Monday, 30 September 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to a lesson on humility, and its importance, when we become the disciples of Christ, not to boast of our own glory, but rather boast of the glory of God, made evident in Jesus the Christ. That is because it is indeed the Lord who is worthy of all praise and glory, for His might, and even more importantly for the extent of the love that He had shown us through Christ.

The Lord wanted to teach His disciples, and through them, all of us, on the value and importance on humility and being humble, as the way to be a good and upright person, a good child of God. And Christ did not just preach and do nothing about what He taught, because in fact He truly practiced what He had preached.

How so? Jesus is truly humble and unassuming, although He is truly great, as the King of all kings. He is divine and omnipotent, and all creation is under His power and authority, as the Lord of all the universe, and yet, for our sake and our salvation from death, He is willing to make Himself small and insignificant, as small and unworthy as we are, to be man like one of us, although without sin.

In His humility too, He was born in a small stable, rejected by others, from inns and houses, that He had to be born among the animals and shepherds. He lived as a carpenter’s son and was ridiculed by His own people, the people of Nazareth, when He revealed the truth about Himself to them. He was humble in all of His ways and loving in all of His actions.

There is nothing that exemplifies His humility better than that of His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. That He lowered Himself to die a death of a slave, the death on the cross, condemned to death despite His innocence, for the sake of all of us. But that is also where the Lord’s words came true even more. That is because the symbol of the cross was transformed forever, from the symbol of shame to be a symbol of hope and victory.

Christ rose up from the dead in glory on the third day after His death, and He took His rightful place as the Lord of all things, having saved mankind through His death, that they will not die but live. On the other hand, the prideful and arrogant Satan was cast down in great shame, and forever he is condemned to the punishment prepared for him, for his prideful rebellion against the Lord.

With humility, we will go a long way, because with humility in our heart, we will be more ready to open it to the love of God, to the wisdom of God, and to His saving power. We will be more ready to listen to Him and take in all the teachings that He had told us, the commandments that He had given us to follow, that we become truly faithful and obedient to He who created us.

Humility allows one to understand one’s faults and weaknesses more readily, and also the understanding, that one’s sins had prevented one from reaching the Lord and eternal joy in heaven. That this will likely make one to atone for one’s own sins and do things that help to overcome those sins as well as doing good for others. That is how important humility truly is.

Without humility, we tend to be prone to fall into our own pride, and end up shutting the Lord and even our other beloved ones from our heart. We will tend to build up our ego, to the point that we think only about ourselves, and not for others, at all. We tend to do things for our own glory, and praising ourselves for our own greatness, without realising that, without God we are really nothing.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of St. Jerome, a great writer of the early Church, and one of the greatest Doctors of the Church, as one of the original Four, together with St. Augustine, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. as strong pillars of the Church. St. Jerome lived at a time when the faith has begun to take hold over the entire Roman Empire after it was no longer persecuted.

St. Jerome’s contribution to the Church is truly great, especially to the Church in the western parts of the Empire. The Roman Empire was a vast Empire spanning from Britain and the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Middle East and Egypt, encompassing the entire Mediterranean Sea basin. The western part of that Empire spoke primarily Latin and its dialectic derivatives, the official language of the Empire.

The eastern part however, spoke primarily Greek and a variety of other ancient languages, and because the faith came and arose from that region, much of the Scripture that we know today was written in Greek or in the other eastern languages. It is St. Jerome who opened the doorway to the Scripture in the west, and therefore to us, by being the first to translate the Septuagint, that is the Greek Scripture, into the Vulgate, the Latin Scripture, written by St. Jerome himself.

St. Jerome also courageously defended the true and orthodox faith, defending it against every kind of aberrations and heresies that threatened to split the Church apart at that time. Through his writings and other works, St. Jerome kept the Apostolic faith alive and strong even in difficult times.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we celebrate the feast of this great saint, St. Jerome, let us also strive to be more like him. St. Jerome is an ascetic, one who withdrew from the pleasures of the world and reject worldly glories, putting the Lord above everything else. He is also humble, and he did his work with great humility, and yet he bore much fruits.

That is why, brethren, we too should emulate him, in doing good works in our own ways, even in small little ways. Because even in little things, good can eventually come in abundance. In humility too, we can become great, not in the way that the world sees it, but instead in the eyes of the Lord. Humility bears love, and that love will bear much good. Even in his ‘humble’ work as a writer, St. Jerome’s good works still affect us even until this day. All the Bibles that we read today eventually had their roots from the works of St. Jerome.

May St. Jerome intercede for us and pray always for us sinners, that we can remain in the grace of God, and receive His heavenly blessings. May God be with us and remain with us always. Amen.

