Friday, 17 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Friday, 17 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 16 : 1-15, 60, 63

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem its sins. You say on My behalf : Your beginning was in Canaan; there, you were born. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born, your cord was not cut; you were not bathed in water to make you clean; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you wrapped in cloth.”

“There was no one to look with pity on you; or compassionate enough, to give you any of these attentions. You were left, exposed, in the open fields; because you were looked upon with disgust, on the day you were born. But I passed by; and saw you, immersed in your blood. I said to you, in the midst of your blood, ‘Live!’”

“I made you grow, like a plant of the field. You grew up and became tall; and were becoming of marriageable age. Your breasts were formed and your hair had grown; but you were naked and exposed. I passed by later, and saw, you were at the age of love; and spread part of My garment over you, to cover your nudity. I made a Covenant with you with an oath – word of YHVH – and you were Mine.”

“Then I bathed you in water; I cleansed you of your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with embroidered cloth and put soft leather sandals on your feet. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with jewelry, putting bracelets on your arms, a necklace around your neck and a ring in your nose. I gave you earrings and a magnificent crown for your head.”

“You were adorned with gold and silver; your clothing was fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You were fed on finest flour, honey and oil; you became very beautiful and rose to be queen. Your beauty was perfect; and your renown spread through the nations, because of the splendour I had given you – word of YHVH.”

“But you relied on your beauty; you trusted in your fame; and you began to give yourself to every passerby, like a prostitute. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 16 : 59-63

For thus says YHVH : “I will treat you as you deserve; you, who despised the oath and broke the Covenant. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant. You will be mindful of your ways and be ashamed, when I take your sisters, both the elder and the younger; and give them to you as daughters, without prejudice to My Covenant with you.”

“For I will uphold My Covenant with you; and you will know that I am YHVH, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first of all, what He had told His people in exile in Babylon through the prophet Ezekiel, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah as a consequence of their abandonment of God’s laws and commandments. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which Our Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people, of a wicked servant who owed a great debt to his master.

In that first reading, what we heard in God’s words and commands to His prophet Ezekiel, happened at the time when the remaining people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah was facing increasing pressure from the Babylonians, who was the superpower of the time. The Babylonians ruled over most of the region and had subjugated most of the peoples and nations around them, including the kingdom of Judah.

This was the premonition of what would happen next, when the people of Judah and their king, Zedekiah, rebelled against the Babylonians, who immediately sent a punitive force that destroyed Judah, besieged Jerusalem and eventually destroyed the city and the Temple of God, leaving nothing valuable behind, and bringing most of the people to the land of Babylon as exiles.

The people of God in Judah has made a Covenant with God since the time of their ancestors, and God has repeatedly forgiven them their sins and constant disobedience, as they broke the laws and the Covenant again and again. God has entrusted them with the governance over the lands promised to them and their ancestors, and forgave them their debts of sin, but they acted wickedly and persecuted the prophets sent to them to guide them back to the truth.

This is related to what we have heard today in our Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus told the people about a servant who was to be punished by his master, because of his massive debt of ten thousand pieces of gold, a huge amount of money at that time. But the servant begged the master to be merciful, and to give him more time to be able to pay off his debt, as he had his family to take care of.

The master saw his servant’s plight and had pity on him. He forgave the servant and even wrote off all of his debts. It was a great favour and care showed by the master towards his servant. Yet, that same servant, undoubtedly very joyful and pleased at his experience of being forgiven by his master, went to one of those fellow servants who owed him a small amount of money, and threatened him to pay off his debt immediately.

Despite the other servant’s pleas, begging for the servant to give him more time to pay off the debt, and unlike the master’s action, the forgiven servant refused to let the other servant go and was very harsh of him, demanding that the small debt be paid completely. The other servants saw the exchange between them and reported the incident to the master, who became very angry with the forgiven servant and threw him into prison, demanding that he paid every single coin he owed.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to make it clear to each and every one of us, that we mankind, represented by the servants in that parable, are so beloved by God, the master in the parable, Who has willingly forgiven each one of us our sins, no matter how great they are, should we be willing to reach out to Him, and sincerely come to Him, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

Sin is our debt to God, and is the fruit of our disobedience against His will, His laws and commandments. And yet, God readily forgives us our sins, should we be sincere in our desire to repent. The Lord Jesus Himself came into this world, to bring forth this point about God’s great love for each one of us sinners. He Himself willingly took up our sins and gathering them on Himself, dying on the cross for our sake.

And that is why, just as our Lord and Master has forgiven us our sins, then we too are expected to do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should not be like the wicked servant who has been forgiven by his master for such a massive debt, and yet could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. This means that as true and genuine Christians, we must be true in our actions, in how we live our lives according to our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian king of Hungary. He was highly regarded as a model king and ruler, and as a devout Christian. He was widely acknowledged as the founder of the state of Hungary, and helped greatly in establishing the Christian Church and faith throughout his dominion.

