Tuesday, 4 October 2016 : 27th 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 day of a great and famous saint, St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order of Friars Minor or known better as the Franciscans, the Apostle of Italy and the reformer of the faith and religious life in more than one way, a holy man and a devoted person, known for his great and tender love for all creations and for even animals and living beings, and for his asceticism and great piety.

Yet, for all the glorious deeds and renown he had in his life, he was ultimately a humble person who did not gather credit for himself, as he showed through his way of life and also how he enforced a rigorous discipline known now as the discipline of the Franciscans, who in addition of their vows of chastity and obedience to the Lord, they also took an additional vow of poverty, where all of those who joined the Franciscan order agreed to shun worldliness and material wealth forever.

It is linked to what we heard in today’s Scripture passages, where we heard two stories, both of which showed us all the importance for us to rethink our priorities in life, and ask ourselves what is it that we are looking for in this life? What is our objective and our aim in this life? The first reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians showed him telling the people how he was converted to the faith from his old ways, and from his past of causing great harm and danger to the people of God.

St. Paul was once a great enemy of the Church and the faithful, as he was a very fanatical Jew who took his faith to the extremes, advancing the false cause of the Pharisees and the elders who opposed and rejected Jesus. He hunted down and made life very difficult for the many people who believed in Jesus and followed Him. He arrested them and gave them up to the chief priests and the Pharisees to be punished and to be made to endure suffering.

This is the past life which St. Paul came to leave behind after God called him to abandon all of them behind him and henceforth, while he was once a greatly feared enemy of all the faithful people of God, God had made him to be one of His greatest defenders. He has been awaked from the falsehoods that had clouded his mind and judgment, and therefore, he became a great saint. In the same manner, St. Francis of Assisi also had that moment of change and conversion, when God called him to serve Him.

St. Francis of Assisi was born as Pietro Bernardone, the son and heir of a rich Italian textile and garment merchant, who was influential and powerful being the member of the elite of the society, and as a power broker and as one of the owners of great wealth. The father of St. Francis of Assisi insisted that St. Francis took up the best education and preparation in order to prepare him to succeed him in his business.

But St. Francis, despite all of the good things that he enjoyed in life, the privileges that he had received since his early age, he was not satisfied with all of these. He was longing for the fulfilment which he sought, which he gradually found in the Lord through the visions which he received throughout his life. He enjoyed a life typical of the rich and the young at that time, taking part in wars as member of the military, but while his peers revel in the satisfaction and joy of such actions, St. Francis of Assisi gradually found that all of them were not what he wanted.

God spoke to him one day in a moment when he passed through a dilapidated church building, which had fallen into neglect and disrepair. God asked St. Francis to follow Him and to repair His Church. He misunderstood this as God wanting the dilapidated church building to be repaired physically. As such, he secretly took some of the expensive clothing and garments from his father’s store and sold them, and the money given to the church that it might be repaired.

His father eventually found out about this and was angry, and St. Francis escaped and took refuge in the church. His father came up to him and demanded him to account for what he had done and return him the garments and the money which had been taken from him. St. Francis repudiated his father and took off all of his clothes and garment, returning these to his father. The bishop, touched by this act, covered St. Francis with the fringes of his cope while the father left.

From then on, St. Francis of Assisi left worldly life and concerns, and became a devoted servant of the Lord. He and his fellow compatriots lived in poverty and commitment, and yet they were joyful because of that life filled with the joy of serving the Lord and His people, and the joy of knowing that in them they have found the true treasures of their life.

Jesus Himself once said also that we should not gather for ourselves treasures of this world, all those things that can run out, can perish and be destroyed by fire, by moth and by all sorts of worldly forces. Rather, we all should find for ourselves the true treasure that we can find in the Lord alone. It is by siding with God and by believing in Him that we shall find our way.

Let us all devote ourselves in the same way as St. Francis of Assisi had done. And just as Jesus had said to Martha in the Gospel today, let us all realise that there are many distractions in this world that can distract and prevent us from being able to find our way to our Lord and His salvation. Therefore, let us all be stronger and be ever more committed in our spiritual growth and development, so that through strong discipline in faith, we may be able to achieve salvation in God, and in the process help one another to reach out to te Lord as well.

There are many people in this world, our own brethren, who needs our help. We can be their guides, and indeed, God had blessed us all with the opportunities and the abilities in order to do so. Let us all follow the examples of the saints and the holy men and women who had gone to their glory before us, especially that of St. Francis of Assisi, our role model.

