Wednesday, 26 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded of the need for us to follow the Lord sincerely and wholeheartedly, because we love Him and want to follow Him and obey His Law, and not because we want anything good or any benefit for ourselves. We are reminded that our faith should not be a transactional faith or faith that is caused by our desire for any reward or satisfaction. Rather, we must truly be faithful, even when there seems to be nothing for us.

The Lord shows us all through the Gospel that we have just heard today, that following Him and walking in His path often mean encountering trials and difficulties, challenges and obstacles, just as much as the Lord Himself had to suffer and to endure the worst of persecution, humiliation and ridicule, the worst of pain and burden, as He was betrayed by His own disciple, arrested and condemned to death, rejected by His own people and made to endure the burden of the Cross, which He willingly took up for the redemption of all.

And this is what He told His disciples back then, before He was to endure all of these, so that they would realise what it truly means to become the followers of His, and what it means to be faithful to God. This is because back then, just any other people in any organisations or groups, the disciples joined for various reasons and certainly not few among them joined because they wanted to benefit and gain favour with the Lord, Whom many of them saw as the Messiah that in their perspective and understanding would be the One to free them from the rule and tyranny of foreigners and restore the kingdom of Israel.

That was why when the Lord began telling the truth about His mission, like when He revealed Himself as the Bread of Life, the Paschal Lamb to be slaughtered for the salvation of all, many of His followers could not take or accept the truth, and many left Him. More left Him because they could not get what they wanted or could not see glory or fame for themselves if they continued on following the Lord. And yet some others left and abandoned Him because they were afraid of the opposition and trials that they had to endure if they remained a follower of the Lord.

Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord likely because he was tempted by money and opportunity to gain from that betrayal, and while his exact reason may not be known, it was likely that the less-than-righteous and less-than-noble reasons led to his betrayal. The other disciples bickered and disagreed amongst themselves on who was the most important and preeminent among them, and as we heard, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, tried to gain favour and advantage over the other disciples, seeing that they were often close to the Lord and entrusted by Him to many exclusive occasions when only them and St. Peter accompanied Him to some of His missions and miracles.

The Lord then told all of them that to be His followers, they had to endure many things, and to drink the same cup that He was to drink, referring to the cup of suffering that He would be drinking at the moment of His Passion, suffering and death throughout the journey of the Way of the Cross right up to the Cross at Calvary. To be His disciples, it is not about earthly or worldly glory, fame or renown, power or influence, and indeed, it is not about oneself and about our own selfish desires.

On the contrary, to be Christians, we are all called to be centred on God, to be selfless and loving, dedicated and committed, and often we are called to make sacrifices and to give up things that we may enjoy for ourselves. This is what the Lord had spoken about in all of our Scripture passages today. He reminds us to offer ourselves, our heart and our whole being to Him, in following Him, and the best example for us, is none other than the Lord Himself, the Son of Man, Who emptied Himself completely, and took up the Cross in perfect obedience to His Father’s will.

Today we also have another role model, St. Philip Neri, whose feast day we celebrate, and who can be a great inspiration for us how we live our own lives as Christians. St. Philip Neri was an Italian priest who was remembered for his tireless and long time ministry among the people of Rome, so much so that he was known as the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’, and then also for his founding of the Congregation of the Oratory, a community made of the secular clergy and other faithful dedicated to the Lord to a life of sanctity and prayer.

St. Philip Neri was also well known for his Forty Hours Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, which he constantly promoted and tried to popularise among the faithful. Over time, more and more people came to know of the Forty Hours Devotion, and they came to commit themselves anew to the Lord through the devotion, and became stronger in their faith. The great piety and sincere dedication showed by St. Philip Neri became the foundation of so many good works of the Oratorians across the ages, as they were all inspired by the commitment and the energy that St. Philip Neri devoted to serving God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have been reminded of what it means to be true disciples of the Lord, we are all brought to remember the things we should be doing in giving ourselves to the Lord, in following His Law and commandments, to offer our whole selves and hearts, our whole strength for His greater glory. This is what we are all called to do, as one who believes in God, as a true believer, that we truly offer ourselves, not just merely paying lip service but with our whole conscious efforts and commitment, from now on.

Let us all therefore walk in the path that the Lord has shown before us, faithfully devoting ourselves just as St. Philip Neri and the many other saints, our holy predecessors in faith had done. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of worldly glory, power, fame and ambition, and resist them with faith. May God be with us all and may He strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.

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