Saturday, 28 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today St. Jude in his Epistle in our first reading reminds us all that as Christians, all of us have to hold fast and strong to the laws and the precepts that the Lord has passed down to us through His Church, doing all that is righteous and just, acceptable to the Lord our God, so that in all the things that we do, we may be ever faithful and be worthy of our God.

It means that we should not give in to fornication of the flesh and the soul, and neither should we do things that bring about harm and darkness upon each other. We must remain firm in our commitment and our faith to God, even though the world and all of the enemies of the Lord are trying actively to hinder us on our journey onward towards the salvation and eternal life in God.

In the Gospel today, we heard about how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were openly doubting the authority of Jesus, even went as far as asking Him directly in front of the people, under what authority He has been acting and doing all that He has done. That is as far as someone can go in trying to discredit or undermine another’s authority by openly showing doubt in front of so many people.

And yet, Jesus rebuked them and countered them excellently, pointing out to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that His authority is indeed from God, even more so if St. John the Baptist himself had come from God. He put them the question that prevented them from trying to undermine His authority any longer, as they were not able to disclaim whatever St. John the Baptist had done as a mere human action, but indeed divine instead.

And if you are wondering why were the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law so adamantly set in their opposition against Jesus, then we should just take note and understand more of the situation at that time, where the Jewish society were dominated by the powerful elders and the masters of the laws and customs of the Jewish society, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests.

In those days, where many cultures and customs were competing against each other, and when multicultural societies were the norm, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were self-appointed guardians of the Jewish society and culture, and they took a particularly strict and often unreasonable approach in enforcing the laws of Moses to the people.

And thus they looked at anyone who did not belong to them, and performing miracles, teaching about the faith to the people as rivals, especially those who did not subscribe to the same view as theirs. They enjoyed the adulation and praise from the people, and the fame and glory that accompanied their position. And naturally, as is our human nature, they feared the moment when any of these were to be taken away from them. And thus, they were willing to even oppose God just so that they could preserve themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not the way that we should behave, even as St. Jude in his Epistle had reminded us all the faithful ones. We have to let go of all these and we must not allow ourselves to be controlled by our desire, our wants, our needs and all that make us hunger for more, either wealth, or possessions, or any other forms of worldly attachments, that are bound to keep us away from the Lord.

Let us all instead commit ourselves to works of charity, caring for one another, and bringing the true faith to them, by first practicing it in our own lives. May our words, actions and deeds speak loudly of our faith in God, and while remaining humble and true to our devotion to God, He Who has come into the world, Jesus our Lord, so that all of us may be saved. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Mark 11 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus and His disciples were once again in Jerusalem. As He was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders came to Him and asked, “What authority do You have to act like this? Who gave You authority to do the things You do?”

Jesus said to them, “I will ask you a question, only one, and if you give me an answer, then I will tell you what authority I have to act like this. Was John’s preaching and baptism a work of God, or was it merely something human? Answer Me.”

And they kept arguing among themselves, “If we answer that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?'” But neither could they answer before the people that the baptism of John was merely something human, for everyone regarded John as a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know,” and Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you what authority I have to act as I do.”

Saturday, 28 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Psalm 62 : 1, 3-4, 5-6

O God, You are my God, it is You I seek; for You my body longs and my soul thirsts, as a dry and weary land without water.

Thus have I gazed upon You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.

I will bless You as long as I live, lift up my hands and call on Your Name. As with the richest food my soul will feast; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

Saturday, 28 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Jude 17, 20b-25

But, most beloved, remember what the Apostles of Christ Jesus, our Lord, announced to you. Build your life on the foundation of your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Remain firm in the love of God, welcoming the mercy of Jesus Christ, our Lord, which leads to eternal life.

Try to convince those who doubt; others you will save, snatching them from condemnation. Treat the others with compassion but also with prudence, shunning even the clothes that touched their body.

To the one God Who is able to keep you from all sin and bring you happy and without blemish before His own Glory, to the one God Who saves us through Jesus Christ, our Lord, to Him be glory, honour, might and power, from past ages, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 27 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, listening at the passage which we heard from the Gospel today, surely many of us would feel kind of unsettled and fearful at what Jesus has said and done. After all, we heard how Jesus our Lord cursed the fig tree without fruits, and made it to dry up and die. And then, Jesus also showed His wrath on the merchants and money changers who set up stalls in the Temple grounds, chasing them out with whip and lashes.

