Thursday, 9 September 2021 : 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, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to be genuine Christians in all things, in our every actions and dealings, in even the smallest things we say and do, so that we will always be the Lord’s faithful witnesses and that by our every words, actions and deeds we may glorify His Name and inspire many others to follow the path that we ourselves are walking down towards the salvation in God.

As Christians, we are all called to be filled with God’s love and to be loving as the Lord Himself has loved us, just as the Apostle St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Colossae, in our first reading today. In that passage, we heard St. Paul encouraging the faithful to ‘clothe themselves’ in the raiments of God’s truth and virtues, to follow the Lord wholeheartedly in all things, to be filled with compassion and love for all, and to be righteous and just in all of their way of life.

Essentially, to be Christians, we have to adopt a total conversion of our hearts and minds, of our whole being and our entire way of life, embracing God and His love, and to immerse ourselves in that love, taking that up to be our own love, and our own compassionate care and concern for others whom we encounter in life and throughout our ministry and calling in this world. St. Paul asked the faithful to do everything for the glory of God, and to allow the Lord to lead them to the right path, that they may be the inspiring examples for one another, in how they remain faithful to God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding how each and every one of them ought to learn how to love one another as Christians, in the most Christ-like way, and in reaching out in love even to all those who have not loved us, and be kind and compassionate even to those who have rejected us and made us to suffer. He has revealed to us that as Christians we ought to love unconditionally, and to show that same genuine love for all of those who need them.

He told the people that loving only those who love us back, is something that even the wicked could easily do, as this kind of love is often found in a transactional and even selfish kind of love, as we desire to be loved back in the same or even greater way than how we have loved others. In that way, our love is not yet one of genuine Christian love, for we love only because we expect something in return, and not truly because we are really moved to love those who have nothing to give back to us, and has nothing to benefit us with.

That is why, as the Lord had Himself said, that true and genuine Christian love, is about a selfless and unconditional love that is rooted in giving and not in expecting returns, in the sharing of oneself and one’s joy and love, to everyone regardless of their background and origins, regardless of their status and preferences. And the best example of this kind of love is none other than the Lord’s own loving example, as He laid down His own life on the Cross for each and every one of us.

When He told the people about giving one’s cheek and offering it to be struck when one has been struck in the face, and praying for and blessing those who have cursed and made us hurt, forgiving those who have brought pain upon us, it is a reminder of how the Lord Himself was bruised and broken during the time of His Passion, as He was whipped and tortured, humiliated and spat against, ridiculed and rejected by the people and their leaders, condemned to death like a criminal and put to bear the burden of the Cross, which He willingly took up for our sake.

The Lord took it all with love, with compassion and mercy, for all those who have wronged Him, abandoned Him and rejected Him. Yes, and that was why He even prayed for all those chief priests and those who have persecuted Him and condemned Him to His death. He prayed for their sake and asked the Father not to hold their sins against them, essentially seeking all of them to be forgiven, and to be reconciled with God, that they might be willing to listen to the truth, despite all that they had done.

The Lord’s self-giving and most selfless love is a great example and He Himself is the great and perfect role model for all of us, in doing what we should do as dedicated Christians, filled with God’s love and compassionate care for others. We are all in fact challenged to love in the same manner as the Lord, and we are all called to be sincere in loving others, and be less self-centred and selfish in our attitudes. Instead, we are all called to do our best to love God first and foremost, and then to love one another just at least as much as we love ourselves.

Certainly, this is something that is much more easily said than done. That is why, we should encourage each other to pick up these crosses of our callings, to be true and faithful disciples of Our Lord, in all things especially in loving one another. And today, we should also be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Peter Claver, whose feast day we are celebrating on this very day. St. Peter Claver was a truly dedicated servant of God and a great missionary and priest, who spent much of his life in seeking for the betterment of the poor and the marginalised, and whose works and efforts saw the conversion of not just few, but hundreds of thousands of unbelievers into the true Faith.

St. Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary who decided to dedicate himself to the mission of the Church and the works of evangelisation, setting for the New World, the American continent, where he dwelled ever since, where he spent many decades working among the poor and the slaves who were aplenty at that time, as they were treated badly and sold to the highest bidder from time to time, treated often less than human beings and having no rights on their own. St. Peter Claver championed their cause and ministered to many of them, an effort which eventually led to more than three hundred thousand people baptised personally by St. Peter Claver throughout his ministry.

St. Peter Claver always treated the slaves with dignity and saw in them as fellow Christians, loving them and caring for them when no one else would love them or even treated them inhumanely. St. Peter Claver dedicated his time and efforts, and through all of those, showed us all truly what true and genuine Christian love is all about, which we ourselves should be inspired to follow and emulate in our own lives. Are we willing and able to do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to love one another unconditionally and be as selfless as St. Peter Claver had been?

Let us all discern these things carefully and ponder on the calling that the Lord has given us all, to be loving Christians and to be dedicated to our fellow brothers and sisters, especially to those who are in need of our love, care and compassion. Let us all grow ever more generous in loving and in forgiving one another our faults, and let us be ever more sincere in how we live our lives with true Christian spirit and love. May God bless us always in our every good endeavours and works, now and always. Amen.

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