Thursday, 4 October 2018 : 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 in what we heard from the Scriptures, we heard both the message of despair, suffering and sorrow, as well as the message of hope and encouragement from God. We heard from the tale of Job in our first reading today and from what the Lord Jesus told His disciples as He sent them all two by two, to go before Him and prepare the way for His missionary works.

Job was in despair and suffered because of his many afflictions, having endured many losses in his family and his possessions, and having his own body plagued by painful boils and scabs. And yet, he did not complain against the Lord or cursed Him, as what his wife had told him that he should do, but instead, blaming his own limited and weak human existence, and the weakness of his flesh for the troubles he faced.

That was the sorrow and anguish which Job showed in the first reading passage today, the feeling of pain and the endurance of tough challenges he had to go through. But despite all of that, he did not complain or falter in his faith in God, as he remained faithful to Him and believed wholeheartedly that despite all the challenges, and remained firm in his conviction, that God will have pity and mercy on him, and save him from his distress.

That is what we heard in the Scripture passage today, showing us that as God’s faithful followers and disciples, we will likely encounter difficulties and challenges in our path. And unless we remain firmly faithful to the Lord, then we may end up falling into temptation and then into sin. And when we are assailed as Job was assailed by Satan, in the many unfortunate incidents and sufferings he had to endure, it will be difficult for us to keep and maintain the faith.

Yet, that is the reality which the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today also presented to His disciples as He talked to them about what to expect as they were sent among the people of God. They were sent as if they were to be like sheep among wolves, to endure the challenges, rejection, persecution and all the difficulties facing those who remain faithful and committed to the Lord.

There would be those people and those communities who would refuse to believe in God and refuse to listen to the Apostles and the disciples preaching the truth to them. And in that case, the disciples ought to leave the place behind, and cast the dust off their feet, to show their indignation at just how stubborn the people of that place were, refusing to open their hearts and minds to allow God to speak to them.

But the Lord told His disciples that there would also be many of those who wanted to believe in the Lord and were open to welcome Him and His disciples into their midst. There were many opportunities for the disciples to grow the ranks and numbers of the faithful, and the Lord also promised that He would be with them, guiding their path and leading them to the way He would show them. He showed them His faithfulness and love, that just as Job was rewarded for his perseverance in faith, we too will share in the same perseverance and commitment in our faith.

Many of us are worried and are unwilling to commit ourselves to the Lord because we are so preoccupied with many things and temptations in life. We cannot let go of all these possessions, goods, fame, prestige, social status, relationships, and many other things that often become obstacle in our ability to live our lives fully attuned with God and His ways. This means that many of us Christians have not been living as we should have.

That is why today, we should reflect upon the examples shown by Job, and by the disciples of Christ, many of whom would give up a life of comfort and entrusting themselves completely to the Lord, their God. And one of the followers of Christ, whose feast we celebrate today, is a very good example and inspiration for us, namely St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan religious order.

St. Francis of Assisi was born as Francesco Bernardone, the son and heir of a rich cloth merchant, Pietro Bernardone, one of those who were among the powerful, wealthy and privileged members of the society at the time of the Middle Ages Italy. St. Francis of Assisi was born into a life of privilege, of joy and worldly pleasures, of enjoyment of all sorts of worldly goods and wonders, that led to the decadence and wicked actions of many of the people living at that time.

Naturally, St. Francis of Assisi’s father wanted his son to be successful as he was, and wanted him to inherit all of his possessions, business dealings and worldly achievements. And yet, God has a different plan for young Francesco Bernardone, when He called him in one occasion as he passed by a ruined parish church, calling on him to restore His Church. The young man thought of this as a literal calling to restore the ruined parish church, and took some of his father’s rich and precious clothes, sold them and used the money to fund the rebuilding of the church.

When Pietro, Francesco’s father found out of this, he was furious and demanded that he must account for his actions. Francesco Bernardone fled to the local bishop, and his father demanded that he return to him the money which he supposedly has stolen by the selling of his clothes and property. Francesco took off everything he had, including his clothes, signifying his readiness and commitment to leave behind all of his worldly attachments, to follow the Lord.

Eventually, he would go on to establish the congregation of like minded people, which would eventually be known under his patronymic as the Franciscans, leaving behind worldliness and living simply in a Christian brotherhood and community, and focusing on prayer, faith and loving service to others. They lived their lives preaching the Good News and the truth of God not just by words, but also through their actions and way of life.

St. Francis of Assisi suffered a lot of pain and sufferings throughout his ministry, and he was known to receive the five wounds of Christ on his own body, during a moment of vision, when the wounds caused him great pain for the rest of his life, what is to be known as the stigmata. Yet, he entrusted himself so completely to God, and lived the rest of his life in prayer, that until today, his examples, his piety and devotion to God continue to inspire countless people, many of whom followed in his footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow the Lord and abandon our worldly temptations and desires, just as St. Francis of Assisi had done. We do not have to do exactly as what he has done, but perhaps, we can begin by dismantling and abandoning our often unhealthy obsession over material wealth, desire for fame and glory, and many other things that often become our preoccupations in life.

Let us all turn towards God with a heart filled with love, and renew our faith in Him, as best as we are able to. May the Lord awaken in each one of us a new spirit of love, the courage and strength to love Him and serve Him despite the challenges and difficulties we may face and encounter on our way to Him. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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