Thursday, 23 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 7 : 21-29

At that time, Jesus spoke to the people and to His disciples, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak in Your Name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in Your Name?’ Then I will tell them openly, ‘I have never known you; away from Me, you evil people!'”

“So then, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts accordingly, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house, but it did not collapse because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is a like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible fall that was!”

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were struck by the way He taught, because He taught with authority, unlike their teachers of the Law.

Thursday, 23 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 78 : 1-2, 3-5, 8, 9

O God, the pagans have invaded Your inheritance; they have defiled Your holy Temple and reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given Your servants’ corpses to the birds, and the flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.

They have poured out the blood of Your faithful like water around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. Mocked and reviled by those around us, we are scorned by our neighbours. How long will this last, o Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your wrath always burn to avenge Your rights?

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Thursday, 23 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 24 : 8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother was Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. Jehoiachin treated YHVH badly, as his father had done.

At that time, the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to attack Jerusalem, surrounding the city. Nebuchadnezzar came while the city was being besieged by his men. Jehoiachin, king of Judah, surrendered together with his mother, his servants, his leaders and the palace officials. It was the eighth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar captured them and he took away the treasures of the House of YHVH and of the king’s house. He also destroyed all the objects of gold which Solomon, king of Israel, had made for the sanctuary of YHVH. So the word of YHVH had spoken, was fulfilled.

Nebuchadnezzar carried off into exile all the leaders and prominent men, the blacksmiths and locksmiths, all the men of valour fit for war. A total of ten thousand were exiled to Babylon. Only the poorest sector of the population was left. Nebuchadnezzar also carried away Jehoiachin, with his mother, his wives, the ministers of the palace, and the prominent men of the land.

So all the prominent people, numbering seven thousand, the blacksmiths, numbering a thousand, and all the men fit for war were deported to Babylon by the king of Babylon. He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king of Jerusalem, in place of Jehoiachin. And he changed his name to Zedekiah.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we heard firstly the account of what happened during the time of king Josiah of Judah, when the book of the Law of God was rediscovered in the Temple of God after it had been abandoned or presumably lost for quite some time. The king ordered for the Law to be read to him, and what he heard astounded him and made him tore his clothes in regret to the Lord.

King Josiah was a faithful king, who renewed the covenant of God with His people in the kingdom of Judah. He destroyed the pagan worship sites and the pagan idols, destroying their altars and returned the purity to the faith of the people, enforcing once again the righteous and good worship of YHVH, their Lord and God. And he was also renowned for his celebration of the proper Passover again which have not been truly observed since the days of Solomon, several centuries prior.

But then why did he tremble and acted in terror when he heard about the Law of God which were read to him? That is because the Law of God told the people about the blessings which God would give all those who obeyed the Lord and were faithful to Him, while curses and destruction would be the fate of all those who have disobeyed the Lord and abandoned His ways.

And prior to the reign of king Josiah, there had been many wicked and unfaithful kings of Judah, amidst some of those who were faithful. And these led the people of God in Judah into sin, and as a result, God’s wrath was stoked against His people and His anger has blazed against them. And by the time of Josiah, the time of reckoning was at hand, as the time when the people of Judah would be carried off into exile as what their northern brethren had experienced was coming.

A good king produces good results, and led his people into the right paths. And that was what Josiah tried to do, to led the wayward people of God back to His presence, and hopefully the anger of God would be appeased and calmed down. Unfortunately, for a good king like Josiah and some of his predecessors, there were too many of those who had been wicked and unfaithful.

And these wicked leaders led the people into sin as I have mentioned. A bad tree also produces bad and rotten fruits as well. It was what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. And in the end, as Josiah was the last king of Judah who was faithful to God, and the people of God had their last chance of redemption and forgiveness through him. Unfortunately, they continued to live in sin, and thus God scattered them through the foreign lands where they were exiled in, after the Holy City and the Temple of God were destroyed.

In this we heard what are the consequences if we do not keep our faith in God, and if we do what is wicked and evil. If our hearts are filled with impurities and corruptions of the world, then it is likely that our actions will also be filled with sins and wickedness, and as a result, we are in great danger, for if the Lord comes again to judge us, then He may find our faith wanting, and we will be judged amongst those who deserve the eternal suffering of hell.

If we want to be saved, then we must make sure that we walk in the path of righteousness, and lead a just and devoted life. And if we have not done so all these while, then we should start it right now. Otherwise, if we have done so, then we should continue doing what is right and just before God. And indeed, today, we are all blessed with the presence of not just one, but three honourable saints whose feast we commemorate today.

