Thursday, 22 June 2017 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the Lord Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. He told them and taught them what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer, the perfect prayer composed by none other than our Lord Jesus Himself. It was a prayer of pure intention and faith showing obedience, the desire to glorify God and to thank Him for all the blessings and graces He had given to us His beloved ones.

We may think that it is kind of unnecessary for the Lord to teach His disciples how to pray, but this is in fact His way to show us all, His people, how to truly pray from the heart, to be able to communicate with the Lord, that is the essence of what a prayer is. That is important because, many of us Christians, might have forgotten what it truly means for us to pray.

At that time, the people of God followed the ways that were shown to them by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in the way they themselves prayed before the Lord. Those people prayed long prayers in the public places, making themselves seen by everyone, who praised them for their piety and devotion. Yet, their long prayers were empty and meaningless, since the focus of their prayers were upon themselves, upon their own vanity, and not upon God.

That is how we ourselves also might have often done with our prayers. We pray for the purpose of our own selfish desires, wishing to gain something for our own benefit. And many of us have that mistaken concept that God is One Who we can depend on for everything, and that whatever we ask of Him, He will give them to us. But that in fact is making God as if He is a servant to us, and we are demanding Him to do something for us, which is not right.

That is exactly why many people in fact had turned away from the Lord, because they were unable to get rid of their human ego, their desires which they had allowed to lead their way. When they prayed, they said litany of requests, desires and even demands, asking God to grant them what they wanted. I am sure that many of us had done something similar to this, at one or more points in our respective lives. And when He did not grant what we wanted, we became angry at Him and turned our back from Him.

How many of us will be able to realise that what many of us had done might not have been right? Many of us have placed ourselves, our desired and our selfish wants above that of our obligation to love and to serve the Lord our God. It is often that we are not able to let go of our desires, or to lie down our human pride, and as a result, we ended up doing what is disgraceful and sinful in the sight of God and men alike.

That was what the actions and examples of the holy saints and martyrs whose feast we celebrate on this day ought to show us the way forward. St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More were the saints and martyrs of the English reformation, at which time, the persecution was against all the faithful when the faithless king of England, Henry VIII, for his own personal reasons and refusal to obey the will of God through His Church, broke the communion between the churches in England from the Holy Mother Church.

St. Thomas More was the Chancellor of the King, the position akin to that of Prime Minister in our present day world. He was a person of great influence and power, having a position of great prestige and honour. And yet, when the king asked for all of his officials, advisers, and members of the English Church to declare their oath of obedience to him and break away from the obedience to the Holy Mother Church, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, who was one of the holy bishops of the Church, refused to do so.

Even though the king lavished worldly honour and privileges on all those who would recant their faith and devotion to the Church, and especially on St. Thomas More, who was the trusted Chancellor and chief adviser to the king himself, but St. Thomas More chose to remain true to his faith and did not get swayed by all the temptations and pressured heaped on him to make him change his mind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the saints and martyrs had given us their examples for us to follow, in their devotion and zeal, and in how they lived their lives in accordance with the will of God, and not according to their own human desires. Had they succumbed to their desires, their pride and ego, they would have given up their faith and betrayed the Lord for worldly happiness instead.

This is what all of us Christians must do, from now on, that all of us become true disciples and followers of the Lord, not just in name or formality only, but through real action, commitment and work. Let us all follow in the footsteps of our good and holy predecessors, and strive to do our best in our everyday life, to be good and worthy children of our God. Let us all have a genuine and healthy prayerful life, that we are always in constant communication with God, knowing what it is that He wants us to do in our respective lives. May the Lord bless us all in our endeavours. Amen.

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