Monday, 1 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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 presented with the words of God’s truth and the sufferings that we may have to face as those who faithfully follow and obey God. We are all reminded that the Lord is always and will always be with us, but often we may have to endure difficulties and challenges along the way if we are to follow Him. God shall provide what we need, and if we trust in Him and believe in His providence then in the end, we shall be triumphant with Him, and will share in the glory that He has promised to all of us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah of the clash and competition between that of Jeremiah and Hananiah, one of the false prophets in the court of the king of Judah. Before the assembly of the people of Judah, Hananiah proclaimed that God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon which the latter had imposed on them, and that God would return everything that the people had lost, a happy resolution of their then predicament. Back then, the kingdom of Judah was in its last days, threatened from all sides, and especially from the forces of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah was the only one who had consistently and persistently spoke the truth of God, reminding the people of the upcoming calamity and destruction, as the sins and disobedience of the people had led them into that fate. Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed and conquered, and the people would be exiled to Babylon, just as the prophets before Jeremiah had foretold, and which Jeremiah himself had also spoken of. But that did not mean that God did not love His people. Rather, they still had to suffer the just consequences of their own choices and actions, in persistently and continuously disobeying God and living wickedly for so long.

Hananiah was not speaking the truth when he was speaking about what would happen to the kingdom and people of Judah. He was pandering to the popular sentiments and desires, and like that of the many other so-called false prophets and officials, they all tried to please the king and the people as naturally nobody liked to hear any bad or negative news or prophecies. Historically, there was also pressure by those people to push the king and the people to side with the Egyptians in the regional power struggle between Egypt and Babylonia, in which the people and kingdom of Judah were caught right in the middle of.

That was why Jeremiah was sidelined, ostracised and persecuted against as most of the officials and the people favoured siding with the Egyptians in their struggles against Babylon, instead of listening to God and repenting from their sinful ways. They trusted more in man’s ways and worldly means to resolve their problems and troubles. They deluded themselves into thinking that they could do anything they want, and that they could imagine life and everything the way they wanted it to be, and not heeding the Lord’s words and reminders, His constant calling and persistent desire to be reunited and reconciled with His people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord’s famous miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of other women and children with merely just five loaves of bread and two fishes. In that occasion, the Lord showed His great providence and love for His people, caring for the needs of those who had chosen to follow Him and devoted themselves to Him, and who had become hungry after following Him. He also wanted to highlight to us that despite our many infidelities and lack of faith in Him, our constant rebelliousness and disobedience, but He has always cared for us and for our well-being.

The Lord fed His people with His own hands, and gave them sustenance both in physical and spiritual manner, strengthening them with miraculously multiplied loaves of bread and fishes, as well as with the words of His wisdom and truth. He calls on us all to follow Him, the Bread of Life and the Hope of all mankind, so that we do not delude ourselves anymore with false expectations and temptations of the world, but instead, turn towards the Lord, our Saviour and King, with full and genuine faith. All of us are called to return towards the Lord and to trust in Him once again, rather than to allow ourselves to be deluded and swayed by worldly temptations and concerns.

Today, all of us should be inspired by the examples of faith and dedication which our holy predecessors had shown us, the saints, the holy men and women of God, and especially that of St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Alphonsus Liguori was the famous founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as the Redemptorist Order. He was a committed bishop and loving shepherd to his flock and community, who dedicated himself to his mission which he later on shared with his Redemptorist Order, to go and brought the truth of Christ and to teach this to the people, guiding them amidst the heretical teachings and ideas that were rampant at that time.

Much as the prophet Jeremiah had laboured against those who brought about false prophecies and messages in the kingdom of Judah, St. Alphonsus Liguori and his fellow Redemptorists spent a lot of effort in reaching out to the people of God, especially those who have been falling off the path towards God’s redemption, with the particular focus towards the marginalised and all those who had no means to reach out to God and His salvation. The charism and the efforts of the Redemptorists were focused in particular towards revealing God’s most wonderful redemption and His mercy to all His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having been reminded of God’s ever patient love and His great mercy and compassion towards us, let us all therefore renew our commitment to Him. Let us all draw ever closer to God and seek Him with ever greater conviction and love from now on. May God be with us always and may He bless us always with His love. Amen.

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