Tuesday, 8 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all called to pray more and to spend more time in quality moments with God, which we can achieve through that prayerful time and silence, as we come to Him with a contrite and loving heart, remembering His most generous love and compassionate mercy, all that He had done for us, all these while. The Lord has shown us His great willingness to welcome us back to His embrace and to love us once again, and we are all called to remember this love and mercy at all times.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord has shown us all the model prayer that He Himself had made, in praying to His heavenly Father, the model prayer that we all definitely know too well. The Lord’s Prayer, also known as Pater Noster or Our Father, after the very first words in that prayer is a model for all of our Christian prayers, in how we make our prayers and how we can make sure that those prayers help us in deepening our relationship with God, as they should have. Prayer is the way for us to communicate with God, to speak with God our loving Father, and to listen to His speaking in our hearts and minds.

The Lord is indeed Our Father, the One Who created us all out of love, and through Christ, His Son, Who has willingly embraced our humanity and taken up the existence in the flesh, we who share in His humanity has now therefore shared in having the Lord our God as our loving Father. And if God is our Father, then why do we hesitate to communicate with Him and spend quality time with Him? Through what He Himself had done, the Lord reminded us that we have to spend time in prayer to the Lord and pray in the right manner, and with the right disposition in our heart and mind.

First of all, prayer must first be about giving thanks to God, thanking Him for all the wonderful things that we have received, no matter how all they might have been. And least of all, we have to give Him thanks for the continued gift of life that He has blessed us with. We have to thank Him for all the opportunities that He had provided us with, all the people whom He had blessed us with, our families, friends and other loved ones. We have to thank Him for everything He blessed us with despite us having often betrayed Him for false idols in life.

Then, prayer is also about listening to God and not just wanting or even demanding God to listen to us. It is about opening our hearts, minds and our senses to allow for genuine communication between us and God. If we only want God to listen to us and we are not willing to listen to Him, then it is not a communication at all. Our prayer has instead become a litany of demands that we make to the Lord and we are forcing our will on God. How can this be, as we are only a mere creation, daring to make demands on our Lord, Master and Creator?

And then, prayer is also the means by which we also seek the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy, as we ask Him to forgive us the multitudes of our sins. It is by God’s grace alone that we can be forgiven, and we who are sinners are in need of God’s forgiveness, that we may be reconciled to Him. The Lord will forgive us our sins, as long as we have ourselves learnt to forgive each others’ sins and faults to one another, just as mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer. We humble ourselves as sinners, all needing that much needed reconciliation with God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to cultivate in us the habit of good and true prayer, prayer that is genuine from our hearts and not prayer that is merely recited without meaning or understanding. This season of Lent is a time for us to reflect deeply on ourselves and our path in life. We have to remember that we have with us now the opportunities for us to return to the Lord and reclaim our positions of honour, filled with the grace of God through our reconciliation with Him. This season of Lent is the perfect time for us to redirect our focus and attention once again at God.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of God, a holy servant of God, who dedicated his life to the works of God. He was a young man who became a soldier and later on, disillusioned with the betrayal he experienced and all other matters, he eventually followed the path of God, committed to serve the people of God. And based on his earlier experiences, his journeys in places like Africa and among enslaved Christians and other less fortunate people, he became inspired to work among the poor and the less fortunate, dedicating himself to the service of God.

St. John of God founded the religious order known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God with the emphasis and charism in caring and reaching out towards the sick, the poor and the less fortunate in the community. He dedicated his life to serve the Lord and His people and many people flocked to follow his examples and his order flourished in numbers and their works. The Lord has guided St. John of God who responded passionately to His call. And he did this to the very end, even at his own expense, when he eventually died of pneumonia after rescuing a drowning person in a cold river. He did not hesitate to jump into the river to save that person.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in St. John of God we have seen a great role model for all of us, a role model that can and should inspire us in this season of Lent, as a model of virtue and faith, and of selflessness and charity, care and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters. This is what we have been called to do this Lenten season, to draw ever closer to God through prayer and also through our charitable actions, our giving and love in almsgiving, in loving others more, in sharing more of our blessings with those who have less or none.

Let us all make great use of this ample opportunity during this blessed season of Lent to come ever closer to God. Let us all be inspired by the great examples of our predecessors, to walk in the path of Our Lord and His saints. Let us all make this Lent a truly meaningful and good one for all of us, that we may each and all come to God’s presence, and be worthy of God and His love and grace. Amen.