Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priest or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to be faithful to God, and to believe in Him and His providence, to do His will because all of us who are faithful to Him and remain true to our commitment to Him will not be disappointed, as God knows all of our actions and dealings, and whatever we have done, our every small little actions, for the greater glory of His Name, shall be rewarded in the end.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken to His people through the prophet Joel, who was active during the years following the return of the descendants of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. To put things in context, the people of Israel had by then endured a lot of humiliations and sufferings because of their past sins, due to their stubborn refusal to follow the Lord and to believe in His words and the prophets that had been sent to them.

They had been beaten, oppressed and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Their cities and towns were destroyed, and they were forced to leave their ancestral homeland for a faraway exile in Assyria and Babylon, and seeing pagans and foreigners taking over the ownership of their lands. Their Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God was destroyed, a House which they themselves had long forgotten and abandoned for the worship of pagan gods and idols.

The Lord never forgot about His people though, and continued to love them despite of all the troubles and the betrayals they had done to Him. He loved them regardless and desired to reconcile themselves to Him, to love them once again and to extend His merciful hands to be reunited with them. He guided them and sent His prophets to them, and after many decades, gathered them back and through King Cyrus of Persia, led them back to their homeland, and allowing them to rebuild their towns and the Temple of God.

Therefore, through the prophet Joel, God wanted to remind His people to stand by His side and to remain faithful to Him so that they will no longer experience those periods of sufferings and challenges, and even if they were to suffer from difficulties and challenges, the Lord would be by their side and they would triumph together with Him, for He will come in the end to gather them all and lead them into the true joy and glory with Him, at the very end of time.

As we heard in our short Gospel passage today, we are all then reminded that in order to do this, what we all need to do is to be faithful to God and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly, by doing His will and obeying His laws and commandments. To do the will of God is the calling for us all as Christians, and we should do our very best to live a virtuous and exemplary life, to the best of our ability, so that even in the smallest things that we do, we will always remain faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us also follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors, namely St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom, as well as St. John Leonardi, faithful servants of God and saints whose feasts we are celebrating today. We should delve into their lives’ examples and be inspired with how they had led lives that were centred and focused on God, and how they had shown great faith despite the many challenges and trials they had encountered in life.

St. Denis was the Bishop of Paris during the time of the later Roman Empire, during a time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors and the state. St. Denis was sent from Rome by Pope St. Fabian, and was tasked with the evangelisation and conversion of Roman Gaul, together with several other missionaries. They encountered great challenges while having a lot of successes as well, and that time, when the Emperor Decius declared a great persecution against Christians, he and the other missionaries were arrested.

St. Denis and his companions were tortured and made to suffer for their faith in God, and they refused to give in, and finally, were led to their execution, which St. Denis suffered by beheading, together with his fellow martyrs. However, in a most miraculous and amazing occasion, St. Denis remained alive even after he was beheaded, and he picked up his head, and the head preached to the people as he walked for many kilometres, to many awed witnesses and even those who were involved in the execution. It was at the place where he stopped and finally passed into heavenly glory, that he was buried and where a great church, the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris now stands.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was an Italian priest and founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, who lived about five centuries ago. As a priest, he was remembered for his great dedication to his flock, the parishioners and the other members of the faithful whom he dedicated himself to, in the formation of young adults in the faith among other things. He also popularised the devotion of the Forty Hours and the Eucharist to the faithful, which was meant to bring them closer to God.

St. John Leonardi also worked hard to implement the many reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent, while also proposing to the Pope for the formation of a religious order that is focused on the reforms of the Church and greater discipline in faith, which eventually became a reality with the foundation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, gathering many like-minded people who seek to serve the Lord following the charism and efforts of St. John Leonardi. Through his faith and dedication, and his perseverance, in facing the challenges and opposition he had for his efforts, St. John Leonardi has shown us, just as St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom had, on how to be truly faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord and let us do our very best to follow Him, and to walk in His path, so that in everything we do, we will always glorify Him and be exemplary and inspirational in our way of life, such that many more people may come to believe in the Lord through us and our examples. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us in our journey of faith, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully from now on. Amen.

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