St. Paulinus of Nola was a Roman noble, who was born into privilege and belonged to a distinguished family, who became an official in the government and eventually rising to the rank of the Roman governor of Campania, a very distinguished and privileged position at that time, ruling one of the main provinces and region of Italy, the heart of the Roman Empire.

But despite that influential position, and the wealth and position which he possessed, St. Paulinus of Nola changed his ways almost entirely after he married a Christian to be his wife. He accepted the Lord as his Messiah and Saviour, and was baptised as a Christian. He was once a devoted pagan, but after having been baptised and followed the Lord’s way, he came to realise the errors of his previous ways, and changed his ways almost completely.

After his son died at an early young age, he and his wife shunned all forms of worldly influences and attractions, with St. Paulinus of Nola leaving behind his career as the governor of Campana and embraced wholly the way of the Lord through service to the Church of God and to His people. And St. Paulinus of Nola ministered to the people of God over many years, eventually appointed as the Bishop of Nola.

Meanwhile St. Thomas More was the Chancellor under the employ of the King of England, King Henry VIII. He was a powerful man with great influence, and he has a lot of power and authority being the one most trusted and most powerful beneath the king himself. However, he remained humble and devoted to his works, and in many cases, he did his best for the sake of his kingdom and his Faith.

St. Thomas More in particular was strongly against the heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, the heresy which had spread rapidly throughout Christendom, and caused many people to fall into sin. And he worked closely with the Church, ensuring that the heretical teachings were outlawed and prevented from misleading the people of God into sin.

St. Thomas More remained steadfast even in the midst of the increasing pressure from the king and his allies, all of whom were drifting gradually towards the Protestant camp, with the king having had the grudge against the Church and the Pope for the refusal against the remarriage of the king with another woman as well as his protracted attempt at annulment from his wife, which caused a great scandal at that time.

Both he and St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, refused to obey the king on the matters in which he had caused a break between the Church in England from Rome. St. Thomas More resigned his Chancellorship and remained true to his faith, and openly with St. John Fisher stood against the tide of heresy and wickedness that had engulfed the king and his court.

They were the examples of good trees that produce good fruits, for their steadfast faith led to great courage and bravery to stand up even against overwhelming forces, and even in the face of suffering and death. They were martyred for their Faith, and from their examples, inspirations and hope remained for many people to keep up their faith even amidst persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today reflect on all these, and think about what all of us as the people of God can do, so that our actions, words and deeds may be filled with righteousness because our hearts and minds are filled with the Law of God, as well as obedience to His laws and the justice and strength which God has given to all of His faithful ones. Let us all commit ourselves anew to God, and do our best to be righteous in His sight always. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 7 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus spoke to the people and to His disciples, “Beware of false prophets : they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are wild wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits. Do you ever pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

“A good tree always produces good fruit, a rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot bear good fruit. Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So you will know them by their fruit.”

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 118 : 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40

Explain to me, o Lord, Your commandments, and I will be ever faithful to them.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law with all my heart.

Guide me in obeying Your instructions, for my pleasure lies in them.

Incline my heart to follow Your will and not my own selfish desire.

Turn my eyes away from vanities and direct them to Your life-giving word.

Oh, how I long for Your precepts! Renew my life in Your righteousness.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

2 Kings 22 : 8-13 and 2 Kings 23 : 1-3

At that moment Hilkiah, the high priest, said to Shaphan, the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the House of YHVH.” And he entrusted the Book to Shaphan who read it. Then Shaphan went to the king and said, “We have gathered the money in the House, and this has been turned over to the overtakers of the House to make the repairs.”

And Shaphan added, “The priest Hilkiah has turned over a book to me.” And Shaphan read the book to the king. When the king heard the contents of the book, he tore his clothes and commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, the secretary Shaphan, and Asaiah, his minister, to do the following, “Go and consult YHVH about the threats in this book which you have found. Consult Him for me, for the people and for the whole of Judah, since our fathers did not listen to what this book says nor to its ordinances. This is why the anger of YHVH is ready to burn against us.”

The king summoned to his side all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. Then he went up to the House of YHVH followed by all the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The priests with the prophets and all the people went with him, from the youngest to the oldest. When all were gathered, he read to them the book of the Law found in the House of YHVH.

The king stood by the pillar; he made a covenant in the presence of YHVH, promising to follow Him, to keep His commandments and laws, and to respect His ordinances. He promised to keep this covenant according to what was written in the book with all his heart and with all his soul. And all the people promised with him.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the Lord Jesus Who reminded all of us that the path to the Lord and His salvation is difficult and tough, and the gate to His presence is narrow. And many would not be able to enter into the kingdom of God. Those who manage to enter are those whose faith have been tested by trials and tribulations and yet they remain faithful to the very end without doubt and without falling into temptation.

