Tuesday, 24 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures, all of us are called to remember that what is important for us all as Christians, is to obey the Lord, our God, and to do whatever it is that He has revealed and taught to us. The Law and the commandments which He has shown and revealed to us through His Son, and which has been passed down through His Church, are all that we are expected to follow and obey, as the basic and fundamental part of being a follower of Christ and as the servants and the people of God’s Light and Truth. If we claim to be Christians and yet totally contrary in how we live our lives and in how we act, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers, who do not truly believe in what the Lord had taught and revealed to us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews, of the author telling his intended audience, that is the Jewish converts to the Christian faith, as well as to the rest of the Jewish community, that the Lord Jesus as the Messiah or the Saviour of the whole world has redeemed all of them, all of mankind, by His suffering and death on the Cross. By the Lord’s offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood on His Cross, the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, the Lord Jesus Himself has given us all the most perfect gift of love from God, and by acting as our High Priest, He delivered us all from the destruction that we should have suffered and deserved because of our disobedience and sins against God. Through His offering, once and for all He had liberated all of mankind from the tyranny of sin and assured for them the reward of eternal life, should they remain true and faithful to Him.

The author also pointed out that the regular and constant offerings and sacrifices carried out at the Temple in Jerusalem were therefore no longer needed or relevant, as the Lord’s sacrifice has assured and won for everyone the forgiveness and absolutions for all of their innumerable sins, from the most distant past to the present, and to the distant future and to the end of time. His offering of Himself as the Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb is sufficient and worthy to redeem all of us from our many sins and reconcile us to our most loving God and Father. There was (and is) therefore no further need to have the regular and constant sacrifices offered by the priests and the High Priests as the Lord Himself has redeemed us by His one and only singular sacrifice on His Cross that transcends all time and boundaries, reaching out to all of us.

Then some of those who did not understand our practices and faith might then accuse us, as it had happened and is happening even now, that our Catholic and Christian faith is not following the Law and commandments of God because in the celebration of the Holy Mass is described as a sacrifice, that is the ‘Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’. But that is exactly what the Holy Mass is, it is the very same sacrifice of the Lord, the Bloody sacrifice that He performed at Calvary, transcending time and space, which is then commemorated, marked and remembered again and again at every single celebration of the Holy Mass. However, contrary to the mistaken beliefs of those who misunderstood our faith, each celebration of the Holy Mass does not constitute a new sacrifice that the priest performs again and again.

This is therefore unlike that of the priests and the High Priests performing the sacrifices using the Law of God according to Moses, following the rituals and practices that came before the Lord and His revelations, and especially before His great sacrifice on His Cross. Those priests in the past needed to continue offering sacrifices back then because the offering of the blood of animals and the animals themselves, although physically supposed to be unblemished, but those offerings pale in comparison to the offering that the Lord Himself had made on our behalf, as He offered no less than Himself, His whole Being, His Most Precious Body and Blood, being broken for us and being poured upon us, from His Cross, for the salvation of all mankind, all without exception.

Our priests and bishops all acted ‘in persona Christi’ as they entered into the most solemn moments of the Consecration and the Eucharist during the Holy Mass, turning the bread and wine that were brought to the Altar into the reality, essence, and true nature of the Most Precious Body and the Most Precious Blood of the Lord. This means that while physically in appearance it seems that nothing has changed to the bread and wine consecrated to be the Most Holy Eucharist, but the truth is that in all levels of reality, in physical nature, essence, spiritual nature and more, the bread has been turned into the Lord’s own Most Precious Body, while the wine has been turned into the Lord’s own Most Precious Blood. And this belief exists at the very core and foundation of our Christian faith, without which we truly cannot call ourselves as Christians, or as the believers of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we are reminded of this core tenet of our faith today, we are also reminded through the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews and from the Lord Himself in our Gospel passage today that, what the Lord truly wants from each and every one of us is obedience, for us to listen to the Lord and to follow His will, to follow where He has been calling and leading us towards, and to be humble in all time and opportunities so that we may truly be able to appreciate just how blessed and fortunate we have been that our Lord and most loving God has continuously reached out to us and patiently endured our often stubborn attitudes and refusal to listen to Him. He still patiently called out to us and reached out to us regardless, giving us time and opportunities, again and again, just so that we may find our way back to Him.

Today, all of us should follow the examples of one great saint whose faith and dedication to the Lord can become a great source of inspiration for us to be more faithful ourselves in living our lives as Christians. St. Francis de Sales was the famous inspiration behind the later foundation of the Salesian order, and he was also a pious and devoted man of God, as a bishop and shepherd to his flock. He was always referring to God as ‘God is Love’ and was convinced that God’s Love for us was so great, which drove him to continue carrying out more missions and works for the sake of the people of God. He became a priest and missionary in opposition to his family’s insistence that he took up secular role, having been born into privileged, rich and powerful family at that time. He chose to serve the Lord rather than indulging in his or his family’s own desires.

St. Francis de Sales dedicated himself to his mission, ministering even to the hard-heartened and stubborn heretics who initially refused to listen to him and even accused him to be a sorcerer. When he was appointed as bishop, he continued to serve the people entrusted to his care with great humility, devotion and love both for the Lord and for the people. He preached with great zeal and sincerity, and with great love and compassion, which touched quite a lot among the people, who were either led closer to conversion and reconciliation with God, or drawn away from heretical teachings or being strengthened and affirmed in their faith thanks to the hard work and dedication of St. Francis de Sales. The commitment and love which St. Francis de Sales had for the Lord is something that should inspire us all to do the same as well in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to be more faithful to God just as St. Francis de Sales and many other saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. Let us all do our best in our daily lives and at every moments to listen to the Lord’s call and His will, and be humble in obeying all that He had told and asked us to do. May all of us be ever more obedient and committed in our faith, and draw ever closer to the Lord and His path. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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