Jesus was angry at the Jews, precisely because while they touted themselves as being descendants of Abraham, their actions and deeds were far from being right for those who claim descent from the faithful Abraham. They did not love God as Abraham had loved God, and they did what is wicked and evil in the sight of God and men alike, caring for themselves and their desires only, and not having God living in their hearts. God had often been sidelined in their lives.

Therefore, today all of us are reminded that faith in God will bring us to salvation and righteousness, while if we disobey and sin, our sins will bring us to our downfall. It was mentioned in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, that if a righteous person turns away from his or her righteousness, and commit sin, then the person will perish because of the sins he or she has committed. In the same manner, a sinner who turns to righteousness will be saved because of the righteous deeds the sinner had done.

Let us all during this time of Lent remember that it is our actions and deeds, filled with righteousness and obedience to God, that will bring us closer to God and to His salvation. Let us all not be distracted by pride, by human greed and desire, and let us not be complacent in our faith. There is always something to be done in our lives, and we should always make use of our time well in order to obey the Lord and walk in His ways. 

Let us all follow the examples of St. Vincent Ferrer, a holy priest and Dominican friar who lived during the years of late Medieval era France. He was renowned for his great dedication to the poor and the needy, and he called many people to repentance and forgiveness through his teaching and preaching. St. Vincent Ferrer went to many places, doing good works and helping many people who struggled with their faith and with their lives.

St. Vincent Ferrer showed all of us that we have many things that we all need to do in our lives, which are all the things we are capable of doing, and yet, we are unable to do because of our reluctance and lack of dedication. There are many things that all of us Christians are capable of doing in order to help those who are around us, but we did not do, as we are too busy caring for ourselves and for our own desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, as we progress through this season of Lent. Let us all do as St. Vincent Ferrer and the saints had done before us, and as Abraham, our father in faith had lived his life. Let us all be holy as our Lord is holy, so that we may truly be worthy of His grace and blessings. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

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