Yet, despite his position, wealth and power, St. Stephen ruled with temperance, good judgment, and exhibited great generosity and humility throughout his reign. He truly cared for his people and did his best to improve their livelihood and cared for them. He did not abuse his power or oppress his people using his power and influence. Instead, he used the authority that God gave him with responsibility and tempered with love and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples shown to us by St. Stephen of Hungary should be our inspiration and model, for which we ought to follow suit, in how we live our own lives, dedicating ourselves to God wholeheartedly and with genuine intention. Let us be exemplary in our Christian way of living, and be role models for each other in faith, from now on, that many more people may come to righteousness in God, through us. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 18 : 21 – Matthew 19 : 1

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.”

“The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he has paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished these sayings, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 77 : 56-57, 58-59, 61-62

But they challenged and rebelled against God the Most High, and disobeyed His decrees. They were unfaithful, like their ancestors, deceitful and crooked, as a twisted bow.

They angered Him with their high places; they aroused His jealousy with their idols. Filled with wrath, God rejected Israel.

He lead His glory into captivity, His Ark, into the hand of the enemy. He gave His people over to the sword, so furious was He at His inheritance.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Ezekiel 12 : 1-12

This word of YHVH came to me, “Son of man, you live in the midst of a house of rebels : they have eyes for seeing but do not see; they have ears for hearing but do not hear; for they are a house of rebels. Because of this, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage in their sight, as an exile does; and go as an exile, to another place, in their sight. Would that they might understand, because they are a house of rebels.”

“You will gather your things, an exile’s baggage, by day, to be seen by them; and you will leave in the evening, as for a departure of deportees. While they look on, dig a hole in the wall and leave from there. As they look on, shoulder your baggage and leave in the dark. Veil your face and do not look at the land, for I have made you a sign for Israel.”

I did as I was ordered, gathering my things by day, an exile’s baggage, and, in the evening, I made a hole in the wall with my hand. I left in the dark, in their presence, shouldering my baggage. In the morning, the word of YHVH came to me : “Son of man, did not the Israelites, these rebels, ask you, ‘What are you doing there?’ Answer them on behalf of YHVH : This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the Israelites remaining in the city.”

“Say, ‘I am a sign for you,’ for what I have done will happen to them : They will be deported, exiled. The prince among them shall shoulder his baggage in the dark and depart. They will dig a hole in the wall to let him leave by it. He will cover his face because he must not see the land with his eyes.”

Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church rejoices together celebrating the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. On this day, we gather together to remember the glory and honour which the Lord gave to His beloved Mother, Mary, Blessed-Ever Virgin, who has received graces and blessings beyond all other women and all other children of God.

What is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? In order to understand this word, first of all we must distinguish it from the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven. For at the Assumption, declared in the year 1950 to be a dogma of the Church but has been believed since time immemorial, refers to the moment when Mary was bodily assumed in the body and spirit, into the glory of heaven without passing through the process of death.

This is different from the Ascension in that, while the Lord ascended into heaven by His own power, glory and majesty, and by His own will, but Mary was assumed into heaven by the grace and the will of God, and not by her own will or power. The Assumption of Mary was widely acknowledged by the Church teachings and tradition for many years before it was formally announced as a dogma in 1950, because of the Church fathers’ teachings on Mary, as the mother of God.

It is precisely because it was established definitively by the early Ecumenical Councils that Mary is none other than the mother of God, and not just merely the mother of Jesus Christ, the Man, since the divinity and humanity of Christ although separate and distinct but are united in Him, thus, if Jesus is both fully Man and fully God, we cannot say that Mary was just merely the mother of the human Jesus.

When the Lord Jesus was formed in the flesh in the womb of Mary, He was already fully Man and fully Divine. As such, the Divinity Himself has come down to dwell on the earthly body of man, such a glorious dwelling of God must be matched with a worthy vessel to contain His great majesty, glory and divinity. This is the mystery of God, Who is both infinite and omnipresent, and yet, at the same time, can be contained in His wholeness in a small host, the Eucharist, as well as in the body of a Man, born a baby through the Virgin Mary.

And if we look carefully at the accounts from the Scriptures, especially those presented in both the readings of the Vigil of the Assumption and this day itself, there is a lot of emphasis on the Ark of the Covenant and the Woman in the Book of Revelations. The Ark of the Covenant was where the two tablets of God’s Law, the manna and the staff of Aaron was kept, as the sign of the Holy Presence of God among His people.

The Ark was the centre and heart of the worship and celebrations of the people of ancient Israel. It was always carried around through the desert leading the people of Israel during their forty years journey towards the Promised Land of Canaan, and was placed in the richly decorated Tent of Meeting. The Ark of the Covenant itself was richly built and endowed in the most precious materials of the world, to signify the greatness of God’s Presence among His people.

