Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the beginning of David’s reign over the whole kingdom of Israel as described in the first reading today and how he managed to conquer the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites who lived there and made it the capital of Israel. And then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the tension and conflict that happened between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who criticised Him and His works.

In our first reading today, the context of what happened was that David was finally accepted as king over all the people of Israel after for seven years, he was only the king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron. The other eleven tribes of Israel chose to side with the family of Saul after Saul was killed at the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. Ishboshet or Ishbaal, one of the surviving sons of Saul was made king over the eleven tribes and for years, division and conflict occurred between the two opposing kings.

However, God was not with Ishbaal despite him having the support of the much larger portion of Israel, as God has earlier on chosen David as His rightful king and as the rightful successor of king Saul. This is something that Saul himself had tacitly accepted and acknowledged towards the end of his reign, but the supporters of Saul probably pushed on to prevent the ascension of David as king and thus placed Ishbaal on the throne.

As God was with David, it was recounted in the passage of the Scripture that David became more powerful and beloved over time, while the support towards the house of Saul gradually declined. Eventually Ishbaal was killed by two of his own captains, and the whole community of Israel eventually agreed to overcome their disagreements and chose David to be the rightful king and ruler over all of them.

This part here will be very important as we should then link it to what we have heard in our Gospel passage just now, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus publicly as they deemed that His miraculous powers and works were nothing else but the works of the evil spirits, done in collaboration with Beelzebul, one of the chief princes of demons.

The Lord then spoke up strongly against what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had said and thought that He has done everything by the power and in collusion with the prince of demons. He spoke of how a kingdom and nation that is divided will be destroyed and will not be able to stand, alluding to how first of all, that if the Pharisees had been right, then Beelzebul was himself divided against the other demons and evil spirits. Had that been the case, they would have all been too busy arguing, bickering and fighting among themselves to be able to threaten us.

That is as far as it was from the truth. The devil and all of his wicked forces are in fact more united than ever in trying to bring about our downfall, and that is why his favourite tactic is in fact to sow the seeds of dissension, disagreement, anger, jealousy, and all sorts of things that cause us to strike at another person. And when we are divided among ourselves, it will be easy for the devil and his fellow fallen angels and wicked spirits to come in for the kill.

Like the supporters of the house of Saul who were divided among themselves, culminating in the two trusted captains of Ishbaal who killed their own lord and king, those who are divided among themselves will be weakened and will be truly vulnerable. And unless we realise this, then the devil is really going to have a very good time at bringing about the downfall of many, many souls in this world, all those who are vulnerable to his lies and coercions.

The Lord also spoke up so strongly against those who criticised Him falsely because they have doubted the work of God among His people, which clearly and definitively could not have been the act of the forces of evil. What the Lord had done was genuinely for the good of His people, and even though the devil and his forces were very good at deceiving us with many lies and tricks, but he cannot hide his true nature, and he will not be able to show true love, compassion and genuine care for us, like what the Lord Himself had done for us.

When the Lord spoke of the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ as sin that cannot be forgiven, that is because although God is indeed loving and merciful, but to doubt and to disregard, to belittle and to blatantly make a lie against the obvious works of the Lord through His Holy Spirit, by which the Lord Jesus has performed His works and miracles, is a great sin that is borne out of voluntary and stubborn rejection of God’s constant offer of love, mercy and compassion.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were jealous and fearful of Jesus, Whom they saw as a great threat to their status, privileges and honour within the community of the people of God. They were afraid that everyone would flock to Him instead of listening to them and they then would lose everything they had gained thus far, all the honour, respect, privileges and authority they had. That was how the devil worked through them, through their words and actions, causing divisions and disagreements to enter the hearts of the people of God.

Having heard all of these, let us now then reflect on our own lives and how we have lived up to our faith thus far. Have we acted in the way those Pharisees had been, in sowing dissension, distrust and preventing God’s good works from being done for whatever reasons we have? Have we been telling lies, making gossips and doing things to create division and disagreement within our communities? Have we been doing things for our own selfish gain and desires, causing others to suffer in the process?

I am sure that all of us, in one way or another, in one part of our life or another, have erred before and fell into this trap of the devil, causing us to be divided against each other, being angry and jealous that led us into actions that cause us to be hurt, to hate and to make others suffer. And because of that, we need to heed what we have just discussed earlier on, how the devil is using this as an opportunity to bring us down. How do we then get out of this situation?

It is by putting our focus in life once again on God, meaning that in everything that we say and do, God should be at the heart of everything. If God is the focus of our life, the likelihood for us to be tempted or misled by the devil will be less, and through God, if we allow Him to help us and transform our lives, our strong relationship will keep us firmly rooted in Him no matter what obstacles the devil and his allies are always trying to put in our path forward in life.

Today, we can also heed the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Angela Merici, a holy virgin who dedicated her life to God and who had a difficult life in her youth, being orphaned at the age of fifteen and having to lose her sister who passed away in her teenage years. She was noted to be very beautiful, and many men wanted to suit her, so St. Angela Merici purposefully dyed her hair with soot to detract her suitors as she wanted to devote herself to God completely.

She gathered like-minded women who then called themselves as the Company of St. Ursula, which eventually would become the modern religious order of the Ursulines. St. Angela Merici inspired the growing group to consecrate themselves to God and to serve Him by devoting their time and attention to the needs of those in the community, particularly in the area of education of girls. St. Angela Merici kept her faith and dedication to God and did not allow herself to be tempted by worldly desires, as we heard earlier how she voluntarily give up her physical attractiveness to devote herself totally to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in God and put Him once again at the very centre of our existence and trust Him with all of our heart as St. Angela Merici and also king David had done. Let us not be distracted and be divided anymore by the machinations of the evil one, and resist him and all of his lies from now on. May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Angela Merici, give us the strength and courage to be ever more faithful to God, at all times. Amen.

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