Wednesday, 21 February 2018 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings from the Scripture we heard about the contrast between what happened in the time of the Old Testament, when the prophet Jonah came to the city of Nineveh, preaching to them that the Lord would destroy their city within forty days for their sins and wickedness, and with what we heard in the Gospel passage today, of the Lord Jesus and His unhappiness over the people’s lack of faith as they kept demanding for signs and miracles.

At the time of the prophet Jonah, the people and ruler of the city of Nineveh, which was a great city and capital of the Assyrian Empire, the mighty kingdom that conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and subjugated much of the Middle East at its heyday, they came to believe in all that the prophet Jonah said before them, that God would punish them for their sinful ways, and they immediately showed great repentance.

And all of that happened without the prophet Jonah even performing any miracles or wonderful deeds at all. They realised their sinful ways and wickedness, and they simply came to believe in the prophet. This is despite the Assyrians, deemed as barbarians and pagans in the eyes of the Israelites, as they worshipped pagan idols and did not believe in God, and despite all of their wicked and heinous deeds, they believed in God when He came to punish them.

Yet, it is a great irony that the people of God, who were supposed to obey the Law and listen to the will of their Lord, were themselves the ones who refused to believe in Him, when He Himself came in person into this world, and not through the intermediary of a prophet as what was the case between the prophet Jonah and the people and city of Nineveh. And the Lord came with many signs and wonders before His people through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus Himself performed many miracles and wonders, healing many who were sick, feeding multitudes of people by multiplying loaves of bread and fishes, casting out demons and many more, but the people still failed to believe. He has done so many wonders and yet, the people who had seen them kept asking for more signs and miracles, and for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, they continued to doubt Him and refused to believe in Him.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they hardened their hearts and refused to believe in God, no matter what amazing things and miracles He has performed before them. If the hearts and minds have refused to believe, then it does not matter how much the eyes, the ears, the noses and all the senses experience, we will end up not believing, just as what the people had done.

In this time and season of Lent, all of us go through this moment of exceeding grace when we are given the opportunity to reexamine our lives through the daily readings of the Scripture and by deepening our relationship with God. Are we all able to rend our stubborn minds and hearts that once refused to believe, and open the doors to our minds and hearts wide, to allow God to enter into them and speak His will inside us?

We are called to repentance and to a change in lifestyle, following the examples of the Assyrians living in Nineveh. God has called us all to repent, just as He has done through the prophet Jonah. Are we willing to humble ourselves as the people of Nineveh had done, or are we rather like the people of the time of Jesus, when He came into this world, and they rejected Him and refused to believe in Him because of their pride and their prejudices against Him?

Let us all follow the example of the great saint whose feast we celebrate on this day, namely St. Peter Damian, great and holy servant of God, as bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, an important figure in the Church at that time, who was remembered for his great piety and devotion, leaving behind everything he had to serve the Lord, and many followed his examples to life faithfully in God’s ways.

St. Peter Damian helped to reform the whole Church at that time, and he zealously sought for the renewal of the Church against the excesses of sin and wickedness which dominated many of the people at the time, even those who were among the clergy and the priests, those who were holding high and influential positions in the Church and among the faithful. St. Peter Damian was determined to get the Church to overcome the problem, and through his works, eventually the Church was able to overcome the problem it faced.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the zeal and commitment of St. Peter Damian should be reminder for us that we should also have the same kind of faith and devotion in our own life. Let us all during this season of Lent reflect on what he has done, and how he has devoted himself throughout his life to serve the Lord, abandoning the temptations of worldly power and glory, and sought nothing else other than the greater glory of God.

May each and every one of us draw ever closer to the Lord, and may we find in Him the source of true joy and happiness, and that we may turn our hearts and our whole being to Him, no longer held back by sin and by our refusal to listen to Him and by our stubbornness. May we grow to love Him more and more, every day of our lives. May God bless us all. Amen.

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