Thursday, 19 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us all to imitate Him in just how forgiving and merciful He is towards each and every one of us. For despite all of our sins and disobedience, our wickedness and rebelliousness, God still loves all of us very dearly ever since He created us. And as a loving Father, He will always stand by us and provide for us.

God will always be merciful and be ready to welcome us back to His presence, but all of these time, it is us who often make things difficult by being stubborn and refusing to accept God’s love and mercy because we are so proud and filled with ego, thinking that we know it better and that we could not have been wrong or mistaken. We often accuse others instead of being wrong or less perfect than we are and we blame them before we blame ourselves.

That is what we have heard especially in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus during a dinner in the house of a Pharisee named Simon, was anointed by a woman who was known in the town for her sinful reputation. When that woman knelt before the Lord and humbled herself before everyone, pouring expensive perfume over His feet and anointed it, and wiped it dry with her tears and hair, the Pharisees who were there looked down on her and criticised both the Lord and the woman.

They looked down on the woman and condemned her as a sinner while failing to realise just how they themselves were sinners much like her. And while they thought that the woman was immoral, sinful and less worthy than them in the eyes of God, they did not realise that their own actions and attitudes towards their own faith and their responsibility as those who have been entrusted with the guardianship of the people of God were equally if not more lacking than that of the woman.

It is this attitude that is always preventing us all from finding God’s forgiveness and mercy. The stubbornness in our hearts and minds, our ego and pride close the doors of our heart to the truth, and this causes us all to continue to live in sin and refusing God’s forgiveness. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often insisted on their superior position and piety as compared to others, when in reality they were themselves still struggling with sin.

It often takes a lot of effort to be like the woman, being looked down upon, humiliated, losing one’s pride and ego, face and status totally, and yet, receiving the fullness of God’s forgiveness, mercy and ultimately love and grace. That was what the Lord made clear before all those who heard and saw Him and the sinful woman, that the woman’s faith and dedication have saved her and her sins have been forgiven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore each and every one of us are reminded to look deep within ourselves and reflect, whether we have been like that of the sinful woman or like that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Have we opened our hearts and minds to God or have we instead closed them tight up against Him because of our ego and pride? We need to examine our hearts and minds and think how we should go forward in life from this.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Januarius, a renowned bishop and martyr venerated especially in the region of Benevento in southern Italy, where he was bishop during the years of terrible persecution of Christians. He was also venerated in Naples and the relic of his blood miraculously liquefies every time his feast day is celebrated annually, that is this day. St. Januarius was remembered especially for his dedication to God and to the flock entrusted to his care.

St. Januarius remained strong in his faith and in his dedication even amidst the great persecution which eventually led to his arrest, suffering and finally martyrdom. And this is just possible if St. Januarius truly had great and genuine faith in God, a heart that is centred and focused on God, and by not letting the ego and pride in his heart and mind to be distractions that kept him from God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Januarius, and be ever better disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ from now on? Are we able to humble ourselves enough like that of the sinful woman, knowing just how sinful we are, no matter who have more or less sins, but that all of us need God to forgive us and to heal us from this terrible affliction of sin?

Let us all reflect on this and think of how we can better live our lives from now on, with renewed faith and commitment towards God, and with hearts that are contrite before God, always constantly seeking forgiveness for the multitudes of our sins and with the desire to sin no more and live righteously before God. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

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