Tuesday, 23 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, speaking about the Lord Who has brought about the end of the divisions and categorisations between the communities of God’s faithful, as the Lord united them all, regardless whether they were Jewish people or whether they were Gentiles or non-Jews, regardless whether they were Greeks or Romans, regardless whether they were freedmen or slaves.

The essence of what St. Paul spoke to the faithful of Ephesus must be understood in the context of the dynamics of the community of the people at the time, in a world dominated by the Romans, a multicultural, multilingual and multiracial world, where there was a relative freedom of movement between the different parts of the Roman Empire. And this is a continuation of the history of about three centuries of intermingling between the Greeks and the local population of the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the preceding Hellenistic era.

The Romans, as the new elite and people in power and influence became a new addition to the mix of peoples, and also coupled with movement of populations from the other parts of the Empire. And at that time, there were also plenty of slaves being sold all around the Empire, as a result of warfare and conflict, when people could easily lose even their basic rights and freedom just by being at the wrong side of the war or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Therefore, the population in many parts of the Empire, especially in places like Ephesus, a thriving metropolis and centre of trade at that time, were highly heterogenous and divided along cultural, linguistic, racial and many other classifications and divisions. There were frequent prejudices, disagreements, conflicts and problems that arose because of all these differences and divisions that existed.

Therefore, St. Paul exhorted to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, as he also did in various other places, that all of the people who believe in God must look beyond and indeed overcome their differences, all sorts of categorisations, groupings and kinds of divisions that had divided the community all these while. Since they have all been saved by the Lord Jesus, through the same sacrifice He had made on the cross, then we must also love everyone equally without bias or prejudice.

After all, the Lord Himself loves everyone, every single one of us, without so much as dividing His attention unequally or favouring any one of us based on any of our worldly backgrounds and things. Therefore, now it is important for us to reflect on what we have heard and allow God to influence us and to change our lives. We must allow God to enter into our hearts, minds and our whole being.

Rather than focusing on what divides us or on what differentiates us, we should instead be the sources of unity, and this unity comes about because of Christ, in our shared and common belief in the Lord Jesus as the One Master, God and Saviour of all of us. The unity of the faithful is important, as when the people were divided, one against another, as what truly happened during the time of St. Paul, the Church was not only just unable to accomplish its mission, but even worse, they scandalised the faith and made others to be unwilling to follow their way.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke of a parable regarding servants whose master had gone on a journey, and how the master could return just at any time. And as the servants were expected to continue in what they have been assigned to do during the time when the master was away, should some of them slacked or failed to work properly when the master suddenly came back from his journey, would be caught in a bad condition.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted His disciples to be ever ready and to be ever prepared for the Lord. And more importantly, He wanted everyone to be awakened from their slumber or from their distractions, and do what He has commanded and willed for them to do. And as St. Paul mentioned to the people in Ephesus, many of the people were burdened and distracted by all the divisions that existed among them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, within our Church today, there are often divisions, disagreements and conflicts, even among ourselves, who are supposed to be brothers and sisters, children of the same loving God. Instead of working together for the good of the Church and for the salvation of more souls, we have instead brought about even more divisions and conflict among each other.

Today, perhaps we should reflect on the life of St. John of Capestrano, a famous Franciscan friar and priest, who was remembered for his great commitment to the Lord, and in his hard work among the faithful, committing himself, his time and much effort trying to bring the word of God, and the truth of God to the people, and calling them to leave behind their ways of sin and disobedience.

St. John of Capestrano devoted himself to the Lord, spending time again and again to convert the people to the truth, and to bring them closer to the salvation in God. Instead of being distracted by the many worldly concerns and desires, by the many temptations and allures of worldly things, perhaps we should be more like St. John of Capestrano and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us, in their exemplary holiness and way of life.

Let us all renew our desire to love God, without the divisiveness and the conflicts that we have endured thus far, even within our Church communities and groups. Let us all turn our hearts, minds, and our whole being towards God, and draw ever closer to His love and mercy, which He willingly gives us, if only we ask Him and are willing to come to Him, as one people, belonging to Him, our One and only God. Amen.

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