Saturday, 19 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.'”

“Now, there were seven brothers; the first married a wife, but he died without children; and the second and the third took the wife; in fact, all seven died leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when He called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare to ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 19 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 143 : 1, 2, 9-10

Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.

My loving God, my Fortress; my Protector and Deliverer, my Shield where I take refuge, Who conquers nations and subjects them to my rule.

I will sing a new song to You, o God, I will make music on the ten-stringed harp, for You Who give victory to kings and deliver David, Your servant.

Saturday, 19 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Revelations 11 : 4-12

These are the two olive trees and the two lamps which are before the Lord of the earth. If anyone intends to harm them, fire will come out of their mouths to devour their enemies : this is how whoever intends to harm them will perish. They have the power to close the sky and hold back the rain during the time of their prophetic mission; they also have the power to change water into blood, and punish the earth with a thousand plagues, any time they wish.

But when My witnesses have fulfilled their mission, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war upon them, and will conquer and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie in the square of the Great City which the believers figuratively call Sodom or Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. And their dead bodies will be exposed for three days and a half to people of all tribes, races, languages and nations who will be ordered not to have them buried.

Then the inhabitants of the earth will rejoice, congratulate one another and exchange gifts among themselves because these two prophets were a torment to them. But after those three and a half days, a Spirit of life coming from God entered them. They them stood up, and those who looked at them were seized with great fear. A loud voice from heaven called them, “Come up here.” So they went up to heaven in the midst of the clouds in the sight of their enemies.

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate together the memorial of the dedication of two of the great Papal Basilicas located in the holy city of Rome, dedicated to the two greatest of the saints of Christendom, the pillars of the Church, none other than St. Peter the Apostle, Prince and leader of all the Apostles of our Lord, and also St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles and writer of the many Epistles in the New Testament.

Both of them were martyred in Rome, and therefore were seen as the patron saints of the city of Rome, where their tombs were located at, and at that time, Rome was the heart of the Roman Empire, the heart and centre of the secular superpower that was the Roman Empire, and where the Caesars, that is the Emperors ruled with absolute authority, and demanded from all others obedience and also worship.

For the Emperors were worshipped as gods and as incarnation of the gods, and by elevating themselves to the divinity, they deemed themselves as above others, and thus the Imperial Cult of the Roman Empire was created. And against this, came the two Apostles of our Lord, who in their separate ways ended up in the city of Rome, continuing the missions entrusted to them by the Lord.

And they were not chosen by the Lord for their might, their greatness or their talents, unlike the Roman Emperors who boasted of their wealth, or their human and military prowess. Instead, God chose a diverse range of people, and many of them are just like us, common people with our own stories and unique origins. He called His disciples and chose His Apostles from among fishermen, bandits, even tax collectors and others.

And it was not that their faith was great, or that they were as intelligent as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who at that time were those who were educated in the society, knowing the entirety of the laws of Moses. Most of the Apostles were uneducated and even illiterate, and yet, they went on to perform great deeds, some of which were told to us in the Acts of the Apostles. And why is that so? It was none other than because of the Lord and His works on them.

If we remember the passage from the Scriptures we heard today, and what we know of the Apostles, particularly that of St. Peter and St. Paul, certainly, they did not have an outstanding and great faith from the start. Both of them struggled and were troubled in their faith, and were also shaken at certain times, when doubt overpowered them and made them to tremble, and in the case of St. Peter, to sink in the waves, when he tried to walk towards Jesus, because he doubted.

The Apostles were afraid and doubtful when the elders and the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus, after He had been betrayed by one of His own Apostles, Judas Iscariot the traitor. The Apostles fled the scene and went into hiding when their Lord and Master was arrested, and we know how St. Peter himself, after having sworn to give his life for the sake of the Lord that very night, denied his Lord and Master three times in order to protect himself from harm.

