Wednesday, 3 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving Gennesareth, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now a Canaanite woman came from those borders and began to cry out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.” But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!”

Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the puppy dogs.” The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even the puppy dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 31 : 1-7

YHVH declares that when that time comes He will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be His people. Thus says YHVH : The people who survived the sword have found grace in the desert. As Israel was seeking for his rest YHVH appeared from afar saying, I have loved you with a love everlasting, so I have kept for you My mercy. I will restore you again, and you shall be rebuilt, o virgin Israel!

You will take up your tambourines and go out dancing joyfully. You will plant vineyards again on the hills of Samaria, and the farmers who plant them will enjoy their fruit. There shall be a day when watchmen will call out on the hills of Ephraim, “Come, let us go to Zion, to YHVH our God!”

For YHVH says this : Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : “YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!”

Tuesday, 2 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called by God through His words in the Scripture, and the centre theme of His calling to us, is for us all to have faith in Him. In the first reading, God spoke to His people through Jeremiah, His prophet, telling them the message of hope in the midst of hopelessness and darkness. He told them that He would restore them to their previous glory and grace, and He would remove from them the shame of their captivity and exile.

This was given in the context that the people of God had long disobeyed Him and preferred to forge their own path, worshipping pagan idols and gods, and committed all sorts of wicked deeds in His sight. They have lost faith in Him, and they have wavered many times, unable to commit themselves to Him. They fell into sin and thus had to endure the consequences of their disobedience.

And yet God still wanted to show them mercy, extending His hands to them and wanting to welcome them back into His embrace. Nevertheless, all of these would come to naught if the same people refused to take up the offer. And sadly that was the case. Many would rather continue in their state of sin and uncertainty rather than to surrender themselves completely to God and His ways.

Then let us all see what we have heard in the Gospel today. The Lord appeared to His disciples who were in the middle of the lake, trapped within a great storm, with high winds and strong waves, threatening to sink the whole ship with them inside. And the disciples were afraid when they saw the Lord for the first time, thinking that He was a ghost.

They were afraid and fearful, and their faith in God wavered, just as how it was in the past, at the time of the prophet Jeremiah. The people of God were unfaithful and they followed their own preferences and paths. And that was just as the disciples in the boat rocked by the strong winds and the strong waves, threatening to sink them. And thus, the temptations of the world were very strong, and pulling the people of God to them, these threatened to bring the people of God into eternal damnation.

But Jesus the Lord came, and He came to His disciples when they were in distress, telling them not to be afraid, for He was there with them. And He stretched out His hand, and called upon St. Peter when he was wavering. St. Peter reached out to the Lord and walked on the water, but his faith in Him wavered, and he was sinking into the water. And God helped him up, and chided him briefly for his doubts. And upon entering the boat, He calmed down the wind and the waves.

In this rich show of symbolism, we saw how in our own present time, the Church is that boat in which all of us the people of God are in. Indeed, the Church is often portrayed as a boat, in how the churches in both Western and Eastern Christendom were constructed, especially in the Eastern traditions. And all of us the people of God are in this boat, journeying across the troubled waters, facing the wind and the waves, that is this world and all of its troubles and challenges.

And just as all peoples when faced with a sinking boat would do, we have a choice, either to stay with the ship or to jump ship into the water, hoping that by jumping into the water we might be saved from sinking. But more often than not, that kind of decision is done out of fear and uncertainty, and lack of faith in the capability of the one guiding the ship to bring the people to safety.

And thus when God Who is the guide of the Church, as its Head, guided us all in His Church, all of us should hold fast and stay faithful and courageous for as long as we are able to. Let us all strengthen our faith in God, and learn to put our complete trust in Him, for even though we have been unfaithful, as it was for the people of Judah and Israel in the past, God is always forever faithful.

Let us all also heed the examples of the saints, St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard, whose examples can be our inspiration in how we live our lives. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a holy and devoted bishop of the region of Vercelli in Italy, who gave most of his life in the devout service of God. He was a strong believer in the Lord and an ardent defender of His truth against all those who would stir up the faithful by spreading heresies and falsehoods.

St. Eusebius of Vercelli lived at a turbulent time, and although at that time, Christianity had become a tolerated faith in the Roman Empire, and more and more people accepted the Lord as their Saviour, but there were many heresies and false teachings abound, threatening to sunder the Church and condemn many of the faithful people of God into oblivion.

He worked hard to convince the people to return from their erroneous path, and many responded in kind, following him back to the safety and the good embrace of their Lord and God. He helped many people to reconcile themselves with the Church and the Lord, rejected the heresies which they had come to believe, and instead embraced the truth and the fullness of the magisterium teaching of the Church.

Similarly, St. Peter Julian Eymard also devoted his life to the Lord, to bring the Good News to the people, promoting the devotion to the Lord, especially to His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, adoring the Lord in all things, and calling all those who have sinned to repent and return to the embrace of the Lord through the Church.

He helped to establish two congregations of religious life whose aims were to bring the people of God closer to Him through the pious and strong devotion to the Eucharist. And many people responded in kind, devoting themselves to the Lord and changing their ways, and therefore many were brought to the salvation of God through what this holy saint has done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the words of the Holy Scriptures and on the examples of these holy saints, let us all do the same with our own lives, as all of us can also do what they have done. Let us stay committed and remain faithful to God, despite the challenges and the temptations calling us to do otherwise. Let us remain true to God through His Church, and help many others to remain firmly rooted in faith, that each and every one of us may be saved.

