Sunday, 5 October 2014 : 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the message of the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel today is very, very clear indeed. The Lord exhorted all of us not to follow the path of those who refused to listen to Him and those who kept evil in their hearts, for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all of whom who kept in their hearts jealousy and desire, that is desire for power, authority and human praise, even above their responsibility and duty to obey the Lord and follow Him.

That was very clearly demonstrated in the first reading we have heard today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, who wrote about how God referred to Himself being a vineyard owner and master, who laboured and worked hard on a vineyard, that is the vineyard of His people. And yet, no matter what the Lord had done for them, all the love and commitment He had given to them, they produced sour fruits and were unproductive.

St. Paul in his letter to the faithful in the Roman Greek city of Philippi exhorted the people to follow the Lord faithfully, casting out any doubts and impurities that they had in their hearts, so that they might avoid any form of jealousy, hatred, and any other negativities from infecting their hearts, which is the root of all the disobedience against the Lord.

Thus, in the Gospel today, we heard how Jesus made it clear to the people, linking clearly to the message of God as prophesied by Isaiah the prophet, and as His Apostle Paul elaborated later on. Jesus mentioned in His parable when He taught the people, of the parable of the vineyard and the evil tenants. He recounted about how the vineyard owner entrusted the works of the vineyard to the tenants who repaid his kindness with vile acts and vile desire in their hearts.

Not only that they had reneged on their promise and vow, and their part of the work contract to provide the portion which had been due to the vineyard owner, but they refused to obey and budge, even to the point of torturing and refusing to listen to those whom the owner had sent to persuade them and get them to pay their due. And in the end, when the owner sent his own son, the vile tenants plotted to destroy him with the wicked aim to gain the vineyard for their own.

The parable was exceedingly clear in their meaning to us, who now know about the Lord’s revelation through the prophets and Jesus Himself, His Son, even though the people who heard it directly from Jesus at the time might not have gotten the idea through or understood the message of the parable. The parable was a clear rebuke against the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as a significant portion among the people of God who had adamantly refused to believe and listen in Christ the Lord.

The vineyard owner represented the Lord our God, the Father and Creator of all the universe. And thus, the vineyard itself represented the creation, the universe, our world. Meanwhile, the vineyard tenants referred to mankind, who had been entrusted with the care and stewardship of the world. Remember what God had said to our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, when He blessed them and granted them the authority and stewardship over all the earth and all that God had created.

But mankind sinned and rebelled against the will of God, and they refused to listen to Him and they also refused to follow and obey His will. The ones whom the owner had sent to remind the tenants and to get them to obey their part of the work contract were none other than the prophets, the messengers and the numerous servants which the Lord had sent to His people, including Isaiah, Elijah and many others, to lead them and to guide them into the path of righteousness.

However, as the parable told us, that the tenants refused to budge, and even persecuted and killed the servants sent by the master of the vineyard, the same had happened to the many prophets which God had sent to His people. In their continued rebelliousness and disobedience, they chose to ignore the words of God, and then they also tortured and killed many of the prophets and servants sent by God to lead them to righteousness.

Then, obviously, the son of the owner sent to the tenant referred to none other than Jesus Himself, and He was indeed speaking of what would eventually happen to Him, that is to be betrayed by His own people to whom He was sent to, punished and condemned for sins and problems that He did not commit, and were made to die a most shameful and painful death on the cross, just as the tenants plotted against the son to gain the ownership of the vineyard.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were the epitome of the actions of the evil tenants, perfectly representing what they had done as they rose up against Jesus and all that He did. They tried to disrupt His activities wherever He was, and they doubted Him in whatever He had done and said, and in all occasions, they tried to discredit Him by various methods and ways, only to be humiliated by the Lord who turned their devices against them.

