Wednesday, 8 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us have been made good and perfect by God, and all of His Creation have also been good and wonderful, full of His grace and love, as all of His created things and beings are filled with goodness and His love for each one of us. However, it was because of our refusal to obey Him or listen to Him and His words that we have fallen into the path of sin. Due to our inability to resist the temptations of evil and worldly desires, and inability to restrain our pride and ego, we have ended up falling into the ever deeper trap of sinfulness and wickedness, and we end up slipping ever further down the slippery path towards damnation. Unless we then make a conscious effort to resist those temptations, how can we be ever more committed as Christ’s followers and disciples?

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Genesis the story of the moment when God created our ancestors, the first Man, Adam, from dust of the Earth, in the Gardens of Eden, and later on shortly, the first Woman, Eve, from Adam’s own flesh and bone. Mankind were created in the very image of God Himself, and was the pinnacle of all of His Creation, made in His own likeness and filled with all graces and blessings. We heard how God was happy with everything He had created and how everything were good and perfect, filled with the great bliss of heavenly joy, and that is what we have always been intended to enjoy, from the very beginning, to be with God and to live forevermore in His loving presence, in the wonderful Eden, paradise that He has prepared for us, and that was what God has always intended for us all.

Yet, our ancestors chose to disobey Him, and to listen to the lies and falsehoods of Satan who disguised himself as a snake, tempting Adam and Eve with the false promises that if they were to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then they would become like God, in knowing everything and in understanding everything. Thus, that was how we ended up falling into sin, as sin came forth from disobedience, from our refusal to listen to God, and from the malice that sprang forth from within us, from the pride and ego, the greed and the desires that we indulged in, and allowed to control us, and all those things led to us walking down the path of evil, of sin against God, of wickedness and evil. If only that we put more effort to restrain those desires, temptations and resist the pressures exerted on us to live in the state of sin, we could have still existed in the state of grace in Eden, and not to suffer all the pain and sufferings of this world.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples and all the people assembled of the nature of how we all can be corrupted by sin and the wickedness that come forth from within us, from our hearts and minds, and not from what we take in from the outside, not from any food or any worldly things that we encounter and have in this world. This must be understood in the context of how back then, the Law of God as revealed through Moses and passed down through the generations to the people of God contained restrictions and prohibitions of the consumptions of certain food and items, which were considered as unclean and inappropriate to be eaten by the people. The Law itself prescribed that should anyone eat of those unclean food, then they themselves would be considered as unclean as well, and thus, had to purify themseelves and face the consequences.

The Lord highlighted that such a belief was erroneous, and the truth was that, the things which made us to become corrupted and wicked, all came from within us, as He pointed out that God did not create evil, and everything that God had created were good, perfect and wonderful. Even Satan himself when he was created by God was a great, brilliant and mighty Angel known as Lucifer, the brightest and most brilliant of the Angels. Unfortunately, his vanity and pride led him to disobey God and fall into wickedness and evil, as he aspired to rule over all the Universe and to sit on the Throne of God, in trying to supplant and overthrow his own Master and Creator. Thus, in the same way that Satan had fallen, our ancestors and all of us mankind had also fallen in the same manner as well. Our downfall into sin was caused by our vulnerabilities and succumbing into our internal misalignments from the path of the Lord, and from the wickedness within us.

That is why today, as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, each one of us are reminded to be vigilant over ourselves and our actions in life. We must be careful lest the temptations of pride, greed, desires and all other obstacles in our path and journey towards the Lord might end up leading us down the path of damnation and destruction. We are reminded that our ancestors had fallen into the trap of sin that Satan and all of his forces had laid before them, and the same traps and threats are facing us all as well. Unless we remain vigilant and strong in our faith, we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the wrong path, and may end up getting further and more distant from the Lord and His righteousness and grace. We are all called to reflect on our way of life so that hopefully we may realise just how much we need to repent from our many sins and evils.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us should be inspired by the examples shown unto us by two great saints of God, whose lives and dedication to God can inspire us to live our lives ever more worthily of Him. The Lord has presented to us on their feast days, the great saints, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita. St. Jerome Emiliani was a great humanitarian and generous man, the founder of the Somaschi fathers, a group of priests and brothers committed to a holy life dedicated to God and to the people of God. He was remembered for his great piety and even more so for his great generosity and charity, particularly towards the sick, the hungry and the orphans. He spent a lot of effort in caring for those who were less fortunate and had none to care for them, establishing orphanages and hospitals, and many other institutions designed to help them find their way in life.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was a devoted holy virgin, who was once a slave hailing from the area now known as Sudan. She was abducted from her family in a very young age and was forced to be a slave, and was sold from master to master for many years, being tortured and abused by many of her masters, before finally ending up in the hands of the Italian Vice-Consul who was much kinder to her, and who eventually returned to Italy with St. Josephine Bakhita in tow. Eventually, after some more ordeal and hardships, St. Josephine Bakhita was declared a freedwoman and became a part of the Canossian sisters, as a convert and as a novice, eventually taking perpetual vow and dedicating her whole life to serve the Lord through the Canossian Sisters community that she was living in. She was remembered for her great love for God and others, and for her great and tender care and love for the members of her community.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the good examples showed by St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, our holy predecessors, and do whatever we can to glorify the Lord by our lives. Let us all purify ourselves from the wickedness of sin, by seeking God and His forgiveness, and by turning our back against our sinful past, embracing wholeheartedly the righteousness and grace of God from now on. May God bless us always, and may He bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours. Amen.

3 thoughts on “Wednesday, 8 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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