Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the message from the Sacred Scriptures in which we are again reminded to abandon sin and evil, to turn away from the path of disobedience and instead embrace God’s path. We heard how our predecessors had refused to listen to the Lord and His messengers, the prophets, and instead succumbed to temptation that led them to sin more and more against God.

In our first reading today we heard of the prophet Jeremiah, continuing from the narrative of the previous few days, as he was accused of fear-mongering and even treason for his words, which was in truth the words of the Lord Himself warning that unless the people all changed their way of life, reject sin and evil, be reconciled with God, they would suffer the consequences, which included the destruction of their nation and city, the desecration of the Temple and House of God.

But the people accused him of slandering and treason against the king, nation and the people and refused to listen to the words of the Lord. Yet, as we heard in today’s first readings, just as Jeremiah left himself and his fate at the hands of those who were up against him, speaking that he had spoken whatever the Lord had commanded him to say and presented his case to them, there were still some of those who took Jeremiah’s side and protected him from harm’s way.

Although this saved Jeremiah from death, but in the end, this did not change the fate of the kingdom of Judah and the people, who were crushed by the Babylonians, had their city and Temple destroyed, and most of them sent to decades of exile in Mesopotamia and Babylon. And the words of Jeremiah was therefore proven to be correct, and it was unfortunate that the people had been stubborn and allowed themselves to be affected by their ego and pride in refusing to believe him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard about the story of king Herod of Galilee, who was admonished by St. John the Baptist for his wicked and adulterous behaviour with his own brother’s wife, Herodias, while his brother was likely still alive. This immoral action constituted adultery and grave sin, and as a king and ruler of the people, all the more it was unbecoming for the king to have committed such a sin.

Instead of listening to the words of wisdom and truth from St. John the Baptist, reflecting and correcting his way, king Herod chose to arrest and imprison the man of God, and later on, by the plotting of Herodias who despised the saint for his opposition to her adultery, Herod ended up being forced to execute St. John the Baptist by beheading, and therefore, the innocent blood of the saint stained his hands and those who have plotted against him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore all of us are reminded that we need to look at our lives and how we have acted thus far. Have we been following God and His ways, listening to Him and obeying His precepts and laws? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the temptations of power and glory, of pride and greed, of material wealth and worldly matters? Have we been blinded by our obsession with all these things that we have lost our way like the people of Israel of old and also king Herod?

That is why today, as we reflect on these matters, we should also look up at the examples shown by our saint whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known better as the Redemptorists, was a truly holy man and a role model that we can emulate in our own lives. St. Alphonsus Liguori was remembered for his great piety and dedication to serve the people of God.

At that time, St. Alphonsus Liguori dedicated much of his time serving the poor and the needy in his community, as a priest caring for the spiritual needs of the people, being engaged and in touch with their plight and troubles. He was notable for his simple and yet effective homilies, his courageous and loving outreach to those under his care and the people in his community. St. Alphonsus encouraged the people to spend more quality time with God, caring for their spiritual needs and organising prayers and activities to support that. Many people converted and became more active again in living their faith through his efforts.

And eventually St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorists as a religious order, gathering people with like-minded intention to follow his drive to seek the lost souls and all those who have been distanced away from God. The emphasis on the loving Most Holy Redeemer, the call for repentance and conversion is the cornerstone of the Redemptorist order charism and work. Over the many years, St. Alphonsus Liguori, his followers and many other Redemptorists touched countless people that they brought back from the brink of damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, to devote our time and effort to serve the Lord and to inspire more and more people to be faithful to God in all of their ways. The Lord has given us all His love and He has always been patient with us all these while, but we are the ones who have often ignored Him and rejected His efforts in reaching out to us.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Alphonsus Liguori, opening our hearts and minds and allowing God to lead us that through our lives, sanctified and blessed by His love, we may be inspiration for others just as how St. Alphonsus Liguori inspired many people to turn back to faith instead of being stubborn like that of the Israelites and king Herod. May the Lord bless us all in our every endeavours and good work, now and always. And may St. Alphonsus Liguori intercede for us sinners. Amen.

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