Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, 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 the Scripture speaking to us about the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord in the desert from the Book of Exodus, and then from the Gospel passage we heard from the Lord Himself speaking to His disciples on the parable of the sower.

In the first reading today, we listened to the anger and rebelliousness of the people of Israel who did not show gratitude to the Lord for having freed them from the slavery in the land of Egypt. They grumbled and complained against the Lord and Moses, His servant and their leader who had led them out of the land of Egypt, saying that they would rather be enslaved in Egypt and enjoy the bountiful food and drinks there rather than to suffer in freedom in the desert.

And yet, the Lord continued to provide for them patiently, promising them food and drink, providing them with nothing less than bread from heaven, and also flocks of birds to give them meat to eat daily, as well as crystal-clear, clean and sweet water to drink. And all of these God gave to His people Israel, for the entirety of the forty years during which all of them journeyed through the desert, where there was no life, nothing to eat and nothing to quench a person’s thirst with.

Sadly, that would not be the last time that the people disobeyed God and refused to listen to Him and to Moses. They would constantly grumble, rebel, disobey and work against the Lord, as the people continued to complain that life had been better in Egypt, or that the food and drink that the Lord provided to them were not as good as what they had expected or what they thought they had experienced in their former life in Egypt.

And let us all keep all of those in mind as we move on into our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord mentioned the famous parable of the sower to His disciples and to the people. In that parable, we heard of how the sower spread the seeds to several different places, and depending on where the seeds landed, they ended up and grew differently based on the conditions of the locations where they landed at.

Those seeds that fell on the rocky ground, or by the roadside, or those that fell among the thistles and brambles were those seeds that fell on unfavourable grounds that did not allow those seeds to grow properly, and therefore preventing the seeds from growing into a well developed plant that can bear rich and bountiful produce or fruits, unlike those seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil.

And this is what had exactly happened to the Israelites as mentioned in our first reading today, as those people have received the ‘seeds’ of faith from God, having received the truth of God and His laws through Moses, and yet, they did not let the seeds of faith to grow deep in their hearts and minds. They were bogged down and distracted by the concerns of the world and by their desires for worldly pleasures.

That prevented them from being truly faithful to the Lord, and that was why they constantly rebelled against God, again and again. They did not provide the good and fertile soil for the seeds of faith to grow well in them, and as a result, they did not have a genuine faith for God. That was why they continued to slip and fall into sin, again and again. They did not allow God to enter into their hearts.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to be like them as well? God has also given us the same seeds of faith, and unless we do differently from what the Israelites had done, we will end up falling into the same trap of faithlessness and disobedience against God. And therefore, today, we should look up to the examples shown to us by one of our holy saints, whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Sharbel Makhluf.

St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite monk and priest, whose piety and commitment to the Lord was truly exemplary and legendary, as many people came to regard him as a paragon of virtue and faith, in how he dedicated himself completely to the Lord in prayer and through a holy life. He allowed the Lord to make use of his life as a wonderful display of what being true Christian means for all of us.

Many miracles and wonders happened after he passed away, and his body was found to be incorruptible and in excellent condition even decades after be passed away. This is the truly good example of how the Lord’s sown seeds of faith have grown wonderfully and bountifully in a fertile and rich soil, that is the rich and fertile soil of our hearts and minds that are fully attuned towards the Lord and are centred on Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore devote ourselves to serve the Lord from now on with all of our hearts, with all of our strength and courage, and with all of our abilities, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted and tempted by sin and the desires and greed within our hearts. May the Lord be our guide and may He empower us all to live faithfully from now on. Amen.

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