Wednesday, 30 September 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings urge us to put aside all sorts of uncertainties, doubts, and undue attachments to worldly goods and pleasurable things in life, all of which are holding us back against being saved and receiving the eternal life and glory as promised by the Lord our God.

The first reading today is an account of the servant of God and prophet Nehemiah, who was a steward and servant in the house of the Emperor of Persia, living in the great and unimaginable luxury of the Imperial Palace of the vast and mighty Persian Empire. At the heart of the Empire, therefore, Nehemiah must have enjoyed such a wonderful and enjoyable life, even as a steward and servant to the Emperor.

However, God called on him to help the reconstruction and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple, and for him to travel there to oversee the works involved in the restoration of the people of God and the land they dwelled in. If we look at it, certainly what God asked of him was something very difficult and demanding, and it required Nehemiah to leave behind all the good things that he had enjoyed in life, and venture to the uncertainty of the land of Judah.

Ever after the kingdom of Israel and Judah had been destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the land which was once very prosperous and renowned under the kings David and Solomon was no longer an important place to be, and it was rather a backwater by the time of Nehemiah, and going to such a land for an extended period of time must surely be a difficult thing to do for Nehemiah, and yet, he begged the Emperor to be allowed to go, for the Lord had made him the tool to help the rebuilding of the land and to bring the people of God back to the glorious days they had missed.

In the Gospel today, we heard how Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, and to leave behind all the things they had, all the joys of the world, all their possessions, and even their relatives and their own families. He told them not to worry about many things and attachments to this world if they are willing to follow Him. This is meant to let us mankind know, that we who are often too busy worrying abut ourselves, that we can really put our trust in the Lord our God.

Many of us are too concerned about ourselves so that we are not able to truly focus on the Lord. Remember that in another parable Jesus had said about how the wicked servant used trickery to gain advantage of the situation and to safeguard himself after he was fired by his master because of his corrupt ways? That is because we cannot be master to both God and money, and thus we cannot follow both the Lord and our own desires.

If we want to be true disciples of the Lord, then we have to learn to let go of our wants, our desires, and stop our ego and pride from growing in our hearts. Let our minds not be filled with the corrupt notions of desire and greed, and let us be filled instead with the selfless love which our Lord had shown us through Jesus Christ. And Jesus had told us all, that if we want to follow Him, then we ought to take up our cross and follow Him.

What Jesus said to His disciples also did not mean that we have to literally leave our families, our possessions and everything behind as we go forth to follow Him. What He meant for us is that we all have to learn to detach ourselves from our too-easily attached attachments to things such as business, possessions, relationships that may not bring about and may not lead us to the righteousness required for God’s salvation to be ours.

It is essential that all of us take heed of what Jesus had told His disciples, which we heard today, so that we may grow less and less worried and attached to our desires and then we will be better able to follow the Lord our God with all of our heart’s strength and with all of our might. If we follow the Lord, then we all ought to be true to His words, and walk faithfully along His path.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Jerome, a great saint and Doctor of the Church, whose examples that I hope all of us can follow. St. Jerome was once a wayward man in his youth, who gave himself to debauchery and wicked was of the world, much as his contemporary, another great saint, St. Augustine of Hippo who was once also a great sinner.

St. Jerome eventually repented and left behind his life of sin, and he was truly very repentant and sorry for all the wicked things he had done, and which he atoned by many good deeds, helping to build up the foundation of the Church and spreading the Good News of the Gospel, most notably by his most renowned achievement, that is of the writing of the Latin version of the Bible, a translation from the original Greek version called the Septuagint. The Latin Bible written by St. Jerome is also known today as the Vulgate Bible.

Thus, we see how St. Jerome also left his past sinfulness and wickedness behind when he decided to dedicate himself and commit himself to the Lord. And we saw what a transformation that was, and how that transformation benefitted countless people through many generations. And we too can do the same with our own lives. If we can leave behind sin and wickedness in our lives, and resolve to never again commit sin and vile things in our words and actions, then the path forward for us is clear.

