Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded by God to keep up, to have hope, and to trust in Him, never to worry or to be afraid, but to be faithful because God Himself will help us and provide for us, and He will bring us out of the darkness and evil into the new life of light and joy. This is what the Lord has promised us and what He will grant us through our faith in Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord reassurance to St. Paul as he carried out his mission in the region of Greece as he visited several places carrying out works of evangelisation and preaching the Good News to the people in those places. He had encountered difficulties and challenges from both the pagans who refused to believe in him and ridiculed his revelation to them of the monotheistic faith in the one True God. Some among the pagans were receptive of the truth, but there were many who refused to believe.

In addition, St. Paul also encountered a lot of challenges and problems from the Jewish communities of the Jewish diaspora in many of the cities and towns that he had visited. Some of the Jews, like some among the pagans, were receptive of the Apostle and the message of truth that he brought to them, but many others persecuted the Apostle and the other Christian missionaries as well as the Christian converts in their midst. This was part of the conflicts among the Jewish elites who saw Christianity as an aberration and heresy because of the teachings of Jesus Who had been condemned by the Sanhedrin to death.

Amidst all of these situations, it must have seemed very daunting for St. Paul to continue with his mission, as he was often alone against so many people who were against him, were rude to him, and had his life threatened on not just once, but a few separate occasions. He could have given up and returned to safer places, but God reassured St. Paul and said that He would be with him along his journey and while he might encounter difficulties, but he would not be harmed.

In that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles we heard then the very proof of God’s providence, how God saved St. Paul from trouble when he was faced with all these oppositions and troubles. And when the governor to whom the Jews had complained about St. Paul refused to indict the Apostle based on their complaints against him, they became desperate and even plotted further by trying to incite a riot with the beating of one of the leading man of the synagogue.

Yet, God saved St. Paul and prevented harm from coming to him. The plots and efforts of all those who were against the faithful servants of God could not stop the zeal and the dedication which they showed us through their commitment and devotion. They trusted fully in the Lord because as the Lord Himself reassured them, that their pains, sorrows, sufferings and troubles were merely temporary, and in the end, they would receive the promise of eternal glory and true joy.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord reassuring His disciples using the metaphor and comparison to the woman who was about to give birth, suffering and enduring the bitter pain of the birth process, and yet, once the whole process ended, the woman would be happier and felt more wonderful with the joy that her newborn brought her, helping her to overcome all the pain and sorrow that had come earlier on. In this same way therefore, our faithful predecessors, from the days of the earliest Christians, focused their attention on the reassurances of Christ’s coming glory, enduring the challenges and trials in their path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are now living through a truly unsettling and challenging times, in the midst of great economic crises, societal instability and divisions, brought about mainly by the current pandemic, as well as the conflicts and disagreements between nations and communities among others, it must have been tough for us to remain hopeful and strong amidst all the challenges that we and our families are facing. Some of us have people we know and love who are suffering and sick, and some even had lost our loved ones, or are separated because they are our frontline healthcare workers and other essential workers.

Quite a few people had also lost their means of income and employment, losing what was once stable and certain iron rice bowl of income. Many are still unsure of their future, as although they have retained their employment, but they have faced great pay cuts and reductions, put on no-pay leave for indefinite length among others. We have many people having difficulties in seeking their first-time jobs due to the lack of demand in the job market, and many other problems that may make everything seem to be very bleak.

Yet, we must not lose hope, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must stay faithful in God and give Him our trust, for everything that we are facing now, are indeed truly temporary and will not last forever. We must keep our focus and attention on God and His sure promise of eternal joy and glory with Him, that while we may suffer and face challenges now in this world, all of these troubles and challenges combined cannot compare to the great things we are to receive later.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, one of the saints who had truly difficult life, having married into a difficult family involved in the late Medieval Italian conflicts among feuding families, which led to the murder of her husband. St. Rita of Cascia had a difficult life filled with abuse, insults and humiliation, but before her husband’s murder by a rival family, her steadfastness in faith and efforts to convert her husband bore fruit as her husband had at least become a much better person by the time of his death.

And when her husband’s greater family wanted her sons to take part in revenge action against the rival family for the murder of their father, despite St. Rita of Cascia’s efforts in keeping her sons faithful and away from the wicked activities, eventually, she prayed to God asking Him humbly to take them away from the world. It must have been very hard and painful for a mother to ask God to take her own sons away, but she did so knowing that it would be better for them to be taken away, rather than for them to commit grave sins through revenge and more, and end up in hell for eternity.

After the deaths of both of her sons due to sickness, St. Rita of Cascia became a religious and dedicated the rest of her life in prayerful service to God, living a virtuous and piety-filled life as she had done earlier on in her life. Her great and exemplary life inspired many others, and eventually made her to be venerated as a great saint many years after she has passed on. And now, all of us can also emulate her virtues and good examples in each and every one of our lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to trust in God more and focus ourselves more to Him, entrusting ourselves so completely like St. Paul as well as St. Rita of Cascia had done? There will indeed be lots of trials and pains we may have to endure in our respective journeys of life, but unless we have that firm faith in God, then it will be very easy for us to fall into despair and darkness, to give up on our lives and everything just because we lose sight on God and His love.

Let us all discern on this and spend some time reevaluating our lives, our choices of action and our direction as we progress on in our lives. Let us all be more faithful from now on, trust God more, and every importantly, deepen our relationship with Him, spending more time with Him in prayer, through charity and action, loving our fellow men and understanding more what our role is as Christians in our world today. May the Lord help us all to be strong in our faith, and may He give us the courage to go on and strive harder despite the trials and challenges we may face going forward. Amen.

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