Wednesday, 9 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures in which we are all reminded to have faith in the Lord and to trust in Him, believing in all that He has done for us and shown us. We must be strong in faith and do not waver amidst the trials and challenges, the many temptations we may be facing in this world. And through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, we have to believe in the Lord and turn towards Him with heart full of love and contrition especially during this time and season of Lent.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jonah in which we heard of the moment when the Lord sent His servant Jonah to the city and the people of Nineveh, then the great capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. Contextually and historically, as the Assyrians had conquered numerous nations and peoples, they were a very proud people and nation, and their glory and power unparalleled. Yet, they had also committed great atrocities and sin before God, and the Lord sent Jonah to them to warn them of this and the retribution that they were to face.

Immediately upon hearing the news of the revelation of their impending destruction, the king and the whole entire people of Nineveh believed in the Lord and in His words, and they immediately humbled themselves before the Lord, went into mourning and contrition, dressed in sackcloth and regretting all the sins which they had committed before God and men alike. And seeing the actions and the sincerity of the people of Nineveh in believing in Him and in repenting from their sinful ways, God spared Nineveh from destruction.

From what we have heard, the Lord truly loves His people, all without exception. He loves all, including even those who have sinned against Him. No sinner, no matter how great, can be excluded from God’s love. They all still enjoy God’s love as always, which is even more powerful than our sins. Unfortunately, it was our own rejection of God’s love and mercy, generously given and offered to us, which had kept us in the state of sin. Many of us proudly stood by our own actions and refused to admit our faults and sins, as contrasted with the attitudes of the people of Nineveh we have heard just earlier on.

That was exactly the attitude showed by the people of Jesus’ time, especially by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law during the time when they demanded to see signs from Him. This was the context of what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as many among the people still refused to believe in the Lord and His works, despite having themselves witnessed in person all the wonders, miracles and hearing the great wisdom with which the Lord had spoken His teachings and parables, all of which clearly indicated and showed that He was the One sent into the world to be its Saviour.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of Jonah and what the Lord had done through him, as compared to what He had Himself done as He came into the midst of His people. While the people of Nineveh, a pagan people who had no obligations and ties to God whatsoever even believed in Him and in His prophet when he came to their midst, the contrast between those people of Nineveh and those who were supposedly the descendants of the Israelites was really stark, as the latter, who ought to have been faithful to the Lord had faltered in their faith and refused to see and believe in His truth.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words of the Lord we are all reminded this Lent to be more dedicated to Him, to walk ever more faithfully in His path and presence. We are reminded to realise how we need God and His love, His compassion and mercy, and how we are all far from being perfect. Instead, all of us have often kept our pride and ego, our greed and desires, keeping ourselves separated from God and remaining in the state of sin as we have always been thus far. The Lord has called us to Him, but we have often been deaf to His call.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have the good role model and examples of St. Frances of Rome, a great and dedicated woman, a faithful servant of God, whose life and inspirations should be our encouragement to live according to God’s will. St. Frances of Rome was born to a rich noble family and wanted to be a nun at an early age, but she was for ed to marry and although she did have a happy marriage, she remained committed to her desire to love the Lord and to serve Him, through her love for her fellow brethren, her fellow brothers and sisters.

She often visited the poor and the sick, and she has often showed compassion, love and care for those who needed it. She cared for the many of the sick, the poor and the less fortunate in her community, just as much as she also loved her husband, children and family. She led a holy and devout life, full of faith and contemplation, of chastity and righteousness. St. Frances founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary as a confraternity of women dedicated to serve the Lord, among her many other contributions to the Church and the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, and all of us should seek Him wholeheartedly and turn towards Him with great faith, and devote ourselves much as how St. Frances of Rome and many of our other holy predecessors had done. Let us all follow the Lord and spend all of our efforts to walk in His presence, glorifying Him and loving Him, at each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us all and may He empower each one of us to walk with Him, especially through our Lenten observances and works, our fasting and abstinence, and our almsgiving and generosity among others. May God bless our Lenten observance and works, and be with us always. Amen.

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