May Almighty God be with us all, guide us on our path, and help us in our transformation from a people living in darkness, into the children of the Light, whose lights are reflection of the Light of the Lord our Father, and through our light, may more and more people come closer to God’s salvation. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 57-62

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples went on their way, a man said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

To another Jesus said, “Follow Me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for first I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said to Him, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 136 : 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

By the streams of Babylon, we sat and then wept as we remembered Zion. When on the poplars we hung our harps.

Our captors asked for song. Our tormentors wanted songs of joy : “Sing to us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a strange and alien land? If I forget you, o Jerusalem, may my right hand fall useless!

May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if Jerusalem is not the first of my joys.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Nehemiah 2 : 1-8

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes, I was doing my duty as cupbearer. I took up the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad before the king in the past. So, the king said to me, “Why do you look sad? You do not look sick. Is there something that bothers you?”

I became hesitant. And I said, “May the king live forever! How could I afford not to be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates are burned down?” The king said to me, “What do you want, then?” I asked help of God from heaven and said to the king, “If it seems good to the king and if he is pleased with my work, then may he send me to the land of Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, that I may rebuild it.”

The queen was sitting beside the king, and the king asked me, “How long will you be gone? When will you be back?” I told him the date and he allowed me to leave. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, may you give me letters for the governors of the province at the other side of the River that I may travel to Judah, and also a letter to Asaph, the caretaker of the king’s forest, for I will need wood for the gates of the Citadel near the Temple, for the walls of the city and for the house where I shall live.”

The good hand of God was supporting me, so that the king gave me what I asked.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 : Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a very great feast in the honour of principally the Prince of all the heavenly hosts, St. Michael the Archangel, chief of all the angels of God, defender of the faith and defender of all God’s children from Satan and his angels.

And we also celebrate the other two great Archangels mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, St. Gabriel the Archangel, the bearer of the Good News of God to Mary in Nazareth, announcing the coming of the Saviour into the world, and St. Raphael the Archangel, the one who appeared to Tobit the Israelite in his exile in Assyria, who helped both him by healing his eyesight, and by healing Sara, his daughter-in-law from the depredation of Asmodeus the devil.

The three of the great Archangels all represent who the angels are. In case we do not know, God created His angels as the stewards of all creation, as the extension of His will, His obedient servants who went forth from place to place to bring God’s goodness to all creation, especially to all of us mankind, the most special of all of God’s created ones.

They worked constantly to help all of us in the defence against Satan and all of his forces, who continually assail us from all directions, aiming at bringing about our downfall and our damnation in hell together with them. Satan was himself once a great angel of God, the greatest and most brilliant among all of them, but in his brilliance, greatness and might, he was lost in self-praise, self-aggrandisement, desire and vanity.

It was his pride that brought about his downfall, and pride is indeed the greatest and the most dangerous form of sin. From pride comes jealousy, desire, greed, hatred, anger, wrath and all other forms of sins, for it is the ego, the pride for the self that brought about all the other negative emotions and feelings, which led to much evil, sorrow and wickedness.

And thus Lucifer, the name Satan was known with before his downfall, in his great pride aspired to ascend even higher and greater, to supplant even God Himself and sit upon the throne of heaven. And we can see this in one of the Book of the Psalms, where there remained a portion of his boast, that he would place himself above the stars of heaven, the angels, and take place the throne of God.

But instead of being elevated and glorified, he was brought low, and cast down, and he was condemned together with the numerous angels who followed him into his rebellion. This was told in the Book of the Revelation or Apocalypse according to St. John. That book is a window to the future events, but at the same time also contained explanation of what happened in the past.

The great red dragon who brought down a third of the stars in heaven was Lucifer, or now known as Satan, who brought down approximately a third of the angels of heaven together with him in rebellion against God, and these became what we know now as the fallen angels. And Michael stood against the dragon, and warred with it, and the dragon was defeated. This was what happened, when St. Michael the Archangel took up the banner of the faithful angels and led them to victory against Satan and his allies.

