Wednesday, 4 October 2017 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of the famous religious and holy man, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis of Assisi is the founder of the Franciscan order or the Order of Friars Minor. He was born in the family of a rich silk merchant, Pietro Bernardone as Francesco Bernardone. He was destined to succeed in the family business and inherit the wealth as the eldest son. Yet, God had a very different plan for him.

It was just as the Scripture readings today mentioned, beginning from the first reading from the Book of the prophet Nehemiah. In that passage, we saw how the prophet Nehemiah, who was once the cupbearer and favourite servant of the Persian Emperor, sought the permission of the king to return to his homeland, the ancestral land of the people of Israel, for a number of years in order to supervise the rebuilding of the land and Jerusalem.

Nehemiah had a comfortable life as the king’s court member, and surely he had nothing to worry about in life, as certainly everything has been taken care of, all worldly needs and all that he would ever required. Yet, God called Nehemiah to a higher purpose, to serve Him, Who is the One true King above all the other kings, even far greater than the Persian ruler, the mighty ruler of the then superpower.

In the Gospel today, Jesus also called His disciples and all those who desired to be His followers. His message to them was simple, “Follow Me!” and that was all that was required. He called them, and they followed Him. The followers of Jesus came from various backgrounds. Some of them were rich and influential, while some others were poor. But, all of them were called to the same vocation, that is to serve God and to be wholehearted in their devotion to Him.

However, as seen in the Gospel, when the Lord called them, the people who were called came up with many excuses. Some of them wanted to settle their family matters first, while others wanted to tend to their properties and worldly issues first. And therefore the Lord rebuked them, for they did not place their priorities in God, but in their own worldly and selfish desires and needs.

Perhaps the examples of St. Francis of Assisi will be able to show us the way for us as Christians, in how we ought to commit ourselves to God, and answer His call with a willing heart. To each and every one of us, God has given many different kinds of gifts, and He has called us to different vocations in life. Yet, all of these vocations and callings bring greater glory to God. The calling to religious and priestly life is the greatest of all, for it entails surrendering everything to God’s will.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in his youth, St. Francis of Assisi, Francesco Bernardone, was endowed with great riches and all that a person could have wished for, as his wealthy and influential family was able to afford anything he would have desired, just as the prophet Nehemiah had nothing lacking as the servant of the ruler of Persia. Yet, God called St. Francis of Assisi to a new life, and he heeded the call.

While he was hedonistic and materialistic during his younger days, spending his father’s money in a life of luxury and filled with parties and revelries, he had a complete turnaround after he was affected personally during a war, in which he was taken hostage and having to endure the sufferings in prison for about a year. Ever since then he began to question the meaning of his life and his calling.

Eventually, having heard God’s call, St. Francis of Assisi decided to leave behind everything, all the money, wealth and possessions, the status and inheritance he was to receive from his father and family. This infuriated his father, who went to reclaim St. Francis of Assisi, who had committed himself to a lifetime of service to God. He complained to the local bishop to whom St. Francis of Assisi had fled to, about all the investments and money he had spent on the education and upbringing of St. Francis as his heir.

Therefore, St. Francis left behind everything, and took off all of his clothings, as a symbol of total rejection of worldliness and all the privileges he had once been entitled to, renouncing all the temptations of life, and giving his all out of pure love and devotion for God. Ever since then, he left behind the world, and became a completely new person, a person totally devoted to the service of God.

He founded the Franciscan order, calling and inspiring many other men who were also called to the same vocation, to serve the Lord and His people in poverty, and to spread the Word of God and His truth to all those who have not yet heard of them or those who have been lukewarm in their faith. Through their works, and their dedication to the Lord, many souls have been saved from damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, reflecting on what we have heard from the Sacred Scriptures, as well as from the life and experiences of St. Francis of Assisi, all of us should also do the same in our lives, by listening attentively to the Lord Who calls us in the depths of our hearts. And having heard His call, we should respond in kind, answering the call with our own response, just as courageously as St. Francis had answered his own.

Let us all no longer be lukewarm or passive in our faith, but instead, from now on let us be active in living a holy life devoted to God, in each of our own ways. God has called us to various vocations in life, and as long as we follow His will and obey His commandments, we shall bring greater glory to God. May the Lord continue to guide us on our path, and let us all renew our devotion to the Lord by doing what He wants us to do, day by day, ever growing more faithful to Him. Amen.

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