Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God reminding us to remain virtuous and faithful in life, especially with the emphasis on faith and fidelity in our love for one another, in the married life between a man and a woman, the foundation of all Christian families. Through the Scripture passages that we heard today, we are reminded to put our faith and trust, especially in our marriage and family life, in God, and not in any other things.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the king Herod Antipas got himself into a very serious sin of murder because of his lack of faith in God, which caused him to fall into the temptations of lust and human desire, as well as ego and pride, that made him to commit even more and more heinous acts and sins against God. He committed adultery by taking the legal Herodias, the wife of his own brother Philip, and made her to be his queen, while his brother was still alive and legally married to Herodias.

St. John the Baptist spoke up against this heinous act and immoral behaviour, which went up against the Law of God and the moral conduct of the society. For his outspokenness and his stand against the king, St. John the Baptist was arrested and put into prison. Herodias held grudge against the saint for what he had blatantly and fearlessly mentioned before all, the sin of adultery that she and Herod had committed.

That was why in today’s Gospel passage we heard of how Herodias tried to achieve this by manipulating Herod, through her daughter, who was very beautiful and seductive, as she danced during a party that Herod had thrown for his nobles and guests. Herod was mesmerised by her performance and probably swayed under influence of the party and even alcohol, began making unrealistic promises and oaths before her, overcome by his desire and lust.

And this was when Satan struck, by making use of the opportunity through Herodias and her daughter, to force Herod’s hand into committing a great sin. Herod had not wanted to deal harm to St. John the Baptist even though he had arrested him and put him into prison, but as he made all those promises and oaths to the daughter of Herodias, when the mother instigated her to ask for the head of St. John the Baptist, Herod was trapped and could not refuse the request before his guests and nobles.

In all of these, we saw how when God is not at the centre of our family and married life, then we will end up having a lot of troubles, temptations of the desires of the flesh and the greed within our hearts, lust for things that are immoral and improper in the sight of God and men alike. That was how Herod and Herodias sinned, and that was also how countless others among us mankind also had sinned. Marriages and families have been destroyed by those corrupt desires and sin.

Today all of us are called to return to the true faith in God, and anchor ourselves, our marriage and family lives for all those who have families and been married, in God. Unless we do this, we will end up bringing harm and destruction to us and to our loved ones. Satan is always busy at work trying to strike at us, and even when we are faithful, we saw how St. John the Baptist was treated. He suffered many rejections, people who doubted and accused him, and was martyred for his courage in faith.

But all of these should not discourage us from living our lives with faith. Instead, they should become inspiration for us to be even more courageous and dedicated in living our lives with sincere love and genuine faith for God. Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints whose exemplary life and commitment to God should become inspiration to each and every one of us in how we ought to be living our individual and respective lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a soldier who turned into a priest and loving servant of God and His people, after conversion experience and intercession by the Blessed Virgin Mary during his time of troubles. He became well-known for his care of many orphans whom he encountered, all those who experienced sorrow and sadness, suffering and pain for the loss of their loved ones. They had no one to take care of them, but St. Jerome Emiliani took care of them, fed them and showed them much love.

He founded a religious order, gathering those who were like-minded and having the same desire to serve the poor and all those children of God who were suffering and had no one to take care of them. And he continued to minister to the people, particularly the poor, the orphans as mentioned earlier, the sick and those who were dying. St. Jerome Emiliani did not let up on his work, and ministered to all, dying in his duty as he contracted illness as he cared for the sick.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was once a slave, who was enslaved by slavers and made to suffer many terrible experiences as a slave, as someone who had virtually no rights at all, and she had to endure many insults to her dignity as a human being. Eventually, she became the servant to an Italian family, who was the Vice Consul of Italy in the region where she was in, today’s Sudan. And that was how she gained her freedom, as she left her old life of slavery behind and became a free woman.

She became a Catholic after being inspired through the experience of her freedom, and after baptism, she decided to dedicate her life to God for the rest of her life, and join the religious order of the Canossian sisters, and she was a very dedicated servant of God and of her fellow sisters, and praying at all times for all those who shared the painful experiences of her slavery and for all others in Africa, who were suffering from abject poverty and abuse of human rights.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of these faithful and loving servants of the Lord? In their own ways, St. John the Baptist, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita have shown us how we can truly be faithful in our daily lives, and also filled with love for one another and for God, by loving those who are in our midst, and putting aside all the temptations and the desires of our body and flesh. We are called to be faithful, and to resist all the efforts that Satan had put in place, to cause us to fall into sin.

Let us all pray and work together, that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church may come together united and strong in our faith, beginning from our families, where each and every one of our families are the important foundations of the Church and our faith life. Let us all strive to do our best to emulate the good examples showed by our holy predecessors and do our best to love one another and to love the Lord, putting Him at the centre of our lives. Amen.

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