And we have an excellent example of this from the Old Testament, as we heard today how the king Hezekiah of Judah, the faithful king of God’s people stood up against Sennacherib, the great and very mighty king of Assyria, feared all over the known world at that time due to his great conquests and his ruthlessness. Sennacherib brought all of his armies to strike at Jerusalem, which stood defiantly against the Assyrian forces.

And Sennacherib taunted Hezekiah and the people of Judah, boasting of his many conquests and his many triumphs, and how all of them were not saved by their gods and idols, and were delivered into his hands. He boasted that neither the Lord our God, the God of Israel would be able to save Jerusalem and Judah from Sennacherib and his mighty armies.

But Hezekiah and the people of Judah did not falter in their faith in God. They knew that God has been faithful to His covenant, and He would not abandon His people in their time of need. And unlike the other gods and idols which were mere creations of men and their hands, the Lord God of Israel is the one and only true God Who created all and rules over all, even over the Assyrians and Sennacherib.

And God delivered Hezekiah and Judah through His mighty power, saving them for they have stood by Him faithfully to the end, even amidst such a great odds stacked against them. He sent His mighty Angel to slay most if not all of Sennacherib’s mighty army. The mighty and great army of the Assyrians has been humbled and destroyed.

We were told that a hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers of the Assyrians perished that day, and this told us that the army which besieged Jerusalem was very great indeed. And this was at the time when Hezekiah would likely not be able to barely muster even ten thousand men to defend his kingdom. And thus we see again how great is the victory that God would give to His faithful ones over the wicked.

And Sennacherib would return in total shame to Nineveh, his capital, having his armies destroyed and his aim of conquering Jerusalem unfulfilled. And he met his end, murdered by two of his own sons who killed him in the temple of his gods. In the end, from this history, we can see how many people would not enter into the glory of God but end up in defeat and destruction.

Only those who keep their faith and stand fast amidst the darkness will triumph in the end. Those who have been true to God will be richly rewarded. And thus all of us have to persevere in faith and devote ourselves to the Lord in all things. And perhaps the saint whose feast we are celebrating today can give us hints on how we ought to live our lives faithfully and gain righteousness in God.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was the scion of a noble family who was expected to be the successor to his father’s noble titles and rights, as well as possessions and wealth. And from early on in his life, he has been prepared for that role to be the head of the noble house. He was given military training and good education, but deep in St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s heart, the seeds of love and devotion for the Lord began to take root and grow deep.

St. Aloysius witnessed the terrible nature of the conflicts that raged on in Italy and Spain during his youth at that time, when wars and conflicts were commonplace, and where conflicts between noble houses and families were numerous. As such, he witnessed how two of his brothers were killed in that conflict, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga began questioning his aim and direction in life, which eventually led to his desire to become a Jesuit.

And although his father was firmly against the decision, but St. Aloysius Gonzaga was truly firm and committed in his decision. Eventually he became a Jesuit, leaving behind all his rights to succeed to the titles and properties of his ancestors, and gave himself wholly to the service of God and His people. He served the poor, the sick and the dying, including those who are affected by the epidemics that were raging at that time.

And it was in the midst of that faithful service that St. Aloysius Gonzaga himself was affected by the sickness, became weak and dying himself. But to the very end, he still desired and indeed, still ministered to the poor and the sick to whom he had devoted his life to. And after his death immediately many miracles attributed to him were reported. And thus we see how God reward His righteous ones with glory and grace.

And looking at the glory of the saints in heaven, we too shall receive the same glory that the saints have received. And thus, let us all commit ourselves to the work of God, and let us all strive to be ever righteous and just in all things, that we may receive the salvation promised to us by our God. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 7 : 6, 12-14

At that time, Jesus spoke to the people and to His disciples, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or throw your pearls to the pigs : they might trample on them, and even turn on you and tear you to pieces.”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there you have the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate : for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life, and how rough the road; few there are who find it.”

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 47 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 10-11

Great is the Lord, most worthy of praise in the city of God, His holy mountain. Beautifully elevated, it is the joy of all the earth.

Mount Zion, heavenly mountain, the city of the great King. Here within her lines of defence, God has shown Himself to be a sure fortress.

Let us recall Your unfailing love, o God, inside Your Temple. Let Your praise as does Your Name, o God, reach to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is ever victorious.