I am sure that we also know how St. Paul grew up as a zealous and fanatical Pharisee, determined to hunt down as many followers of Christ as he could, arresting them and torturing them as he was misguided by his blind obedience to the false understanding of the Law of God. In fact, St. Peter and St. Paul were just like us, sinners and filled with doubt, indeed as what some of us would say, that we are unworthy of our Lord and His love.

But what made them different? In fact, what made our holy saints and martyrs to be different from us? It is because all of them went through a thorough and wholesome change in their lives, in how they lived their lives and in how they carried out their actions henceforth, and they turned from sinners and into God’s holy and devoted people, His saints.

St. Peter dedicated his whole life thereafter in the service of God, leading His fellow Apostles and the other disciples of Christ, coordinating the immense task of guiding and leading the early Church through moments of difficulties and through good moments when many became believers and therefore had to require new shepherds and guides, new bishops to be appointed to lead these.

St. Paul was converted when God called him on that fateful day when he was on his way to Damascus. God revealed His truth to him, and after having heard the truth and realising how wrong he was, St. Paul made that dramatic turnaround and from one of the greatest enemies of the Lord and His faithful people, he then became one of the Church and the Faith’s greatest champion and defender.

There is something that all of us can learn from this, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we did not choose to become servants of the Lord, but rather, He chose us and made us worthy. The Apostles, saints and many martyrs were ordinary men and women just like us, but they changed their ways of life and followed the Lord with conviction and commitment.

God transformed the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, from their humble and even sinful origins, to become His greatest tools, as His greatest servants in bringing the souls of many of His beloved ones closer to Him and allowing many through them to listen to the truth about His salvation. The same call is now therefore made upon us as well. Each and every one of us as Christians have been called to serve the Lord, and to evangelise and preach the Good News of God to all.

And this is related to our celebration today, remembering the moment when the two great Basilicas dedicated to these two Apostles were consecrated and dedicated, made holy and had incense and the holy oils applied to it and the Altar within the Basilicas, and through the blessing of the Almighty God, these two great edifices became more than just a space, but rather they become a place worthy to house the Holy Presence of God.

Before a church, be it a small parish church, a large church, an important one such as Cathedrals and Basilicas, none of these can be used for the purpose of the celebration of the Holy Mass if they have not been consecrated and dedicated yet. And as I have mentioned in my homily for the Dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran just two weeks earlier, this has implication and relevance for us that we all should know and understand.

Undedicated and unconsecrated, the great Basilicas and cathedrals are just mere buildings, spaces with architecture without meaning. Through the consecration, it has been made into a worthy and holy Residence and House of God. In the same manner, through our own baptism, through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit by our confirmation, and through the reception of the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist, each and every one of us, our bodies, minds, hearts and souls have been consecrated and dedicated to the Lord to be His holy Temples, where He shall dwell in us.

We are the Temple and the House of God, for God Himself has dwelled inside us, inside our mortal bodies and existence. And as a result, we should make sure that we live in accordance to the way of the Lord, obeying His laws and precepts, or else we would defile the sanctity of this Temple and House of God. God has transformed our humble and simple bodies and beings into His glorious residence, as much as those magnificent buildings and edifices has been transformed into the great places of worship.

Let us all therefore spend some time to reflect on this, thinking carefully of what each and every one of us should be doing in our respective lives. We should imitate the examples of the saints in their dedication and commitment, and follow the examples set by the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. Do not be discouraged if we think that our faith is easily shaken and weak, for the Apostles themselves were once filled with doubt as well.

Let us all open ourselves, heart, mind, body and soul, that God may come into each and every one of us, transforming us completely from being creatures of the flesh and darkness, into creatures of the light, into sons and daughters of our Lord, worthy of the eternal life He has promised to all of His faithful ones. St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us sinners, that we may be like you and follow in your footsteps. Amen.

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!'”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Alternative reading (in 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!”

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.

Alternative reading (in 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!