They refused to listen to the Lord and follow Him because of the evil in their hearts, the pride that cover the breadth of their wisdom and discerning ability, and the desire for fame and worldly glory that they were blinded and deafened against the truth revealed by God through Jesus. Therefore, they sinned and sinned very greatly against God, and therefore deserved hellfire, for they did not just condemn themselves, but they also misled countless others into damnation with them.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the readings of the Holy Scripture and the Gospel today, let us all do a self-introspect on our own lives, on our every deeds and actions, and in our lives as a whole, whether we have been like the evil tenants in our actions, succumbing to our own personal desire and human weaknesses, succumbing to the temptations of sin and Satan instead of listening to God as we should have.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all throw far, far away the negative parts of our heart, kill off the pride within us, and humbly allow the Lord to come into our lives and begin to transform our lives for the better. Let us all also come to realise how important it is for us all to work together as fellow children of God, to help one another that we may grow stronger in faith, hope and love.

May Almighty God, the sower of all the good in the world, help us to grow stronger in faith, in our hope, and most importantly, in our way of loving God and one another. May He grant us strength and perseverance, to lead a righteous life freed from our iniquities and unworthiness. God bless us all, always, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 5 October 2014 : 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 21 : 33-43

At that time, Jesus said, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.”

“Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way. Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.'”

“So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to Him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.”

And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.’ Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

Sunday, 5 October 2014 : 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Philippians 4 : 6-9

Do not be anxious about anything. In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with whatever is truthful, holy, just, pure, lovely and noble. Be mindful of whatever deserves praise and admiration. Put into practice what you have learnt from me, what I passed on to you, what you heard from me or saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Sunday, 5 October 2014 : 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 79 : 9 and 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

You had a vine You brought from Egypt. You drove nations out, to plant it in their land. Its branches reached out to the sea and its shoots to the River.

Why, then, have You broken down its walls, so that all who pass by pluck its fruits? The beasts of the forest ravage it and all creatures of the field feed on it.

Turn again, o Lord of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

Then we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name. Restore us, o Lord, God of hosts; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Sunday, 5 October 2014 : 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 5 : 1-7

Let me sing for my Beloved the love song of my Beloved about His vineyard. My Beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up, cleared the stones, and planted the choicest vines. He built there a watchtower and hewed out a winepress as well. Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do that I have not done for My vineyard? Good grapes was the yield I expected, why did it yield only sour grapes?

Now I will let you know what I am going to do with My vineyard : I will remove its hedge and it will be burnt; I will break down its wall and it will be trampled on. I will make it a wasteland, I will neither prune nor hoe it, and briars and thorns will grow there. I command the clouds, as well, not to send rain on it.

The vineyard of YHVH Sabaoth is the people of Israel, and the people of Judah are His pleasant vine. He looked for justice, but found bloodshed; He looked for righteousness but heard cries of distress.

Saturday, 4 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of the famous and renowned saint of our Church, that is St. Francis of Assisi, the epitome and model of our faith, and the faithful servant of God, through whose works and legacies, he had brought countless souls into salvation in God, and through whose dedications and works he had become an example for countless more who followed and walked in his path.

He was the founder of the Franciscan order, or the Order of the Friars Minor, renowned for their brown coloured habit and dedication to simple life and poverty, entrusting everything to the Lord, giving it all to the Lord and abandoning all worldly possessions. He was also contributed to the founding of several other religious orders, and his works and dedications had truly profound effect on the Church and the faith as a whole, even until today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Francis of Assisi was himself once like us all, an ordinary man, the son of a wealthy and influential merchant, named Pietro di Bernardone at his birth, as the heir of his father’s fortune and business. He was educated and prepared for a life of glory and happiness, being well versed in the ways of the world and in all matters of finances.

However, St. Francis of Assisi, then known as Pietro, always had that emptiness in his heart, which he could not satisfy with what he had gained in the happy life he had, and in the privileged life he had been given by his father. And therefore, there began the new life journey of who would eventually become the holy man of Assisi, one of the greatest saints of the Universal Church.

He was praying in a rather dilapidated church building, when he heard a voice, from the Lord, saying to him to repair and rebuild His Church. The young Pietro Bernardone mistook this for the order to rebuild the dilapidated church building where he was praying in, and where he had heard the voice of God. As his father was a wealthy merchant dealing in precious goods such as silk trading, he took some of his father’s stock of silk, sold it and used the proceeds to pay for the repair work of the church.