Monday, 30 September 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 46-50

One day the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He took a little child and stood him by His side.

Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One who sent Me. And listen : the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John spoke up, “Master, we saw someone who drives out demons by calling upon Your Name, and we tried to forbid him, because he does not follow You with us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him. He who is not against you is for you.”

Monday, 30 September 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 101 : 16-18, 19-21, 29 and 22-23

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “the Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.”

Your servants’ children will dwell secure; their posterity will endure without fail. Then the Name of the Lord will be declared in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship Him.

Monday, 30 September 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Zechariah 8 : 1-8

The word of YHVH, the God of hosts was directed to me in this way, “I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred by a burning anger for her sake. YHVH says : I will return to Zion and live in her midst. Jerusalem shall be called City of faithfulness and the Mountain of YHVH of hosts, the Mountain of holiness.”

YHVH, God of hosts speaks, “Old men and women will again sit in the squares, each with a stick in hand on account of their great age. The squares of the city will be filled with girls and boys playing.”

YHVH, God of hosts declares, “If that seems impossible in the eyes of those who have returned from exile, will it be impossible for Me as well?” – word of YHVH.

YHVH, God of hosts says, “See, I am going to save My people, bringing them from the east and from the west, and they will live in Jerusalem. They will be My people and I shall be their God in truth and in justice.”

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the well-known parable on the story of Lazarus the poor beggar and his counterpart, the rich man. We listened to the perils of Lazarus in this life, and after the deaths of both him and the rich man, we again listened to the suffering the rich man endured for eternity in hell.

The story shows the considerable contrast in the reality in our society, both at the time of Jesus and even today in our modern world. The rich lived in great wealth and great comfort, and the poor lived in suffering and a life of deficiency. The rich tends to get richer while the poor tends to get poorer. That is the reality, brethren, even today.

However, it is important to note that, Jesus did not condemn the rich and neither did He condemn their wealth, their money, and their possessions. What He condemned is inaction, the failure of one, whether he is rich or poor, strong or weak, to act, with love, when someone or others around them face difficulties or challenges, which we can help overcome through our actions.

The Lord our God desired that through our actions, we can look at our brethren in suffering, and offer to them a helping hand, and also, our love. That is what He truly wants from us, that we can share the love that He had given us, with one another. This is what the rich man had failed to do in his life. He failed to notice the plight of Lazarus the beggar, the poor man, leaving him to die of hunger, while he feasted every day and every night on endless flow of food and drinks.

Lazarus received his compensation in heaven, for in his suffering, he had built much wealth in heaven, by persevering through life, and presumably, doing what is good in the eyes of the Lord. He was given rest and happiness, in the company of the saints and the angels. On the other hand, the rich man, who feasted without end, and cared nothing on others, received his due, that is eternal suffering in hell.

Therefore, brethren, we are really urged to do something for others, especially those whose suffering and plight can be lessened through the touch of our love, be it in our words or our actions. Let us not be like the rich man, who ignored the plight of the weak, the poor, and the ostracised, and instead let us love them and open our hearts for them.

Today’s readings in fact highlight another important facet of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ. In line with the first reading, and the psalm, while we have been cast out of the heavenly glory of God, all because of our sins and faults, He came to give us a new hope, in His saving power, through Jesus His Son, suffering and crucified.

Ever since our ancestors sinned against God, disobeying Him and instead, obeying the words of Satan the deceiver, we have been cast out from the presence of God, because we are unworthy, and because we have hardened our heart against God and His love. His enduring love for us however, continues to burn, with the hope that we may repent our ways and return to Him.

An infinite and uncrossable chasm existed between us and the Lord, and no one could cross this chasm, and we thought that we were doomed to hell prepared for the devil and his fellow rebels, the fallen angels. But God did not intend the hell for us, nor for any of His beloved creations. Yet, many of us throughout the ages failed to escape the snares of hell, falling into temptations of the world and its pleasures, as the rich man had done.

The great suffering in hell is in fact not the flames and heat that torture for all time, as the rich man had endured. That heat is a consequence and a part of the unending suffering that one has to go through, if one does not repent for his or her sins. The main part of the suffering is actually the complete sundering and separation of one from God, of one from the divine love that God has for all of us. That love, which sustains all of us in this world, is no longer there for those who have rejected Him and consequently fall into hell.

Without God’s love and the eternal period of one has to suffer in hell, knowing fully that there is no hope at all to redo what they had done wrongly and what they had failed to do, when they still walked this world. This hopelessness and thus despair, combined with the total separation from God and His graces, are the things that make hell so painful, so unendurable, and so despicable. Brethren, our every breath, and every good things we have, come from the Lord and His love. Can you imagine a state where we are entirely and totally devoid of any form of God’s love, for eternity, and that is hell?

