Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to assume regal authority, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.'”

“He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

‘The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.'”

“The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front of me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that It was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You walking on the water.”

Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Psalm 16 : 1, 5-6, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o Lord, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer for there is no deceit on my lips.

Hold firm my steps upon Your path, that my feet may not stumble. I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteousness in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors.

Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them : “I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought that she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language :

“My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day. I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Acts 28 : 11-16, 30-31

After three months, we boarded a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It belonged to an Alexandrian company and carried the figurehead of Castor and Pollux as insignia. We sailed for Syracuse, staying there for three days and, after circling the coast, we arrived at Rhegium.

On the following day, a south wind began to blow, and at the end of two days we arrived at Puteoli, where we found some of our brothers who invited us to stay with them for a week. And that was how we came to Rome. There the brothers and sisters had been informed of our arrival and came out to meet us as far as the Appian Forums and the Three Taverns.

When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage. Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we witnessed the story of Eleazar the elder, faithful and devoted servant and follower of the Lord, who loved during the time of the persecution of the faithful Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ruled over the Seleucid Empire. The king enforced a common religion and customs for all of his subjects, and many of the Jews who were faithful only to God, refused to follow the orders of the king.

And Eleazar in today’s first reading showed us an example of the dilemma facing all those who want to remain faithful to the Lord, and yet the worldly authorities had a different opinion, that is wanting the people to abandon His ways and to betray Him for the ways of this world. That is the dilemma and the conflict, knowing that to accept the world, we would reject the Lord, and vice versa.

And grievous sufferings and pain awaited all those of Eleazar’s time who were not willing to abandon their faith. Eleazar’s fate was just one of the many examples. In the other passage from the Book of the Maccabees, we witnessed how a mother with her seven sons were martyred for their faith, because they refused to follow the king’s orders, and even despite persuasions and temptations by the king and his officers, they adamantly remained true to their faith in God.

They suffered for remaining true to their faith, as they have chosen the lot of the Lord rather than the lot of men. Had they chosen the path of the king, they would have been saved from the sufferings and the pains of death they had encountered, and they would receive much riches and wealth, the blessings of the world bestowed and promised to them by the king. However, to be saved temporarily in the world is not worth the loss of eternal salvation.

We have to remember in this case, what Jesus told His disciples about those who try to preserve their lives and thus lose their lives in the world that is to come, and also those who have lost their lives for the sake of the Lord, and therefore regain those lives manyfold, by the blessings of God’s eternal life. That was what Eleazar and the other faithful people of his time had done, enduring the sufferings of this world and its rejection that they might receive God’s grace and eternal glory.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who was a Hungarian princess renowned for her great piety and many charitable acts throughout her life, and even though she encountered great anguish of losing her husband and being widowed at a young age, she continued her life in a life dedicated to the Lord and used whatever wealth and possessions she had to help the poor.

It was not a way that was the norm in the world at that time, just as such behaviour is also not a commonly acceptable way in our world today. Our world always teaches us to be selfish and to think first of ourselves and all the goods we have before we think of others around us. This is just as what the king Antiochus tried to persuade the faithful with, in abandoning their faith.

The king promised riches, wealth and position in his government, his friendship and all the honour associated with it, if they would dishonour the covenant which God had made with them and followed the pagan ways and worshipped the pagan idols of the Greeks. But these goods, wealth and materials are all truly temporary and will not last. Neither will the happiness and the joys, the pleasures of this world will last forever.

That is why, for us the path is clear, but is not an easy one. We are easily tempted and lured away from the true path that leads to the Lord. And if we are not careful, we will be dragged into the inescapable path of destruction that lands us in eternal hell, the suffering from which there is no escape. Now we have to ask ourselves, whether we want for ourselves a temporary salvation from the sufferings of the world, or an eternal salvation with God.

Let us all devote ourselves more to the Lord and commit ourselves to Him in our actions, words and deeds. Let us not worry about acceptance by the world and any persecution or suffering that will come our way when we act in ways in accordance to the Lord’s bidding and against that of the world. Do not fear those that can only inflict destruction on the flesh, but fear more He Who can bring about eternal suffering and destruction of body and soul, when He rejects those wicked ones and cast them into hell.

May God bless us in all of our endeavours, and may He continue to guide us in this life, providing us with encouragement and blessings for all that we do, that we may be righteous, just and true to our faith in Him. May God bring us to the eternal life and the blessings He had promised us. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a Guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 3 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

O Lord, how great in number are my foes! How numerous are they who rise against me! How many are they who say of my soul : “There is no help for him in God!”

But You are my shield, o Lord, my glory, You lift up my head. Aloud I cry to the Lord, and from His holy hill He answers me.

If I lie down to sleep, again I awake, for the Lord supports me; no fear of the thousands standing against me.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Maccabees 6 : 18-31

Eleazar, one of the prominent teachers of the Law, already old and of noble appearance, was forced to open his mouth to eat the flesh of a pig. But he preferred to die honourably than to live in disgrace, and voluntarily came to the place where they beat him to death. He spit out bravely the piece of meat, as should be done by those who do not want to do things prohibited by the Law, even to save their life.

Those in charge of this impious banquet took him aside, since they had known him for a long time, and tried to convince him to pretend to be eating the meat, but in reality, to eat something allowed by the Law and prepared by himself. In this way, he could escape death, and be treated with humanity for the sake of their long-time friendship.

But he preferred to make a noble decision worthy of his age, of his noble years, of his shining white hair, and of the irreproachable life he had led from childhood. Above all, showing respect for the holy laws established by God, he answered that he would rather be sent to the place of the dead.

And he added, “It would be unworthy to pretend at our age, and to lead many young people to suppose that I, at ninety years, have gone over to the pagan customs. If I lead them astray for the sake of this short life I would bring disgrace to my old age. Even if I could now be saved from mortals, I cannot – whether living or dead – escape from the hands of the Almighty.”

“I prefer to bravely sacrifice my life now, as befits my old age. So I shall leave an excellent example to the young, dying voluntarily and valiantly for the sacred and holy laws.” Having said this, he gave himself over to death. Those who escorted him considered his words foolishness, so their previous gentleness turned into harshness.

When he was almost at the point of death, he said groaning, “The Holy Lord, Who sees all, knows that though I could have saved myself from death, I now endure terrible sufferings in my body. But in my soul, I suffer gladly because of the respect I have for Him.”

In his death, he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue and strength, not only to the young but to the whole nation.