Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the commandments that God has given to us and which He has revealed to us first of all through His servant Moses, in the form of the laws of the Old Testament, the laws of Moses, and then which He completed and revealed fully through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

The Lord assured all of us as we heard in our Gospel passage today that all those who obey His commandments will not be disappointed, as all of us who are in this world and obey His commandments will receive the promise of eternal glory and eternal life that can be found in God alone. Conversely, there can be no place in God’s presence for all those who refuse to obey the commandments of God.

And in the first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the efforts of St. Paul and St. Barnabas in the town of Lystra, where they performed miracles and signs, which the people misunderstood and misrepresented as the acts of the divine, that is their own divinity, the gods and deities of the Ancient Greco-Roman religion, of Zeus, the god of the sky, his supposed son Hercules and many other deities.

We see in these deities, in fact, the perversion of human desires and their own shortcomings, as is frequent among the polytheistic religions and customs that came before the advent of the Christian faith. For example, in the ancient Greek religion itself, many of the deities behaved no better and if not worse than that of human beings. Yes, they were supposedly powerful and mighty, with supernatural powers and control over the elements, but their behaviours were often debauched, a reflection of the imperfect humans who created them.

And all these were caused by man’s of self-desire to love themselves, to benefit themselves and to gain for themselves as much as can be profitable for them. They saw in their gods and deities a reflection of themselves, in what they hoped to achieve, more worldly power, more money and wealth, more sexual pleasures and many other forms of the indulgence of the flesh and the body and mind, and many other indulgences and pleasures.

That was why, they failed to recognise God’s truth being present in their midst, just as they mistook St. Paul and St. Barnabas as being the gods they coveted and worshipped being present right in their midst. But the Apostles presented to them the truth, that it was not all those false deities or human beings that should be worshipped, but God alone, the One and only True God. They did not allow themselves to be swayed by pride and desire for power, and that was exactly why the people there then must have been dumbfounded.

After all, who does not desire power and glory. If we can put ourselves in the shoes of the Apostles at that time, seeing the population of a whole city coming to you and bowing down before you as if you were gods and divinities surely would make you proud and arrogant, thinking that you are someone special and powerful. But that was where the Apostles clearly made their stand and resisted the temptation.

Instead, they firmly held onto their faith in God, remembering that first and foremost, it is God alone Who deserves such kind of love and adoration, and they put God before themselves and cast aside their pride and desire. They also loved their fellow brethren so dearly that they were willing to spend the time to explain to them the truth so that they would not fall into the wrong path or continue down the path of debauchery and sin.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about we ourselves? How have we lived our lives thus far? Have we been obedient to God’s will and commandments, or have we instead acted and done things according to our own selfish desires and wants? If we have been mostly doing the latter actions, then perhaps now is the time for us to reflect and begin making a change, by not putting ourselves and our own interests ahead of the obligations we have to God and the love which we ought to show our fellow brethren.

It was what St. Bernardine of Siena, who is today’s saint, had done with his own life. He was well known for his preaching against all kinds of immoral conduct, which ultimately stemmed from humanity’s prideful and selfish desires, and did a lot of work in trying to bring as many as possible to God’s redemption. He had many challenges, and not few opposed his work, but regardless, he continued to do the good works of God, loving God and his fellow men.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us all in out journey of life, and give us the courage and strength to be able to resist the temptation of pride and desire, and instead follow the good examples of the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas, and St. Bernardine of Siena in their tireless and loving dedication to God. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

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