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Revelations 10 : 8-11

And the voice I heard from heaven spoke again, saying to me, “Go near the Angel Who stands on the sea and on the land, and take the small book open in his hand.” So I approached the Angel and asked him for the small book; he said to me, “Take it and eat; although it be sweet as honey in your mouth, it will be bitter to your stomach.”

I took the small book from the hand of the Angel, and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, it turned bitter in my stomach. Then I was told, “You must again proclaim God’s words about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings.”

Alternative reading (in 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 Forum 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.

Thursday, 17 November 2016 : 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 listened to the word of God in the Sacred Scriptures, listening to the words of hope given to us by the Lord, Who have triumphed and conquered, defeating the forces of evil and death, by His own death on the cross and then by His glorious resurrection from the dead and ascension in glory into heaven.

Through the readings today, we are reminded yet again that as Christians, persecutions and challenges will be part of our lives, as those who are in power in this world, all those who rely on this world, are against us who believe in the Lord, for the devil wants us all to be lost to the Lord, by disobeying Him and refusing to listen to His laws and commandments, and instead following his lies and temptations.

And that was why throughout history, for the past two millennia, the history of the Church, our Faith and its faithful had been filled with much grievances, sufferings, persecutions and all that had occurred when the faithful were oppressed by those who sought to destroy them and turn them away from the path towards salvation. That was why there were many martyrs and those who suffered and even laid down their lives for the Lord, in the early days of the Church, and even unto this very day.

During the early days of the Church, the faithful had to contend with many oppressions, oppositions to the Lord and to the Church, and they had to hide, hiding in the catacombs and sewers while celebrating the Lord and His Holy Sacrifice, the Holy Mass, or else they would be arrested, put into prison, tortured and even put to death for their faith in God.

If we wonder how they all persevered through all of that without losing hope, it was because of their firm faith in God. They staunchly remained true to their Lord and their faith in Him even when they were faced with the stark option of securing their lives by rejecting the Lord, or to keep their faith and suffer to the extent of painfully losing their lives.

This is a reality that many of our brethren even today, are still living its daily effects. In various parts of the world, from the Middle East, to regions of the Americas, Africa, and in many other parts, being a faithful Christian is increasingly a more and more difficult task for us. Challenges and temptations are abound, and not few of our brethren were tempted and gave up because of various reasons.

But many did not give up because they believe firmly in the Lord Who will be triumphant in the end, as foretold in the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, the content of which we heard today. God will succour all of His faithful ones and bring them into the comfort of His grace and salvation in the end of it all, and death and the forces of evil will not have any power over us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, many of us are able to help our brethren who are suffering in various ways. We should open our eyes, our ears, our senses, and love them in our heart. We must be generous with our charity and be generous with our love. And in this, perhaps, we should follow in the footsteps and examples of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the holy saint whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary is a Hungarian princess who was renowned for her piety and great works of charity. As is the custom of that time, she was married off at an early age to a nobleman, and had a family. But when her husband passed away, during the years of her widowhood, she devoted herself to God and to the poor people around her, contributing a lot to charitable works and helped the weak and those who are in need to meet their needs.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary showed us all what is meant by being a Christian. Being a Christian requires each and every one of us to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus, Who came into this world out of His love for us, and to find those who have lost their way and became stranded and separated from Him, that they may also have a hope of redemption and liberation from the curse of sin and death.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive that in this life we have, we may be able to commit ourselves fully to the Lord, renew our faith and commitment to Him, so that through our wholehearted devotion to Him, many others will also be inspired to do the same, and follow our footsteps to seek the Lord and be forgiven from their sins.

May all of us Christians be the bearers of God’s truth and salvation, never fearing what will happen to us if we stay faithful to Him, as we all know that, just as the saints and martyrs had known, that Jesus, the Lamb of God, our Lord, will triumph in the end and bring all those who remain faithful to Him to the glorious eternal life with Him forevermore. May God bless us all. Amen.