Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the Scripture passages we received today, some of us might have some questions and we wonder why for example St. Paul spoke of how it seemed that the end of the world and the time of judgment and the Lord’s coming was at hand, and also what the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, in His series of the Eight Beatitudes, blessings to those who have done what the Lord wanted them to do.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians and the Church there, a reminder for all the faithful to remain faithful, to keep the commandments of God, to remain virtuous and good in all things and not be tempted by their worldly desires and other things that can lead them down the path of sin. St. Paul exhorted them to do all these in light of the earlier discourses for the past week from this same Epistle, with regards to the increasingly lax morality and discipline among the faithful.

Thus, as we heard the seemingly strange words from St. Paul, we are reminded that in the context of what he intended for the people, that is to turn away from their sinful ways and increasingly corrupt ways, he reminded them how the Lord Jesus Himself did say that the time of His coming and the time of Judgment and reckoning will come to a surprise to everyone, as no one would have expected the Lord’s moment of truth when it comes.

This, coupled with the general belief among the early Christian communities that the Lord would indeed come again soon, perhaps within a human lifetime, generated that idea among some that it is perhaps best for people to remain chaste and free from sin, for virgins to remain pure rather than to fall into sin, to avoid things that could lead them down the slippery path into eternal suffering.

While this was indeed not accurate, as in the end, no one but God alone knows the time of His coming, but the essence of that call to holiness remains true for all of us. Do we want to allow ourselves to be controlled by sin, by the many temptations that we face in life, and which will lead us to our eventual downfall in exchange for mere momentary pleasure and joy in life? Or do we rather resist and oppose these temptations, and remain firm in faith in God?

And when the Lord spoke of His Beatitudes to His disciples and followers, He was praising those who are persevering in faith and dedicating themselves to serve the Lord with faith. But He was not in fact against or condemning the rich, powerful and mighty. Rather, through His words, He has reminded us to keep ourselves from being too attached to the many comforts we have in life, that we end up falling into immoral and wicked ways, into temptations and sin, and therefore into eternal damnation.

Today, we are called to be more disciplined in life, to be more dedicated and committed in faith, to turn towards God with ever greater faith, with each and every moment. And in doing so, we can draw inspirations from our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Peter Claver, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Peter Claver was a great priest and missionary who is remembered for his great commitment to the mission among the people he worked with in missionary area.

He was especially remembered for his care and concern for the oppressed, for people who were deprived of their livelihood and even basic human rights and respect, at a time when slavery was still rampant and prejudices among the people for those who were considered lesser races and beings were very common. St. Peter Claver laboured hard in order to oppose all these injustices he saw happening all around him, and protected and cared for the people in the best way he could.

St. Peter Claver spent a lot of time amongst the slaves to whom he ministered to over the years, doing his best to gain them their freedom and their human rights, and at least to give them better livelihood, spreading the faith to them and protecting them from injustices and harassment. He lived among them and stayed with them, and was always humble in heart, in appearance and in deed.

Through all his years of ministry, St. Peter Claver encountered plenty of opposition and challenges, but he did not allow all these from stopping or preventing him in his mission and in his love and compassionate care for the downtrodden and the oppressed. In this way, he is the epitome and example of what the Lord had mentioned in the Beatitudes, as the blessed ones who lived in accordance with the way of the Lord, and are shining beacons of hope and light amidst our darkened world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on all these and be better Christians from now on, in deeds and in faith, that we may follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Claver, in serving God with devotion and in obeying Him, in remaining good and righteous, pure and free from the taints of sin and to keep ourselves worthy at all times, that when the Lord comes again as He promised, we will be brought into eternal and true glory with Him. May God bless us always, and help us in our journey of faith. Amen.

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