Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us all about the need for us to trust not in our own human power, abilities, greatness or achievements, but rather, in the power and providence of God. Many of us have not trusted enough in God and prefer rather to take matter into our own hands, being concerned and worried about our daily living and focusing on all the wrong things.

In our first reading today we listened to the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and to the faithful in Corinth, that if one were to boast, it would be best for that person not to boast of his own greatness or power, but rather, of the greatness and glory of God. St. Paul himself gave an example, through his own tireless ministry and hard work among the people he did not glorify himself or his own achievements, in the many miracles he performed and in the many things he accomplished, but he continued to glorify and praise God.

Of course, St. Paul also mentioned the temptations and difficulties he faced, the temptations of pride and greed in his heart. After all, he was still just a human being, prone to being tempted by all these wicked and negative feelings, emotions and desires just as we are. But he did not let those things to become obstacles in the way of his faith. On the contrary, he remained firmly convinced and strongly dedicated in his faith in God.

He trusted the Lord rather than his own power, for in the end, none of the means of this world, be it power, money, prestige, fame, glory or whatever it is that we mankind often seek and desire in this world, could have gained him anything that is true and lasting. In our Gospel passage today, this was exactly what the Lord mentioned to His disciples, when He revealed the folly of those who worry and are concerned about their daily needs and wants, be it for things to eat or for things to wear.

And today we celebrate the feast of a few saints, whose lives have been exemplary and filled with great examples of dedication and commitment to God. They are St. Paulinus of Nola, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. All of them put their trust in God and believed firmly in the providence and the power of God rather than in their own human power and capabilities. St. Paulinus of Nola was a bishop and one of the influential leaders of the Church in the final days of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, while St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are the two saints and martyrs of the English Reformation and persecution.

St. Paulinus of Nola was remembered for his dedication to the Lord and for his renunciation of wealth and worldly glory for asceticism and simple living, having been born as a senatorial class member and a privileged noble. He was once an influential governor of the province in Northern Italy and a trusted confidant of the Roman Emperor, before an occasion when after he has been baptised as a Christian and losing his child, he chose to withdraw from the world.

Eventually he became a bishop and served the faithful in the region of Nola, dedicating himself for over twenty years to the flock he had been entrusted with, spending his money, time, energy and effort for the good of the faithful and the Church there. St. Paulinus of Nola truly showed us all what it means to be a faithful Christian, trusting completely in God and doing everything to glorify God and not himself.

And today we also then celebrate the feast of two martyr saints of the English Reformation, the famous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. St. Thomas More was the Chancellor and right-hand man to King Henry VIII, the one who unilaterally initiated the English Reformation due to his insistence to remarry another woman despite still being legally and lawfully married to his Queen, and thus separating the English Church from the Universal Church.

St. John Fisher meanwhile was one of the influential leaders of the Church in the Kingdom of England, as the Bishop of Rochester and a close confidant of King Henry VIII’s father. He was also the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and tutor to King Henry VIII. It was widely told that King Henry VIII’s highly acclaimed treatise ‘Assertio Septem Sacramentorum’ or the ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ against the heresies of Protestantism was actually written by St. John Fisher.

Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were strong opponents of the King’s efforts to remarry another woman according to his desires, and worked very hard to resolve the issue and preventing the rupture in Christendom due to the king’s continued insistence to follow his will. And when the King decided to break away the relationship and Communion with the Universal Church of Rome, the two men remained steadfast in their dedication to the true Church.

Despite the challenges, the persuasions, the coercions and pressures for them to abandon their steadfastness to their faith and to obey instead the demands of the King, amidst the promises that they would continue to enjoy the favour of the King and all sorts of good things and worldly goodness they had thus enjoyed then and more, should they abandon their opposition to the King. But they remained firm in their faith, and as such, died as holy martyrs of the faith.

Through all the examples shown by these great saints, surely all of us should be inspired to live as better Christians, more and more devoted to the Lord, and putting Him above all else in our lives. Let us all not worry about worldly things and concerns, things that are not permanent and things that cannot bring real happiness to us in the first place. Let us turn to God from now on, inspired by the good examples of His holy servants, our holy predecessors from now on. Amen.

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