That is why God constantly tried to help us, by sending His messengers through the prophets, to remind mankind of the need for repentance and purification, from the evils and the impurities of the devil inside our hearts. And yet, many of us and our ancestors turned a deaf ear to these reminders, and even slaughtered the prophets of God, spilling innocent blood, and mankind still fell into damnation.

That is why, brethren, He sent Jesus His Son, to be the great deliverance of His beloved children, from the slavery of sin and death, and from their fate of eternal punishment in hell. Jesus is the bridge, the narrow bridge that bridged the infinite chasm existing between us and God, that through Him, we may cross that chasm towards the Lord, our most loving God.

The Lord Jesus Christ  made our crossing towards the Lord possible, but as I mentioned, as much as He is the only bridge, that is the only way to salvation in God, that bridge is also very, very narrow at the same time. As such, the way to the Lord is not an easy one. We tend to face difficulties and challenges along the way, that would make us to detour from our true path, and fall into damnation, if we are not careful. After all, that path is really narrow indeed.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, it must be reiterated that, God loves everyone and cares for everyone, be it that they are poor or rich, weak or strong, beggar or prince, all have a place in the Lord’s plan of salvation. God does not condemn the rich nor their wealth nor their privileges. What He condemns is the lack of charity, by anyone, even among the weak and the poor, for others.

It is these shortcomings, the lack of charity, the lack of love, and the lack of care for one another, which dooms us to failure, as we walk across the cross of salvation, that is the bridge Christ had made upon His death, to bridge the gap between mankind and their Father in heaven. In fact, as Christ had told His disciples, that to those who had been given much, much will also be expected from them. Therefore, as those who have more in terms of possessions and monetary well-being had been given a greater share of grace by the Lord, much is also expected from them, to share their joy with those who lack them, that in sharing, all the children of God will rejoice together as one.

We certainly do not want to suffer as the rich man had suffered in hell, for eternity. The way to the Lord is there, brethren, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but it is narrow. Let us resolve then to proceed on our way towards God without delay, and ensure that we stay on that path, by our faith in the crucified Christ and the Risen Christ, and that faith which is made alive through our love, reflected in our words and actions.

Let us therefore offer a helping hand to anyone around us who are in need of help, giving them the love, care, and attention, following the example of Christ Himself, who had given His complete and perfect love to everyone, to all of us sinners, to even His enemies who cried for His death and those who persecuted Him and the people of God.

May the Lord nurture in all of us, within our hearts, the enduring love and compassion, that from now on we will give our love to our brethren around us, sharing with them our joy and love. And the Lord who sees our obedience and faith, will reward us, with nothing else than eternal life in the presence of God, filled with joy, in the same way as Lazarus the poor beggar, had been treated. God bless us all and remain with us, within our hearts forever. Amen.

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 16 : 19-31

Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen, and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.

It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell, where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest.

He called out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.”

Abraham replied, “My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.”

The rich man implored once more, “Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.”

Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” But the rich man said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.”

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Timothy 6 : 11-16

But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life to which you were called when you made the good profession of faith in the presence of so many witnesses.

Now, in the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ who expressed before Pontius Pilate the authentic profession of faith : preserve the revealed message to all. Keep yourself pure and blameless until the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord, which God will bring about at the proper time, He, the magnificent Sovereign, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

To Him, alone immortal, who lives in unapproachable light and whom no one has ever seen or can see, to Him be honour and power for ever and ever. Amen!

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 145 : 7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

The Lord sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Amos 6 : 1a, 4-7

Woe to those proud people who live overconfident on the hill of Samaria! You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and sprawl on your couches; you eat lamb from the flock and veal from calves fattened in the stall.

You strum on your harps, and like David, try out new musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and anoint yourselves with the finest oils, but you do not grieve over the ruins of Joseph.

Therefore you will be the first to go into exile; and the feast of sprawlers will be over.

Saturday, 28 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

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

Beloved brother and sisters in Christ, today we continue to listen to the reality of the Lord’s mission in this world, that is to be betrayed by His beloved, to be forsaken, rejected, and finally to suffer death although He is innocent, that through His death, all may gain eternal life in Him.

The Lord had come to be the Saviour of all, the One who bring forth the light of God into the darkened world, and into the darkened hearts of men. Through His coming and saving works, He had brought the hopelessness of mankind in the face of death and sin, into a new dawn of hope, the hope in He who died for all that they may live.

