Saturday, 19 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the reassurance which God has given us that He is always with us, protecting us and providing for us, and for always being faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us despite our own inability to commit to that Covenant. In the Scripture passages today, we are reminded of God’s promises to us which He had made from time immemorial and renewed again and again.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s promise to Abraham, the Covenant which He had sealed and made with the father of many nations and our father in faith. Abraham was then without a child although he and his wife were already old and Sarah, his wife past childbearing age, and he had relegated his hopes to have his estates and patrimony passed on to one of his own trusted servants rather than to the heir of his body.

But Abraham trusted in God just as he trusted Him and listened to Him when He called him out of the lands of his ancestors in Ur, Mesopotamia. When God first called Abraham, Abraham entrusted himself in the Lord and left behind family and land, following God to the land which He had promised to him and his descendants, a land which He has blessed Abraham with. And Abraham stayed faithful to the end, devoting himself to God and God fulfilled the promise which He has made with him.

We have seen how God made Abraham to be the father of many nations, blessing the descendants he has gained from the grace of God. What seemed to be impossible for man, God has made possible, for indeed there is nothing that is impossible or too great for God to do. And through his faith, Abraham gained what he has been promised, for God is ever faithful, and even when His people were unfaithful, God is always ever faithful, for according to St. Paul, He cannot deny Himself and the love He has for us all.

And in the Gospel today the Lord again reiterated His faithfulness to the Covenant which He had made with His people, and as long as they are faithful to Him, they will not be disappointed and they will receive what God has promised to them as Abraham had once received. But at the same time, God wants us all to know that just as Abraham did not have it easy through his many years of following and obeying Him, we too will encounter difficulties and challenges along the way.

This was a premonition of what the disciples and the Apostles would have to face as they were sent on their missions to be witnesses of Christ’s truth and salvation. They would face bitter persecutions and challenges during their ministry, being arrested, tortured and rejected by the people they ministered to, and even betrayed and abandoned by those who were close to them, their own families and friends.

But they held on fast to their faith, as Abraham once had, and spent their energy and strength to serve the Lord wholeheartedly despite all those challenges. And today, we have yet more of these holy predecessors of ours, whose lives have been exemplary and whose actions and deeds can become our inspiration as well, as we look upon the examples of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, the Jesuit missionaries of North America as well as St. Paul of the Cross.

The Jesuit missionaries of North America, St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brebeuf and their companions were those who braved the tough challenges of evangelisation in distant lands in the wild and untamed nature of the North American continent, in what is now part of Canada in Quebec. They preached the word of God and His salvation to the natives, many of whom were reluctant and apprehensive of the message of the Gospel they received.

They had to endure bitter cold winters, wild animals and shortages of food, attacks from hostile tribes and torture from those who were captured by those hostile to the missionaries. And yet, they refused to back down and remained strong in their faith and in their strong resolution to serve God. Many of them were martyred but their efforts and their inspiration served to strengthen the faith of many and made firm the foundations of the Church in those lands.

Meanwhile St. Paul of the Cross was a mystic and the founder of the Passionist Order, renowned for his great piety and personal austere lifestyle, through which he inspired many people to live their lives with greater faith and commitment to God. His extensive writings and works became source of strength and conviction for many of those who followed in his footsteps through the centuries since. He showed us all how one can live his life so focused and centred on God and obey His will so well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of our courageous and dedicated, faithful and committed predecessors in faith? Let us all make a new resolution in our lives that from now on we will be ever deeper in our commitment to God and in being ever closer to God. Let us all put our trust in God and be faithful to His Covenant and remember the great love and faithfulness He has always shown us despite our rebelliousness and stubbornness all these while. May God bless us all and be with us always. Amen.

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