May God, our Lord and Saviour, our loving Father and Redeemer, may He bless us all and keep us forevermore in His grace, and may He never forget about us in our moments of distress, but come to us, and may we take up His offer of salvation, change our ways and go forth to meet Him in the salvation and eternal life He promised all those who are faithful to Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Matthew 14 : 22-36

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!” They came ashore at Gennesareth. The local people recognised Jesus and spread the news throughout the region. So they brought all the sick to Him, begging Him to let them touch just the hem of His cloak. All who touched it became perfectly well.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

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.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Jeremiah 30 : 1-2, 12-15, 18-22

This is another word that came to Jeremiah from YHVH : YHVH, God of Israel says, “Write in a book all that I have communicated to you.”

YHVH says, “Your wound is incurable, your injury is grievous. There is no one to plead your cause. There is a remedy for an ulcer but no healing for you! All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. For I struck you as an enemy does, with a cruel punishment, because of your great guilt and the wickedness of your sin.”

“Why cry out now that you are hurt? Is there no cure for your pain? Because of your great crime and grievous sin I have done this to you.” YHVH says, “I will restore My people into Jacob’s tents and have pity on his dwellings. The city will be rebuilt over its ruins and the palace restored on its proper place. From them will come songs of praise and the sound of merrymaking.”

“I will multiply them and they shall not be few. I will bestow honour on them and they shall not be despised. Their children will be as before and their community will be established before Me. I will ask their oppressors to account. Their leader will be one of themselves, their ruler shall emerge from their midst. I will bring him close to Me for who would dare to approach Me? You shall be My people and I shall be your God.”

Monday, 1 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the messages from the Holy Scriptures, from the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, where Jeremiah was up against the false prophets trying to obtain the favour of the king of Judah by trying to satisfy him and made him happy by providing him with false prophecies.

Those false prophets tried to discredit Jeremiah, plotting against him by portraying him as a doom-bringer and as a pariah, who kept telling bad news one after another, while they portrayed a less negative picture of what was to come. But the prophet Jeremiah did not back down, and instead, he continued to persist to show the people who have disobeyed God about just how much they have erred.

And despite the opposition and the stubbornness of the people, the prophet did not give up. For it was God’s love that drove him to work harder for the sake of the people who had been lost in the darkness, that they might be able to find their way back to the Lord, their loving God. God so loved the world, that even though they have sinned and committed such wickedness before Him, He was still willing to love them and to show His care for them.

And this is visible in the Gospel today, where we heard that famous story of how Jesus our Lord fed the entirety of the five thousand men and likely even many more thousands of women and children in that great crowd which had followed Him to listen to Him. In this, we saw how great is the love and compassion that the Lord has for us all, His beloved people.

He showed pity and compassion, seeing how many of those people who followed Him and were hungry and without food. He provided for them, cared for them, and thus showed the infinite greatness and the endless breadth of His wonderful love and mercy. And yet, it was the same people who also called for Him to be crucified. Yes, the very same people who hailed Jesus as King and Lord, also called for Him to be crucified.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? God has loved us so much, and yet why was it that in many occasions, from the time of Jeremiah to the time of Jesus our Lord, that they had done so much to bring God’s anger upon themselves? Not only that they refused His love and grace, but they also continued to live in a state of sin and disgrace. They have not listened to the Lord and continued to live in the darkness because of the absence of God from their hearts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all ask ourselves, how do we then stand in this matter? Where do we find ourselves in this issue? Is God truly in our hearts? Are His laws and precepts ours, and did we do all that we can to obey them? If the answers we have to all of these is no, then perhaps we should look at what the holy servant of God, St. Alphonsus Liguori had done.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, our saint of the day, was a holy bishop and a devoted servant of God. He was known around the world as the founder of the religious order now known as the Redemptorists, who devoted themselves to the redemption of mankind, and to the salvation of the many people who had lived in the darkness of sin, by bringing God’s light and truth upon them.

St. Alphonsus Liguori devoted himself to God’s service, giving himself to the poorest, weakest and the least fortunate ones in the society. He worked hard among the sick and the dying, and knowing that he alone could not do much to help the many people who have suffered, he founded that Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known now as the Redemptorist order, to gather together all those who have similar minds and goals to him, that all of them may work together for the sake of God’s people.

Let us all follow his examples, and seek the Lord with all of our might. Our hearts should be turned to God and should be attuned to Him. We should do our best so that we may be ever closer to God, and leave behind our doubts, our fears and our lack of faith, which were the obstacles that had prevented many from following the Lord in the past. May St. Alphonsus Liguori intercede for us, and may he help us to keep ourselves faithful in this journey towards the Lord our saving God. Amen.

Monday, 1 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 13-21

At that time, on hearing the news about the death of John the Baptist, Jesus set out by boat for a secluded place, to be alone. But the people heard of it, and they followed Him on foot from their towns. When Jesus went ashore, He saw the crowd gathered there and He had compassion on them. And He healed their sick.

Late in the afternoon, His disciples came to Him and said, “We are in a lonely place and it is now late. You should send these people away, so they can go to the villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”

They answered, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.” Jesus said to them, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He made everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, raised His eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves, and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people.

And they all ate, and everyone had enough; then the disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. About five thousand men had eaten there, besides women and children.

Monday, 1 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your law.

Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for I would also lose my hope in Your word.

Let those who fear You turn to me, they will understand Your statutes.

May my heart be blameless in Your decrees, that I may not be ashamed.

The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I look to Your word for salvation.

I have not departed from Your decrees for You Yourself have instructed me.