Friday, 4 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us through the Scripture passages which we have heard today are reminded of what it means for us to be Christians, in that each and every one of us ought to obey the Lord and follow His path, and not to fall into the temptations present in this world and end up therefore falling into sin as what the Scripture passages had presented to us this day.

In our first reading today, we heard the lamentations of the people of God as represented by the prophet Baruch, in which he spoke of the sins which the people of Israel had committed all the many years after God had shown so much love, care and concern for them, after He had brought them out of their slavery and suffering in Egypt into a land overflowing with milk and honey and full of prosperity, making them into a powerful and glorious nation.

And yet, those people rejected God and went to seek the pagan idols and gods instead, abandoning the Law and the commandments God had given them for the wicked ways of the world. They disobeyed God and committed sinful acts and deeds before Him for many, many years, and yet, God still patiently tried to bring them back to Him and to reconcile them to Him through His messengers and prophets.

The lamentations and the words spoken by the prophet Baruch were yet another reminder to the people of God just how much they have erred and lived in a state of sin for all those years. And this is what is also echoed in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus spoke up against the cities of Galilee, of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, when He rebuked those cities for their lack of faith.

And this rebuke was made in the context of how those cities, which were the ones mainly occupied by the Jewish people in Galilee, had not welcomed the Lord and accepted Him as they should have, and even as the Lord performed miraculous deeds and taught among the people there, they still doubted Him, unlike that of the other places in Galilee and even in Samaria where the Lord were welcomed and the people there listened to His message of truth and believed.

The Lord put it very clearly and bluntly that those who reject Him will only have condemnation in the end for them, and they will suffer because of their conscious abandonment of God’s love and grace. God has done so much, again and again to help them and to provide for them from time to time, because of His enduring love for us that remain strong even when we have disappointed Him so much, because He does not want us to be destroyed.

As we can see, all of us should appreciate just how much God has loved us all, and we should therefore do our best to love Him and to serve Him wholeheartedly by having a conversion of heart, mind, body and soul, so that while once we were deeply rooted in sin and wickedness, now we may turn ourselves into the true and faithful children of God. And today, we should therefore be inspired by the examples and the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the renowned saint and founder of the Franciscan order whose feast we are celebrating today.

St. Francis of Assisi was born as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, the son of a wealthy merchant Pietro di Bernardone in Middle Ages Italy. At that time, the father of St. Francis wanted him to be the successor of his career and business as a rich silk merchant, and therefore provided the young St. Francis with plenty of good education and excellent worldly upbringing intended to prepare him for the role.

He lived a high life and a life filled with all sorts of luxury, but gradually he became disillusioned with all the wealth, glory and privileges he had, as told by the few encounters he had with the poor, which began to affect St. Francis’ outlook on the world and his own life’s calling. Eventually, he received God’s calling through several occurrences as he began to withdraw himself from the usual worldly indulgences, and began to turn towards the Lord with faith.

It was told that as he passed through an abandoned chapel of San Damiano, he heard God’s calling to restore His church, which the young St. Francis took literally as a calling to repair the abandoned and ruined chapel. St. Francis quietly took some of his father’s wares and sold them to get the necessary funds to repair the chapel, but the priest in charge of the chapel refused to accept the ill-gotten money.

Nonetheless, St. Francis had to hide from his father’s anger and sought protection from the local bishop. When the father of St. Francis demanded that St. Francis returned what he had cost him, and even wanted to make him to renounce his rights to his inheritance, St. Francis surprisingly took off all the garments from his body and returned them back to his father, naked and empty as he was on the day of his birth.

From then on, St. Francis of Assisi embraced fully his faith in God and lived his life as a penitent in Assisi, eventually gathering like-minded men to begin the foundations of what would eventually known as the Order of the Friars Minor or better known after its founder as the Franciscan Order. Through his efforts in founding the Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi inspired countless others to follow the Lord with a renewed zeal and commitment.

St. Francis showed all of us what it means for us to focus our lives’ attention and effort on the Lord, in order for us to become His true disciples. He resisted the temptations of worldly glory, for money and possessions, for fame and for wealth, for glory and for the pleasures of the body, and instead sought for the greatest treasure that can be found in God alone. Are we able to do the same with our own lives, brothers and sisters in Christ?

It does not mean that we should abandon everything we have or sell everything we have and give them to the poor, but rather, we must resist the urge, desire and temptation to focus our lives on the wrong pursuit for more money, glory, fame and worldly things, and instead, make good use of those blessings we have received for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all reflect on this, and discern how we can better serve God through our lives from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us, and may He empower each and every one of us to become true Christians in the mould of St. Francis of Assisi, our role model in faith. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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