Thursday, 24 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 10-17

Then Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has, will be given more and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has.”

“That is why I speak to them in parables, because they look and do not see; they hear, but they do not listen or understand. In them the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive.”

“For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.”

“For I tell you that many prophets and upright people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them, and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Thursday, 24 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 35 : 6-7ab, 8-9, 10-11

Your love, o God, reaches the heavens; Your faithfulness, to the clouds. Your justice is like the mighty mountains; Your judgment like the unfathomable deep.

How precious, o God, is Your constant love! Mortals take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. In Your house they find rich food and they drink from Your spring of delight.

For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Bestow on Your faithful Your love and give salvation to the upright of heart.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Jeremiah 2 : 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

A word of YHVH came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is YHVH’s word : I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to YHVH, the first-fruits of His harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them – it is YHVH who speaks.”

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled My land and dishonoured My heritage! The priests did not ask, ‘Where is YHVH?’ The masters of My teaching did not know Me; the pastors of My people betrayed Me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal.”

“Be aghast at that, o heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled – it is YHVH who speaks – for My people have done two evils : they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!”

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded again of the need for us to grow in our faith, and learn to trust God in all the things He had planned and willed for each one of us in our respective lives. The Gospel today told us about the parable of the sower and the how various fates of the seeds were told, telling us in fact what happens to the faith within us if we respond or do not respond to it in a proper way.

Then in the first reading today we heard about the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, whom the Lord had chosen to be His prophet and His messenger to the errant and disobedient people of God. The tasks facing Jeremiah were truly massive and difficult, and it was a great undertaking and responsibility which God had entrusted him to do. Jeremiah was right to be hesitant and to be uncertain about himself, as most men will do, but God showed how He will take care of him and guide him along the way.

We too, brothers and sisters in Christ, should expect the same kind of things to happen to us in our own lives. We should not be so concerned about our lives, and about what will happen to us on daily basis, to the point that we forget the various wonderful things that we may be able to do with all of our abilities and time that we have on our hands.

Each of us had been entrusted with the gift of faith, hope and love by God. All of us who are His children have been given these great gifts within us. Yes, these are the seeds, the very same seeds that Jesus had figuratively mentioned in His parable of the seeds and the sower. What happens to these gifts, and whether they languish in misuse and abandonment, or whether they grow mightily and wonderfully to become inspiration for all to see, is truly depending on our own actions in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we make good use of our faith in us, it will only grow. Then, if we share the hope in us and use it to bring hope to others, and if we love one another, and show others how to love, we all may only grow in standing before our Lord and God. This is exactly what happened when the seeds fell on the rich and fertile soil, where the seeds grow mighty and produce a great bounty beyond all expectations.

Yes, if we are truly faithful and practice that faith in our lives, then we shall reap rich rewards at the end of our lives. However, that is not an easy feat to do. There are numerous challenges that we will face in our lives. There are difficulties that are laid on our paths, if we choose the path of the Lord. But as we all know, and especially as all farmers and sowers should be familiar with, there is no easy way out or shortcut to get a bountiful harvest. Hard work and effort is required.

We have to make the effort to put out the weeds and all those that threaten to kill the progress and growth of the seed and the plant. Those weeds are the temptations of the flesh, and the pleasures of this world which seek to corrupt is and turn us away from the true and correct path in life. We have to destroy and cast away all these weeds from our lives, that they may not choke us with worries and selfishness.

Then we also have to grow deep roots, that we may avoid being crushed by the challenges and problems of this world. The deep roots of our faith will be necessary for us to draw strength from God, that our faith may not stumble and fall against the forces of darkness and evil arrayed against us. If our roots are not deep, that we will be easily swayed by Satan and his sweet lies.

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden, also known as St. Brigitta, who was a Swedish lady who was a mother and dedicated family woman, who bore many children, and eventually, after the death of her husband, with the support of her daughter, she joined holy and devoted life to God. She established several religious vocations and orders, inspiring many to follow her examples.

St. Bridget of Sweden herself was very devoted to God, not just in words but also through concrete action. She devoted herself to love her neighbours and others around her, giving herself into charitable acts and works. She also inspired many by her pilgrimages, in which eventually she went to Rome and settled in the city of the Holy Apostles.

St. Bridget of Sweden faced many difficulties in her life, and she experienced rejection and refusal from many people, including accusations and harassment. However, she remained steadfast in her faith and in her total dedication to the Lord. And that was why, today, she was the perfect example for all of us in how we should live out our lives, and how we carry out ourselves that we may grow stronger in faith, hope and love.

Therefore, let us pray and hope devotedly to God, that He may bless us with strength and guidance, that the seeds of faith that God had sown in us will flourish and grow great, that in the end, we may be all found worthy of our Lord. May Almighty God bless us and guide us on our way. May He strengthen our faith always. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

That same day Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him, so He got in a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no roots.”

“Again other seeds fell among thistles, and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for You are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my hope, my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Jeremiah 1 : 1, 4-10

These are the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.

A word of YHVH came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”

I said, “Ah, Lord YHVH! I do not know how to speak; I am still young!” But YHVH replied, “Do not say; ‘I am still young’, for now you will go whatever be the mission I am entrusting to you, and you will speak of whatever I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you – it is YHVH who speaks!”

Then YHVH stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See! Today I give you authority over nations and over kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”