The word of this action came to the knowledge of Pietro’s father, the rich merchant, who then confronted him on his actions. At this time, Pietro, having heard the call of the Lord had decided that the path of his life was not through what he had always been prepared to be, and he sought refuge at the local bishop’s residence at his cathedral.

The father of Pietro, the future St. Francis of Assisi, confronted the bishop and his son, contending and made noises over the amount of money and preparation he had given to his son and heir, and the supposedly humiliating action of his son, stealing and selling his goods and donating them to the Church. In response, St. Francis of Assisi took off all his clothes and possessions, and stood naked in front of the bishop, who then immediately covered him and protected him with his voluminous cope.

In that way therefore, Pietro Bernardone rejected the temptations of wealth and the world, giving up everything to follow the Lord, and began his journey of faith and suffering, to be who we know now as the holy St. Francis of Assisi, the great servant of God, and went to truly rebuild and strengthen the Church of God as God had once called him. He went from place to place, preaching about the Lord and growing ever stronger in faith, and in various occasions, he experienced various experiences of faith that further strengthened his devotion to the Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi also championed the faithful living of abandoning all forms of worldly attachments, and living in joyful poverty, in a life where everything he has belongs to the Lord, and where there is no need for worry, as everything will be taken care of by the Lord. St. Francis of Assisi thus established a new religious orders, now known famously as the Franciscans, after their founder, as a body to accommodate those who also desired to follow the Lord after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.

Like St. Pius of Pietrelcina, another famous Franciscan monk and priest, who had received the five wounds of Jesus, called the stigmata, St. Francis also received the holy wounds of Christ through the moment of euphoria and holy vision, where he received the honour to bear the five wounds that were also once on the feet and hands of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. These wounds would bring him great suffering but also great joy until the end of his life just a few years later.

St. Francis of Assisi was known to be a holy and pious servant of God, and he was also exemplary in his life, loving all the people of God and he held great sincerity seeking to find a way to help bring the salvation of souls to as many souls as possible. St. Francis of Assisi was renowned for his prayer for peace, also known as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, where he extolled the values blessed by the Lord in the Beatitudes, on those who championed peace and who are devoted to the Lord with all of their hearts.

And therefore, St. Francis of Assisi is truly a great role model which we can follow in this life, that in all of his actions and deeds, we hope that we may also follow in his footsteps and therefore, we may also share in the justification which he had attained. And we should also follow in the loving ways of St. Francis, whose love for all the creations of God, mankind and animals alike, that we truly can become epitome of love as he had indeed become.

And referring to the readings of the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels today, it is quite clear that God will reward all those who had believed in Him and remained true to Him in faith. To Job who remained faithful in his humility and obedience, He granted him great graces and blessings which He had bestowed once before, and then gave him even greater things, to the point that what Job had after his suffering was far greater than what he once had.

And Jesus also gave thanks to the Lord His Father for the faith and the good works which His disciples had on Him and which they had done in His Name. And He revealed the truth about Himself, and how blessed they were indeed, for the righteous and the faithful had indeed seen the Lord Himself in action. And thus, all of us here who are also faithful and true to our faith will be blessed with greatness and riches beyond all things.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi and the other holy saints of God, let us all from now on excise from ourselves, from our hearts, our minds and our souls, the darkness and evils of this world, committing ourselves in the same manner as St. Francis of Assisi had done. It is not necessary that we ought to all abandon everything of possession and goodness as he had done, but what is important is that we try to imitate him in his actions and deeds, which reflected his standing as a pious servant of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith in the Lord, not just through empty words or superficial application of faith, but through a dedicated and real devotion reflected in our actions and deeds, so that we may indeed be generous with our love, be caring for one another, especially those who are poor, sick and weak. Let us be peacemakers in this world, abandoning the ways of violence and hatred, and instead follow the path of love and justice.

May Almighty God help and guide us in this endeavour, that in all the things we do we may become ever more and more faithful and devoted to the ways of the Lord in the same way as St. Francis of Assisi had done. May He guide us all, that we may become justified through our loving actions, filled with faith, hope and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 4 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 10 : 17-24

The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on Your Name.”

Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will. I have been given all things by My Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”