Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures in which first of all we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, speaking about the matter between the salvation of the Jews and the pagan peoples. It was mentioned how the Jews stumbled so that the Lord might be able to save the pagan peoples, and through that, the Jews themselves might be saved.

This is related to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, the familiar words of the Lord Jesus in which He related the story about the people who were clamouring and fighting over places of honour, using a wedding banquet or event as an example. He related to the people how it is often that many are seeking for the most important places, desiring prestige and honour, but only later humiliated because even more important guests came and took over their seats.

How does this relate to what we heard in the first reading? The Jews or the people of Israel were the ones whom God had first chosen and called from among all of mankind. He called their forefather Abraham and made a Covenant with him. As a result, the Israelites became a race that God had chosen to be His own, especially from the time when He directly intervened to bring them out from slavery in Egypt and into the land He has promised to them.

The Jews took great pride in this and they were always ready to boast that they were chosen by God to be His people, to the point that they actually looked down on the pagans and the non-Jewish people, whom they deemed to be less worthy of the Lord, because they were not chosen by God. Yet, they themselves were blind to their own shortcomings and faults, and through their constant disobedience and lack of faith, they have been punished many times.

And God did not intend to just call the Israelites and exclude all the other races and peoples. Ultimately, God wants everyone, every mankind to be reconciled to Him, for He created each and every one of us out of His great love for us, and because of that great love, He does not want any of us to perish in sin and in the darkness. Rather, He wants that each and every one of us can come into the light.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. They prided themselves in obeying the tenets of the Law, and as Jesus mentioned, they liked to the praised and to be honoured. They were the epitome of those who came to the wedding banquet and sought the first and most important place in the room. Yet, the room and the place has not been given to them, because they have no God in their hearts, and in their pride, they have placed their own interests ahead of God’s interests.

That was why the Lord Jesus chided them and rebuked them, and saying that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were going faster towards the kingdom of heaven than them, even though these people were often seen and labelled as sinners and unworthy people, least of all those who were thought to be worthy of God and the heavenly glory He promised to all His faithful ones.

Why is that so? That is because, those people as we witnessed throughout the Gospels, were willing to listen to Jesus and His teachings, and many of them, in tears, turned themselves to the Lord in repentance for their old ways of sin, and recognising their sinfulness, they desired to be forgiven by God. They have been the last ones, but because of their humility and willingness to listen to God and to obey Him, God had raised them to greater glory.

As I have just mentioned earlier, the great problem that we now can see as the great obstacle preventing us mankind from reaching out to God, is pride. Our human pride, our ego and ambition makes us to be non-receptive to God’s love and mercy, and many of us had ended up hardening our hearts against Him, closing Him out of our hearts and minds, not letting Him to speak to us that we might know His will. Instead, often it is always about ‘I’ or ‘Me’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look at the examples of the holy predecessors, particularly, St. Charles Borromeo, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, as role models for us to follow, that we may know how to live a good and virtuous Christian life, and not engulfed by our pride and ego. St. Charles Borromeo was renowned as a great reformer of the Church, a Cardinal of the Church, as well as the influential and powerful Archbishop of Milan, perhaps second in its importance as compared to Rome.

Yet, St. Charles Borromeo, who was born to one of the most influential noble families in the region, who enjoyed close relationship with both the Church and the ruling class, did not let all these things to corrupt him or to make him proud of his lineage and position. When he was made a Cardinal and entrusted with the role of managing the Roman Curia, or the governance of the Universal Church in Rome, he lived in austerity and ordered the members of the Curia to do the same.

He helped to organise the great reforms of the Church through the Council of Trent, which helped to rejuvenate the faith in the Church and destroy or remove the impurities and excesses of the previous decades and centuries when the Church was filled with many corrupt individuals seeking for power, wealth and influence through the Church. And later on, as the Archbishop of Milan, he was also credited with the enforcement of the reforms among the clergy and laity in his Archdiocese.

He cared for the poor and the sick in his Archdiocese of Milan, and it was told that in one occasion, when the governor and the ruling class of Milan fled the city because of a great pestilence that struck it, St. Charles Borromeo remained behind to care for the people who were sick and provided for their needs. He was also known for leading a procession barefooted through the streets of Milan with a rope around his neck, as a sign of penitence and humility before God, asking Him to forgive the sins of His people.

The examples of St. Charles Borromeo should be an inspiration for all of us Christians today, that in all of our actions and deeds, we should be humble and not to listen to the voice of our ego, pride and human ambition. Let us all seek to be the last in worldly matters, but the first in the eyes of God, as the Lord Jesus reminded us in the Gospel passage today. Let us also not build for ourselves a temporary treasure in this world, but instead seek the eternal glory of heaven. St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us! Amen.

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