Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder that each one of us are called to change our ways of life, and to embrace God and His path once again if we have once erred and not adhering to the way of the Lord. Each one of us are reminded that God has kindly reached out to us, calling on us all to embrace His love and mercy, and for us to walk once again in His path. As long as we are willing to listen to the Lord calling on us, then we are likely to be on the right path, and as long as we are willing to open our hearts and minds to welcome Him, we are likely going to find the Lord in the end, waiting for us to return to Him.
In our first reading today we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Galatia in which the Apostle spoke about his experiences and conversion from being one of the greatest enemies of the Lord, His Church and the faithful people of God, the great scourge of Christians, to be one of the Lord’s and His Church’s greatest champions and defenders, in his amazing conversion experience and in being called and chosen by God. God Himself had called St. Paul on his way to Damascus, supposedly to crush the Church and persecute the Christians there, but he himself emerged as a Christian in the aftermath, and from then henceforth, this renewed man of God embarked on a faithful mission in obedience to God’s will.
What we have heard in our first reading today through the experiences which St. Paul shared with all of us, we are all reminded that God is calling on us all to follow Him, and He is the One Who is making us worthy and changed us, led us and guided us to the right path. We are reminded that there is hope for everyone, even for the worst sinners and the greatest offenders as long as they are willing to allow God to lead them once again down the right path. Just as St. Paul has shown us, that he listened to the Lord’s call and embraced Him wholeheartedly, learning about the errors of his past ways, and then henceforth, labouring for the glory of God ever after.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the exchanges between the Lord Jesus and His friends, the sisters Mary and Martha, both of whom welcomed Him as He came to visit their house. Martha was busy preparing for the welcome, presumably preparing the meals and other things to properly and hospitably welcome Him. Meanwhile Mary was focused wholly on listening to the Lord as He spoke and taught her of His truth. We know of this story surely where Martha told the Lord to ask her sister to help her out, as she was busy preparing everything by herself, only for the Lord to remind her that what her sister was doing, was right, because she welcomed Him into her heart, and did what she could to welcome Him by focusing her attention on Him and not otherwise.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard of the story of Martha and Mary, we are all reminded of the need for all of us to return our focus onto the Lord our God, and for us to refocus our lives upon Him. Each one of us are reminded that we should not end up being so preoccupied and even distracted by our many attachments and by the many temptations all around us that we fail to focus our attention on the Lord, and instead, we may end up intentionally or unintentionally getting further and further, and more distant from the Lord and His path. Martha for example had good intentions, but unfortunately in her desire to satisfy her own desire in serving the Lord, she got lost into it so much that she forgot to welcome the Lord into her own heart.
Today all of us Christians are reminded to change our ways and our hearts and minds, in the manner of St. Paul and how he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. And there is yet another example that we can follow, in the person of the great and renowned saint, St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans and the one who inspired the name of our current reigning Pope, Pope Francis. St. Francis is well known and remembered for his dedication to the Lord, his unique commitment to the service of God and in living humbly in poverty, poor in the eyes of the world and yet rich in the sight of God. His examples and life can very well serve as good inspirations for each one of us.
St. Francis of Assisi was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone as the son of a rich textile merchant in what is today’s Italy, and as the heir of the rich merchant, he was prepared since his early youth with education and the expectation that he would be carrying on his father’s business and legacy. But God had a different plan for the young St. Francis, as He called him to follow Him much as how He had called St. Paul the Apostle. This rich merchant’s son might have been an unlikely candidate for a servant of God living in poverty and in the barest of conditions, and yet that was what St. Francis of Assisi eventually chose to do, abandoning all material and worldly wealth, his status and inheritance.
It was told that the young St. Francis heard God’s call as he passed by a dilapidated chapel, which is today well known as the San Damiano chapel with its distinctive crucifix. St. Francis heard the Lord’s call to restore his Church, and he interpreted it back then that he should help to restore the chapel which was already torn down in condition back then. St. Francis resolved to take part of his father’s precious textile stock to fund the reconstruction and repair of the chapel, which then earned his father’s wrath. It was told then that the young St. Francis fled to a local priest, who then helped him to seek shelter with the bishop. When St. Francis’ father sought to reclaim the property and wealth he lost, and wanted to sue his own son for that, it was told that St. Francis stripped everything he had and renounced both his father, inheritance and everything before everyone assembled.
St. Francis of Assisi henceforth dedicated himself to a life of dedication and ministry for the glory of God, gathering like-minded people over time, and laid the foundation of the Franciscan order, which by today has encompassed countless thousands and more religious, priests and many holy men and women dedicated to the service of the Lord and to the various ministries entrusted to them throughout history, in bringing God’s truth and love ever closer to His people. St. Francis of Assisi has inspired all of these people to seek the Lord with all their heart, refocusing their lives on Him and also to live humbly and simply, and not be swayed or burdened by worldly temptations and attachments.
And to all of us living in this world today, St. Francis of Assisi and his examples remind us not to be easily swayed by those same worldly temptations, and not to have excessive attachments and entanglements with worldly matters and desires. Money, wealth, material possessions and other worldly things themselves are not evil per se, as those can very well be used for good and worthy purposes as well. It is rather our unhealthy attachments and obsessions with them that we must avoid at all costs. That is why we need to reexamine our conscience and our focus in life so that we do not end up walking down the wrong path like so many others had done before us.
Let us all renew our faith and commitment to God, by reorienting ourselves towards the Lord, and refocusing our attention towards Him. Let us all ask St. Francis of Assisi, St. Paul and all the other holy saints of God to intercede for us at all times. May God be with us always and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence always, like those faithful saints who have shown us the true Christian virtues and values, putting God as the centre and focus of our lives, and distancing ourselves from wickedness and evil. Amen.