Dear brethren, as the Lord Himself had said, He came into the world to ransom His people, to deliver them from the fate they were to suffer for eternity, all for following the devil and listening to his lies instead of the truths of God. He ransomed all of us, from the hands of the devil, our slavemaster, not through gold, silver, or any form of material possessions and money, but through His own Most Precious Blood, the Blood of the Lamb.

That Blood is blood that saves and purifies, and which washes us clean from the filth of our sins and faults, making us perfect again in the eyes of God. That once we who were unworthy of God and His kingdom, now be made worthy and ready to be accepted again. The Blood shed from the innocent and purest lamb of all, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

He did not resist at all when the chief priests and the Pharisees captured Him and tortured Him. He was indeed like a lamb being led to the slaughter, never complaining and in complete obedience to the will of God, the Father of all. Jesus is our Paschal Lamb, the One who offered Himself as the perfect and acceptable sacrifice to the throne of God.

That He was willing to suffer in place of us for the punishments intended to us, to bear that cross for our sake, and to bear all the humiliations imaginable, just that we may have hope and be saved, should have awakened us from our slumber, from our ignorance, yes, ignorance from the love of God most kind and forgiving,

Without Him, there can be no hope, and without His suffering, all of us will suffer, suffer from the consequences of our sins and of our wayward ways, away from the Lord our God. It is in the suffering of Christ that He shared our sufferings and bore it upon Himself, that we are freed from the weight of that yoke, the yoke of sin. And in His glorious resurrection, He lifted us all up from our old ways, from our old slavery to death, into a new life that He guaranteed through His own resurrection, as One who had conquered death.

Today, we celebrate the feast of several saints, first of which is St. Wenceslas or Wenceslaus, one of the first kings of Bohemia in the early Medieval era Germany, one of the first converts to the faith in that nation, which just a generation before was the nation of pagans and barbarians who ransacked many of Christendom’s countries. Even at the time of St. Wenceslaus, there were still strong pagan elements in the country, opposed to him and his rule as a Christian ruler.

Nevertheless, St. Wenceslaus remained faithful and committed to the cause of the Lord, and was known to be a good and caring ruler, who cared especially for the poor and the oppressed among his people, and worked hard to help spread the faith in the country where he ruled. This of course resulted in opposition to build up from the pagan elements in the society and among the nobles.

St. Wenceslaus was martyred for the faith, when he was murdered on his way to the church by his brother and his noble supporters. While his brother was a Christian himself, but many of the nobles who supported him were not, and they resented St. Wenceslaus’ attempts to bring the faith to them. Therefore, in the defense of his faith, St. Wenceslaus had given his life, and his blood, for the sake of the Lord, for the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of his people.

St. Lawrence Ruiz or Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions are the other saints whom we commemorate on this day, also as martyrs of the faith, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord. St. Lawrence Ruiz is the first saint of the Philippines, who was martyred with several others in Japan. He was born in the Philippines during the early seventeenth century, when Spain owned the Philippines. He lived a relatively normal life until he was falsely accused of a crime, which prompted him to hide in exile, which happened to be in a ship bound for Japan.

St. Lawrence Ruiz arrived in Japan at a time of very great difficulty for any of the faithful of the Lord. Although just decades before Japan was truly a ripe ground for evangelisation, which saw hundreds of thousands converted into the faith, during the time of St. Lawrence Ruiz in Japan, the new Tokugawa shogunate government had changed their policy against Christians from tolerance and warmth into an open and vicious persecution.

Christians everywhere in Japan were threatened to abandon their faith or lose their lives through harsh torture and pain. Many recanted their faith following these threats, but equally many persevered in their faith and ended up being martyred, through various methods like crucifixion, beheading, and burning, many of them cruel and painful in nature.

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions were also captured and subjected to these torturous methods, and were asked to abandon their faith in God. They resisted and remained staunch in their undying faith to God. They forsake their earthly life in order to obtain the life in heaven, which is eternal, from the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, after listening to the life stories of these courageous and faithful martyrs of the Lord, who did not shy from even risking their lives for the true faith, and recalling the very sacrifice Jesus had endured on the cross for our salvation, let us then, brethren, be proactive in our faith, no longer sitting down and let what God has given us go to waste, and instead, let us bravely take up our crosses, as the martyrs and saints had done, and go to proclaim to the whole world, the salvation of our Lord, offered to all those who believe in Him.

May the Lord continue to empower and strengthen us, in our mind, body, and speech, that we will be able to be strong and courageous bearers of His holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation, inspired by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, St. Wenceslaus, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions. God bless us all. Amen.