Thursday, 9 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to do what is right and just before the Lord and man alike, and to shun the path of wickedness and evil. All of us as Christians are expected to do what is right and just, worthy and good as our Lord has taught and shown us to do. This season of Lent in particular we are reminded of our weakness and vulnerabilities to sin, our wickedness and evils, all of our failures to do what God wanted us to do, and everything that had kept us away from the fullness of God’s grace and love. If we continue to walk down the path of disobedience and evil, then we ought to know that it will lead us to damnation and ruin, and eternity of regret, when the time comes for us. On the other hand, those who keep their faith in God will not be disappointed, as God is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He had made with us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which God spoke His words to His people through Jeremiah, to the people and the kingdom of Judah that Jeremiah had been sent to minister in, during the final days of the existence of that kingdom. Jeremiah was sent to a people who had lived in sin and often disobeyed God, leaving and abandoning Him for the pagan idols and gods, persecuting the prophets and messengers that God had sent them patiently and constantly in order to remind them and to call them kindly to repent and turn away from their sinful ways. Jeremiah himself was persecuted, hated and often ridiculed, and even treated and considered as a traitor for his words and actions that were considered as treasonous, as he spoke of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, that would happen because of the people’s continued sins against God.

The Lord spoke the truth to them, as He presented the fact of how those who continued to disobey Him and depended on worldly and human strength, would fail and falter, as the people and kingdom of Judah would regret later on, because they chose to depend on the powers of the world, on their idols and politics rather than to depend on God. The then king of Judah, Zedekiah, who would be the last king of Judah, chose to depend on the power of Egypt and its Pharaoh, and rebelled against the Babylonians, who ruled over the land, resulting directly in a punitive expedition that led to the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple and the destruction of the kingdom of Judah, beginning a painful many decades long period of exile for many of the people living in Judah, cast out and exiled from their ancestral lands.

That was indeed the fate of those who were wicked and those who refused to put their faith in God. Jeremiah and many other prophets had repeatedly reminded them, only to be faced with hard hearted rejection and stubborn attitudes, persecution and even martyrdom. But the Lord still loved His people and continued to send them help and reminder, and when they repented and turned away from their sinful ways, having been humiliated and suffered during their exile, God brought them back to their own land, and moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to allow His people to return to their homeland, and even to reestablish their cities and the Temple of God in Jerusalem. All of those were eventually restored, and that was yet again another proof of how God would provide for all those who are faithful in Him and placed their trust in Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the story that the Lord Jesus told His disciples regarding a poor man named Lazarus and a rich man, both of whom had a very different kind of life, with Lazarus suffering all throughout his life with great poverty and physical suffering, while the rich man enjoyed all the bounties and good things that this world could provide. Lazarus, the poor man, sat by the door of the rich man’s house, and no one lifted a hand to help this poor man, even when he had nothing to eat at all. As we heard in the story, Lazarus hoped to eat even the crumbs and leftovers from the rich man’s table, but even that was denied from him. Eventually we heard how both Lazarus and the rich man died, and how they ended up in truly very different fate, as Lazarus ended up in Heaven with Abraham and the saints, while the rich man fell and damned into hell, to suffer for eternity.

The essence of that story is a reminder for all of us that each and every one of us as Christians are constantly being reminded to be faithful to God and to do what the Lord had told us to do, and this includes not forgetting those around us who are in need. We are all called to do what is good, and when we commit things that are evil, those are considered as sin for us. Yet, if we fail to do what we should have done, that is also sin too. That is what we know as the sin of omission, the failure to do what God had called us to do, just as the rich man could have been moved to help Lazarus, even in the smallest things he could. But he chose to look away and to ignore Lazarus, leaving him to suffer all alone and endure a most painful life in this world while he enjoyed his life amidst all the joy and celebrations.

Linking to what we have spoken and discussed about in our first reading today, regarding the prophet Jeremiah and what God had told His people, all of us are reminded in particular during this season of Lent of the dangers of worldly attachments and temptations. If we allow those things to mislead us, just in the way how the people of Judah, God’s own people had turned away from God and sought to satisfy their own selfish desires, then we may likely end up in the same fate as well, like that of the rich man, who might have been so distracted and tempted by worldly riches and glory that he failed to recognise what the Lord has called him to do with his life, his calling and all the responsibilities he had given the blessings and graces that he had been blessed with. God is not against the rich or us being wealthy, but we must discern how to make good use of our blessings and riches in life, not only for our own good but for everyone.

Today perhaps we should look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. Frances of Rome, a holy woman and servant of God, who had dedicated her life to follow and serve the Lord. St. Frances of Rome was a wife and mother who was known in her role of caring for the poor and the sick in her community. St. Frances spent a lot of time and effort in reaching out to the less fortunate all around her, and when she became a widow, she even made part of her own family’s country estate into a hospital for the poor and the sick. She experienced a lot of hardships, challenges and difficulties throughout her life and ministry, but all those things did not discourage her from continuing to carry out her work and mission, and inspiring many others to follow her examples and doing what they could to care for the good of the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore discern carefully our path in life through this season of Lent, so that we may truly find our way forward, living our lives with faith and commit our time and effort to love God more and to love one another as well, distancing ourselves from sin and turning back once more towards God. Let us all be more generous in giving, in giving our love for others around us, those who need our help, like what St. Frances of Rome had done, and many others. Let us not forget that as Christians, it is our calling and in fact, obligation to do what the Lord had always called on us to do, in serving Him and in loving our fellow men and women. May God bless us always, and may He guide us in our journey, and help us through this blessed season and time of Lent. Amen.

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