May God bless us all and help us in this endeavour. May He keep us always in His love and grace, and may His blessings ever be on us and our families. God be with us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to His words.

Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”

But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Tuesday, 4 October 2016 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14, 15

O Lord, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You for Your marvellous deeds.

Even my bones were known to You when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Galatians 1 : 13-24

You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day God called me out of His great love, He Who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and He was pleased to reveal in me His Son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me.

I immediately went to Arabia, and from there I returned again to Damascus. Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying.

After that I went to Syria and Cilicia. The churches of Christ in Judea did not know me personally; they had only heard of me : “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he tried to uproot.” And they praised God because of me.

Monday, 3 October 2016 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, from what we have heard in the Gospel passage, we are reminded that each and every one of us must show true Christian faith by our actions and by our deeds founded upon the principles of love and compassion, as God Himself had shown us, and not to be ignorant of the plight of our brethren who are in need, and who are indeed calling upon us for help.

Today we heard that famous parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus told to His disciples, to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. And that parable was meant as a rebuke and a reminder to these elites in the Jewish society, that unless they acted in the way expected of them by God. The Lord meant that parable to show to His people, how those who follow Him should act towards one another, that is full of love, mercy and compassion.

The Levites and the priest described in the parable is the representation of all those whom God had chosen to be the leaders and the guide for His people, as these were the ones who were privileged as the priestly caste among the society, to be the ones chosen to be in the presence of God in His Temple. They were the ones who understood the Law and having remembered them as part of their responsibilities.

And yet, as we heard their actions in the parable that we heard today, we noticed that these people just passed by the man who was robbed and beaten, left to death on the roadside. They did not show concern and care for the one who needed their help, even though they did have the ability and the opportunity to do so. They have conscientiously ignored their brethren in need, and therefore they have sinned, not from the sin of action but for the sin of omission.

Thus what God was trying to say to them was that, no matter what position we have in the society, and how well we are respected by others, no matter what intellect or power we have, but if we have no love in us, we will not be accepted, but instead will be rejected by God. God has no placed prepared for all those who have not been merciful and loving, even if they were counted among His own people.

Why so? That is because these people despised the Samaritans and looked down on them. They were proud of their lineage and position as one counted among the chosen people of Israel, and even so as those who were entrusted to be guardians and keepers of the Law of God. The Samaritans were seen as those who were pagans, and even of the worst stock, since the Samaritans were seen as abominations and barbarians who have taken the land that rightfully belonged to the people of Israel.

And yet, Jesus shattered all these perceptions and unjust judgments and portrayals of the Samaritans and the others alike. Through that brilliant parable, Jesus showed them that God does not look at our race, background, appearance or status, but rather, He sees our actions, our deeds, and all the things which we have done, or have not done, which have broad repercussions to our fellow brethren and our community alike.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, even as we listened to the Scripture passages today, are we able to discern deep within ourselves and find what we need to do from now on in order to be truly righteous in God and His presence? If we have not loved our brethren, or worse still, ignoring them when they are clearly asking for help, then perhaps we should rethink our priorities in life and learn how to devote ourselves out of love for these brethren of ours.

Indeed, we cannot help the whole world by ourselves, but from whatever little and minor things we can do, we should be able to impact our brethren around us, and when each and every one of do our part, so much more suffering and pain can be eliminated by our combined work and effort. Therefore, from now on, brethren, let us do our part to love and serve our brethren in need, as how that good Samaritan had done to his brethren in need.

May God help us in this endeavour, and may He awaken in each and every one of us, the strong desire to love with great compassion and sincerity, to care and show concern without desiring for returns, and to give our best for one another. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 3 October 2016 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Luke 10 : 25-37

At that time, a teacher of the Law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, “Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Scripture? How do you understand it?”

The man answered, “It is written : You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus replied, “What a good answer! Do this and you shall live.”

The man wanted to justify his question, so he asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off, leaving him half-dead.”

“It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way, and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him.”

“The next day he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.'” Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”

Monday, 3 October 2016 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 110 : 1-2, 7-8, 9 and 10c

Alleluia! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of the Lord are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

The works of His hands are faithful and just, trustworthy are all His precepts, ordained to last forever, bearers of truth and uprightness.

He has sent His people deliverances and made with them a covenant forever. His Holy Name is to be revered! To Him belongs everlasting praise.