Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all presented with the words of the Lord calling on us to guard ourselves against all sorts of worldly temptations, and in particular today we are called to focus our attention on the sin of the flesh, the desire that we mankind often have for the pleasures of the body, which led us down the path of sin and wickedness as we are often tempted to seek for the worldly pleasures first and ignoring the Lord’s truth and teachings. That is also why many people had ended up being deep in the state of sin, as well as breaking up families and relationships.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people through Ezekiel regarding all that He had done for them, for all the years and ages, throughout all the generations. He had made His Covenant with them, blessed them and gave them and their ancestors much blessing and bounty, providence and help, as He rescued them, took good care of them, guided them, purified and made them clean again when they had erred and fallen into the wrong paths. He rescued them from their enemies and struck their enemies down before them, guarding and strengthening them, giving them glory and joy.

Yet, as we heard the Lord spoke, He showed His frustrations and lamentations at how those same people continued to be wayward, rejecting Him and His ways, choosing instead to forge their own path and committing whatever is wicked in the sight of God and men alike. They worshipped the pagan idols and gods, persecuted God’s prophets and messengers who had been sent to them to guide them and remind them to stay faithful to the truth of God. The people had chosen to trust in their own strength and judgment, turning deaf ear to the Lord’s call. Yet, the Lord was still ever patient and continued to reach out to them nonetheless.

That was what He told the people through Ezekiel, as He presented this truth to the people in exile in Babylon, reminding them that God still loved all of them regardless, and wanted to reach out to them, embracing them with love and forgiving them their sins. He would renew His Covenant with them, which He had always ever been faithful to, all those years, if only the people were willing to listen to Him, hearken to His call and answer Him with faith. The Lord has always been generous with His love, compassion and mercy, and in the end it is really up to those people to embrace what God had generously given and presented to them.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord speaking to the Pharisees with regards to their question whether divorce was lawful or not according to the Law and whether it should be allowed or not. The Lord then highlighted the fact that the Law of God as revealed through Moses had been modified and changed according to the preferences of the people, as even Moses himself was scandalised by the behaviour of the Israelites back then, who hardened their hearts against God and gave them some concessions so as to help them accept the Law of God better, but those concessions ended up making them even more complacent and in the end, misunderstanding the whole purpose and intention of the Law.

And as today we focus on the matter of familial relationship, marriage and also obedience to God, we are all reminded how God had always intended for us to do His will, and each one of us as the Lord highlighted in His words, had our own particular calling and vocation in life. For those who have been called to married life, that bond of marriage as the Lord had defined it, is everlasting and unbreakable, and one who sought to break that bond with the reason other than that is acceptable, such as the desire to marry another person, is essentially committing a sin against God, the sin of adultery for both parties involved.

The Lord highlighted that there are also others called to different calling and purposes in life, such as those who are destined for a life of service to God, and many among them will remain unmarried, and instead dedicating themselves wholly to God and His people. What is important here is that, whatever it is that God has called us to do, in our various vocation and calling in life, each one of us are called to listen to God and to dedicate ourselves more to Him, and to listen to Him earnestly, not hardening our hearts and minds against Him as our predecessors had often done. We should also resist the many temptations present all around us, in the desire and pressure to seek worldly pleasures and satisfaction among other things.

Today, all of us should be inspired by the examples shown by St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was once a mother to several children and was widowed in early age due to her husband’s unfortunate early death, and she dedicated herself to God from then on through charitable works and missions, and she was inspired through an encounter with another saint, St. Francis de Sales. She eventually founded a religious congregation known as the Congregation or Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. All its members are called to live the charism and works of its founder, St. Jane Frances de Chantal who desired to care for the needy and the less fortunate in the community, and they were remembered as the sisters who spent more of their time in mission than cloistered in a monastery.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Jane Frances de Chantal and surely many other saints, holy men and women of God had shown us by their own lives, their dedication and commitment to God, we are all reminded and called to do our best in whatever capacity and opportunity we have been presented with by God, and to be exemplary and source of inspiration ourselves to our fellow brethren, in how we live our lives and in how we seek the Lord with faith, in each and every moments of our daily living. May God be with us all and may He strengthen each one of us with the resolve to live ever more courageously in His path. Amen.

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