And thus was how St. Michael the Archangel became the Prince of all the heavenly hosts of angels. St. Michael was not the greatest or the mightiest of the angels as Lucifer was, but he was chosen because apparently, when God assembled the angels before Him, St. Michael would tremble in his knees before the Lord’s presence, and He noticed that, and thus, his name was Michael, the one who trembles.

And yet, this trembling is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of total surrender and trust in the Lord, for he knows that the Lord is Almighty and great beyond compare, and as mighty as he is, he is nothing as compared to the Lord. And in his heart lies complete loyalty and trust in God, his Lord and Master. And thus, in his great humility and sense of responsibility, and in his faith, God made him to be the commander of all the angels.

From here we can see the virtue of St. Michael the Archangel, that it was not pride and ego that brought us to true greatness, but humility, that we are humble enough to admit our shortcomings and weaknesses, and seek help from those who are more capable and greater than us. St. Michael the Archangel leads the angels of God in defending us from the constant assaults of the devil, who led his own forces of the fallen angels in a constant struggle for our souls.

That is why our guardian angels are always with us and protecting us, that we will be able to guard ourselves against the fallen angels that prey upon us, the tempters who attempt to turn us away from the path of righteousness and from obedience to God, just as Satan, the first and the chief tempter, tempted our ancestors Adam and Eve, and convinced them to sin against God.

Then, as mentioned, St. Gabriel the Archangel is the other great Archangel who came to Mary on that night in Nazareth, a small town and a poor village, and he came to a simple woman, unassuming and without status, to proclaim to her and thus to all creation, of the fulfilment of the long awaited promise of salvation by the Lord, which would be made complete and perfect through Mary.

Yes, God had promised mankind since the very first moment they fell into sin, that while Satan would continue to harass them and harm them and their descendants, that is all of us, but one day deliverance would come through the Woman, and this woman is Mary, whose Son is our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, the One who liberated us all from sin and from the tyranny of Satan.

Thus through St. Gabriel the Archangel, Satan received the announcement and proclamation of his impending ultimate and final defeat at the hands of God. That no matter whatever he is trying to do, ultimately, God shall triumph in the end, and he and his fellow fallen angels have no place in the world that is to come. That is another work of the angels of God, that besides fighting to protect us and help us from the attacks of the devil, they also deliver God’s will and messages of hope to us.

And lastly, St. Raphael the Archangel came to help Tobit and Sara when they both prayed to God for help and healing, and God heard them, sending St. Raphael the Archangel to bring about their healing. Tobit was blinded by bird droppings after he had gone out to help the unjustly punished among his people and chastised by his own relatives, friends and even his wife, while Sara had had seven husbands and every single one of them died by the works of Asmodeus the demon, servant of Satan, and she was wrongly and unjustly accused by those around her.

Through St. Raphael the Archangel and his works, he banished and crushed Asmodeus and freed Sara from the bonds of the demon by the will of God, and helped to unite her with Tobias, the son of Tobit. And then, he brought healing to the eyesight of Tobit, that he might be able to see again, and the situations which was once very dire and filled with despair, had been turned into one of joy and filled with hope once again.

Thus, the angels of God bring hope and healing to us, the hope of the Lord and the healing touch of our Lord Jesus upon us, that hope may dawn in our hearts and the love of God may fill up our heart, dispelling all forms of doubt and despair. This is important in the field of the constant daily spiritual battle for our souls, as hope gives strength to us and to the angels fighting for us, so that together we may drive away the forces of evil assailing us.

Therefore, today, let us all pray together, to the Holy Archangels of God, princes and lords of the angels and servants of God. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle and strengthen us against the attacks of Satan, the faithless servant, and cast him down from his throne, bring him low and crush him. St. Gabriel the Archangel, bring God’s Good News and messages of hope to us, that by listening to the hope which we have in the Lord, we may continue to struggle on to righteousness and justice.

St. Raphael the Archangel, help bring us God’s consolation and healing, that our troubled and wounded hearts and souls may rejoice and be renewed, that a new hope may blossom inside us, that no despair or darkness sent by Satan and his agents may deter us from our path towards salvation in God. May the Lord through His great and holy Archangels continue to protect us always. God bless us all. Amen.