The woman in the Book of Revelations, crowned with stars and adorned with sun and moon about her, is often alluded to Mary, whose depiction often showing her crowned gloriously with a crown of stars, the moon and the sun. The woman is also often associated with the Church, labouring in pain for the One Who was to rule the nations with power and authority. The Baby was none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

And the woman represents both Mary and the Church, for recently, Mary has also been recognised in her title of Mary, Mother of the Church. For she is the One Who bore the Lord and Messiah of the world in her womb for nine months, as the worthy earthly Tabernacle and as the Ark of God’s Presence. Mary has been chosen and blessed by God, to be given the singular grace of freedom from the taint of sin.

This is what we know as the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church upholds that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother without the taint of original sin, and therefore was free from the dominion and power of sin. And because sin is caused by the disobedience against God’s will, leading to suffering in this world and ultimately death, the freedom from sin also means, the freedom from death.

Thus that was why the Lord did not allow death to claim His mother, unlike all of us mankind who will eventually encounter death at some point in our lives, at the time of God’s own choosing and will. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, for Christ came bearing the New Covenant between God and man. And as the Ark of God, Mary has been hallowed and prepared by God to be the one through whom He has entered into this world.

And if Mary did not sin, or that by the singular grace and will of God, free from original sin, then she should not be subjected to death, for death occurs only because of sin, and without sin, one should not die. Indeed, the Lord Jesus died, but not because of His own sins, rather, because of His own will and desire that through His death, He might unite all of us who believe in Him and share in His humanity, and bring us all into the new life He gives us, sharing in His glorious resurrection.

That is why, if God made very righteous people like Enoch and the prophet Elijah to come to Him directly without experiencing death, while they were still affected by original sin, all the more the Mother of God, conceived without sin and remaining ever pure and blameless throughout her life, should also be worthy to receive from God Himself, her Son, the crown of everlasting glory, not letting death to have any part of her.

In the end, the Solemnity of the Assumption has twofold meaning and significance for us all. First of all, through the dogma of the Assumption, we believe that Mary herself, more worthy than any other man, is the greatest of all saints, by the virtue of her motherhood of God and of her own great virtues in life, obedience to God and faith. And being in heaven, she is at the right hand of God, her Son, as His closest confidant as well as our own.

That is why many of us have special devotions to Mary, for she is just like our mother as well, listening to our petitions and prayers, asking her to intercede for our sake, just as she herself had done on the behalf of the wedding couple in Cana. We can trust in her and confide ourselves in her, just as we trust and confide ourselves in our mother’s love and care. If God, her Son, cares for and loves us all, it is only natural that Mary will also do the same to us.

Then, secondly, Mary is also the perfect role model for us all as Christians, for she obeyed the Lord completely and faithfully devoted herself to His will throughout her life. She followed the journey and ministry of her Son Jesus, Our Lord, all the way to the culmination of His earthly ministry in Calvary, the place where Mary herself witnessed with great anguish, her Son being crucified and died. Yet, she surrendered everything to God and trusted Him completely.

The Assumption is then a premonition and a revelation of our own future and upcoming fate, which all of us mankind should aspire to and look forward to. The glorification of Mary, assumed in the body and soul into heaven is a preview of our own glorious resurrection from the dead, when we shall leave behind our mortal and sinful past, to enter into the new life in God, in perfection of love and grace, without any more sin or sorrow.

Now, what we all need to realise is that, while indeed Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, bearing the Lord Jesus in her womb, but each and every one of us who are members of God’s Church and having received the proper instruction in the faith, and found worthy to receive the Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are also God’s Holy Temple and Dwelling House.

Yet, while Mary was hallowed and prepared holy by God, just as the old Ark of the Covenant was hallowed and made with the most precious of materials available, but we mankind preferred to corrupt and to make dirty, what God had made good and wonderful in our own bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. Through the sins we commit in our daily life actions, we make ourselves unworthy of God, and the consequences of these, are very dire indeed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on this great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, can we reflect on our own lives as well? Are we able to think through our every actions and deeds, all that we may have done in contrary of God’s will, and caused by our greed and by our own wickedness? All these things that had led us into sin against God?

Let us all turn therefore towards God, and devote our whole attention to Him from now on, if we have not done so. Let us all look towards Mary, the mother of our God, by whose intercessions, we have been helped each and every single days of our life. Let us all imitate her examples, her piety and commitment to God, that we may also one day share in the same glory that God has given Mary, His mother, most blessed among women and most faithful among men.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, whom your Son has willed that you be worthy of assumption into glorious heaven, in body and soul, our beloved mother and guide, pray for us all sinners, now and always, and at the hour of our death. Amen.