Wednesday, 8 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord, we are all presented with the reality of what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be followers and disciples of the Lord. To be Christians means that our lives have to be centred on Christ and His truth, and we have to resist the temptations of worldly glory and attachments, which may lead us down the wrong path. To be Christians we also have to be prepared to face disagreements and even sufferings because of the incompatibility of some of our beliefs with that commonly accepted by the world. It is whether we are able to remain rooted in faith and strong in our willingness to follow the Lord, that we can remain firm in the path that God has shown us and led us through, to reach His grace and salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the hardships and challenges faced by Jeremiah during his ministry, as he faced opposition from many of those that disagreed with him and refused to believe in his words, and resisted the attempts by Jeremiah to call them all to repentance. Jeremiah has been sent by God to minister among the kingdom and the people of Judah, who had fallen into evil ways, turning away from God and His path. The Lord has always been patient with His beloved people, reaching out to them and showing them His love, and yet, they stubbornly refused to believe in Him and persecuted the ones whom God had sent to them including that of Jeremiah. Many of the false prophets and the leaders of the people plotted against Jeremiah, and they almost managed to kill Him if not for God’s kind providence.

God showed Jeremiah His help and kindness as He moved the heart of the king of Judah and also the few remaining allies that he still had among the people of Judah, who rescued Jeremiah from his predicament and kept him hidden and safe until the time of the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. Everything turned out to be exactly just as how the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied it to be, and God’s warnings that went unheeded caused the people of God to be scattered and humiliated for their disobedience against Him, losing not just the Temple and House of the Lord that has been the centre and focal point of the people of God, but also the city of Jerusalem itself and the institution of the kingdom of God’s people. Through this, God showed that those who have kept their faith in Him will triumph in the end, and will be remembered by Him, while those who have refused to walk in His path, would suffer the right consequences for their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord to His disciples especially regarding what it truly means to be His disciples and followers, and what it is that they were all called to do in their lives, as the servants of God’s truth and love. We heard of how the brothers, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee and two of the closest among the Lord’s own disciples came up to Him with their own mother, asking for special privileges and favours over that of the other disciples. This led to the ire and jealousy of the other disciples who became angry at the two of them. The Lord rebuked all of them, and told them all that following Him is not about what they might imagine, as it was likely that they were all trying to seek favours from the Lord, to gain position, privileges and rewards that were better than that received by the others.

They were all looking at things from a rather worldly perspective, seeking for things of this world like fame, glory, renown, wealth, greatness among other things. As such, this was why they were unable to realise that the Lord’s coming into this world was not to give them all those worldly satisfactions and pleasures, achievements and glories. Instead, He came into this world to reach out to us all and to be reconciled with us, and also to teach us what it truly means for us to be the followers and disciples of the Lord, to be His faithful and committed people. He told St. James and St. John, that following Him would result in a lot of hardships and challenges, which He metaphorically mentioned as drinking the cup that He Himself was to drink. This was a reference to His upcoming Passion, suffering and death, all of which He endured out of love for us.

Essentially, if the world itself has persecuted the Lord and rejected Him, as what would happen to the Lord Jesus, rejected, betrayed even by one of His own closest disciples, humiliated and made to bear the punishments for sins and mistakes that were not His, then all of us, who are His disciples and followers, will likely face a similar rejection, condemnation, scrutiny, hardships and trials as well. This was what the prophet Jeremiah and many other prophets and servants of the Lord had experienced, as they were persecuted and made to suffer for their devotion and faith in the Lord, for having stood up for their faith, and for tirelessly doing everything that God had commanded them to do. That is why, today, as we continue to journey through this season of Lent, all of us are called to examine our way of life and our direction going forward.

Are we going to continue to walk down the path of sinfulness and evil, and continue to be swayed by the many temptations all around us? Or are we going to commit ourselves to the path of God’s righteousness and holiness? The Lord has given us all the freedom to choose our own path in life, whether we want to follow Him or to walk away from Him. And ideally of course, we should do whatever we can to follow Him, and to do His will. That is why today, all of us ought to remember the holy life and works of one of our great predecessors, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. John of God was a great man and servant of God who was a soldier that turned into a healthcare worker, living about five centuries earlier than our time. He was kidnapped from his family at an early age and was raised to be a soldier, but he became disillusioned with his way of life and turned towards the Lord.

St. John of God spent years on the road seeking for the meaning of life and faced many struggles during those years of hardships and changes. Yet, eventually he encountered the Lord and went through a great conversion of heart, as he heard the sermon of another great saint, that was St. John of Avila. This led him to begin many works of charity and outreach to the poor and the suffering all around him. He ministered to them and became a great and renowned healthcare worker, who inspired many others to follow in his footsteps. This eventually became the foundation of what was to be known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God after their patron and founder. Until his passing from this world, he continued to labour for the good of the people of God and for the care of the sick and those who suffer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples and life of St. John of God showed us that becoming a true disciple and follower of our Lord is not something that is easy for us. We may encounter many hardships and trials in our journey, but God will always be there by our side, strengthening and supporting us throughout the way. This is what we should be inspired to do as well, in doing what God has commanded us all to do, to love Him and our fellow brothers and sisters more and more with each and every passing moments. Let us all therefore make good use of this season of Lent to redirect our efforts and attention in life, away from worldly excesses and sin, and instead focus our attention more on God and His Law and precepts, and do whatever we can to walk faithfully in His path, shunning worldly glory and ambition, now and always. May God be with us all and bless our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.