In this passage therefore, we see the side of our Lord which we tend to forget or ignore, and an aspect which we tend to overlook when we think about God. We always tend to see God as a loving, kind, merciful and compassionate God, but then they forget that He is also a vengeful and angry God against those who have been unfaithful. He exacts judgment against those who disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him.

We live in a world where many have forgotten about the consequences of sin, and therefore, as a result, we tend to become desensitised to sin, and we often ignore the consequences of our sins, to the point that we may just sin without even being worried about it, or being affected by it. And the main reason for this, is the lack of that understanding and the seriousness which we ought to have when we refer to sin and all the fruits of wickedness in our actions.

Indeed, it is just like the barren fig tree. We are the fig trees, and if we are without fruits, barren and dry, then we have truly not deserved the good graces and blessings of God. Instead, curses and destruction is our only share. And if we think that Jesus was being unreasonable because it was not the fig season, then we should understand how this is related to what Jesus spoke in another parable.

Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is coming to us in the manner like that of a thief, unexpected and sudden, without prior warning and without any signs to let us know that it is coming. It is just as Jesus came by suddenly to the fig tree, outside the fig season, and finding the tree to be barren and without any fruits. And thus it received only curses and not blessings, and it perished.

Thus, the same fate awaits all of us, if we do not learn from what the Scriptures are trying to tell us. And that is if we live like the merchants and the sellers, the money changers and all who filled up the sacred Temple grounds with their unholy transactions and dirty money. And as a result, they earned the wrath of God, Who whipped them and lashed at them, chasing them out of the Temple of God, the Holy residence of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must really devote ourselves to the Lord, in all things and commit ourselves to His ways, through our sincere devotion, and by all the loving acts which we should show to one another, caring for our brethren in need, and giving them the love which they ought to receive and which we ought to give. And in this manner, perhaps we should follow in the footsteps of the saint whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Augustine of Canterbury.

St. Augustine of Canterbury was one of the first bishops of the region known as England. His works there was instrumental in reestablishing the Christian faith and the Church in England. He was a religious monk from Rome, who was tasked by the then reigning Pope, Pope St. Gregory the Great to be the evangeliser of England and all of its neighbouring countries.

England had been Christianised by the preceding Roman era, when the Roman Empire still controlled the region. But with the invasion by the barbarian Saxons and Jutes, the Angles and others, Christian faith has largely died out in that country. As a result, there was a great need to reinvigorate the Church and reestablish the Church structure and hierarchy in England.

St. Augustine of Canterbury thus went forth to a region of unknown challenges, where he laboured hard for the sake of the faith, and he had to endure persecutions from the pagans and rejection from those who refused to accept the truth of God. But he persevered on, and showed them care, concern and love. And in teaching the people about the truths and wonders of God, St. Augustine showed them the path to God, and his actions bore many wonderful fruits, including the conversion of the king of the place where he ministered in, and many people who came to be baptised afterwards.

By his works, many people have been saved from the certainty of damnation and death, and these are truly the rich fruits of faith which St. Augustine had produced, and by which he was made justified and right in the presence of God. And that is why he is now counted among the holy saints of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can follow in his footsteps and be like him.

Let us all therefore renew our efforts to live our lives faithfully and renew our commitment to God, that we may give our all to the Lord and glorify Him through our actions. May He continue to bless us and keep us forever in His grace. Amen.

Friday, 27 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 11 : 11-25

At that time, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. And after He had looked all around, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

The next day, when they were leaving Bethany, He felt hungry. In the distance He noticed a fig tree covered with leaves, so He went to see if He could find anything on it. When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. Then Jesus said to the fig tree, ‘May no one ever eat your fruit!” And His disciples heard these words.

When they reached Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple, and began to drive away all the people He saw buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the stools of those who sold pigeons. And He would not let anyone carry anything through the Temple area.

Jesus then taught the people, “Does not God say in the Scriptures : My house will be called a House of Prayer for all the nations? But you have turned into a den of thieves.” The chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard of this, and they tried to find a way to destroy Him. They were afraid of Him, because all the people were astonished by His teaching. When evening came, Jesus left the city.

Early next morning, as they walked along the road, the disciples saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter then said to Him, “Master, look! The fig tree You cursed has withered.” And Jesus replied, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and have no doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.”

“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you. And when you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive.”

Friday, 27 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.