Wednesday, 2 August 2017 : 17th 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 13 : 44-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field."

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it."

Wednesday, 2 August 2017 : 17th 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 98 : 5, 6, 7, 9

Extol YHVH, our God; worship at His footstool. Holy is He! And mighty!

Among His priests were Moses and Aaron; and Samuel, among those who called on His Name. They called to YHVH, and He answered them.

In the pillar of cloud He spoke to them; and they kept His statutes and the decrees He gave them.

Extol YHVH our God; worship at His holy mountain. Holy is YHVH our God!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017 : 17th 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)

Exodus 34 : 29-35

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that the skin of his face was radiant after speaking with YHVH. Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw that Moses' face was radiant and they were afraid to go near him.

But Moses called them, and Aaron with all the leaders of the community drew near, and Moses spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near and he told them all that YHVH had commanded him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

Whenever Moses went before YHVH to speak with Him, he took off the veil until he came out again. And when he came out and told them what he had been commanded, the Israelites saw that his face was radiant. Moses would then replace the veil over his face until he went again to speak with YHVH.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th 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 from the Gospel passage we heard the famous parable of the sower, which reminds us all of the obligation that we need to do in our respective lives, to lead a faithful and righteous life, filled with faith and commitment to God, by our actions, words and deeds in this life. We are called to a life that is fruitful and blessed by God.

In that parable, we heard about what happened to the various seeds sowed by the sower, which fell on different types of soils. Some fell on the roadside and were eaten up by the birds of the sky, while some others fell on rocky ground, and were unable to grow deep roots and thus were scorched by the hot sun. And still some others fell among thistles and brambles, which grew around the budding plant and choked the life out of it.

And lastly, some seeds fell onto the rich and fertile soil, which then allowed the seeds to grow healthy and strong into good plants that bore fruits in many multiples of what had been planted. This is what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples, so that all of us who have heard it as well, may know of what we need to do in our lives so that we will be found to be filled with the good fruits of our faith.

For you see, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the seeds mentioned in the Gospel today are the seeds of faith which have been given to us all. All of us have heard the words of the Lord, through the Gospels we read, through the Scripture passages we have spent time going through, through the Church teachings and catechism, through the homilies, sermons and teachings by the priests and other faith educators alike.

However, as the Gospel showed us, even though all of us received the same seeds of faith, but the outcome of the seeds can greatly differ from one situation to another, and from one person to another. And it depends greatly on whether we provide the optimum condition and environment for the seeds to grow healthy and strong, just as the rich and fertile soil allowed the seeds to grow and produce huge returns in fruits and products.

If we do not actively try to cultivate and grow in our faith, then we will end up failing to achieve what it is that God wants us to be, to be fruitful people of God. Yet, that is the reality for many of us, who are tempted by many things in this world, the temptations of power, wealth, fame and worldly glory, which Satan is actively putting in our path, hoping to prevent us from attaining the salvation which God promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

It is often that we are too busy with ourselves and with our worldly preoccupations that we fail to do what we need to do in order to become fruitful in the sight of God. We spend our time worrying about our lives and we prioritise our work and busy life schedules over that of the Lord. We put God aside and often ignore Him and His attempts to reach out to us. We usually remember Him only when we are in trouble and in need of help, and we tend to be angry at Him when He apparently does not answer our prayers.

But that is because we are still yet putting our own needs, our own desires ahead of the Lord's will for us. We are often so concerned about ourselves, and thinking solely about ourselves in our selfishness, that we end up becoming like those seeds that failed to grow and produce their crops. Satan then has been successful in his attempts to turn us away from God and ensure our downfall because of our sins.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as Christians all of us have the obligation to do God's will in our lives. We must be sincere and true in our faith, and that means, all of us will need to show genuine love to our brethren, even to those who are strangers and even those who hated us. We must lead by example in our life, beginning from even the smallest things that we do in our everyday life. And let us not forget to spend time with the Lord, seeking Him through prayer that comes from our hearts that we may know what His will is for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, a holy bishop and religious, who is the founder of the Redemptorist order, also known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Alphonsus Liguori was renowned for his great devotion and his missionary work among the poor, and even when he was made a bishop, he continued to devote his time and effort to care for the least and the weakest in the society.

St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorist order to gather more people who also wanted to show God's loving mercy to His people, calling more people who were out of reach from the Church and who had distanced themselves from the Church to come back to the loving embrace of God. Through his hard work and exemplary life, he inspired many others to follow his footsteps, and many, countless souls were saved from the damnation in hell.

All of us should also imitate the good examples of St. Alphonsus Liguori, by practicing our faith through our actions, filled no longer with selfishness or the desire to satisfy our personal ambitions and greed, but instead through humility and real commitment, that we all do what is asked of us by the Lord. May God help us all in this endeavour, and may the intercession of St. Alphonsus Liguori be our help in providing us the courage to do what we must do as Christ's disciples. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 36-43

At that time, Jesus sent the crowds away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." Jesus answered them, "The One Who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, and the workers are the Angels."

"Just as the weeds are pulled up and burnt in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send His Angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. And these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the just will shine, like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

YHVH restores justice and secures the rights of the oppressed. He has made known His ways to Moses; and His deeds, to the people of Israel.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger; He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever.

He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve. As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins. As a father has compassion on his children, so YHVH pities those who fear Him.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 33 : 7-11 and Exodus 34 : 5b-9, 28

Moses then took the Tent and pitched it for himself outside the camp, at a distance from it, and called it the Tent of Meeting. Whoever sought YHVH would go out to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp. And when Moses went to the Tent all the people would stand, each one at the entrance to his tent and keep looking towards Moses until he entered the Tent.

Now, as soon as Moses entered the Tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the Tent, while YHVH spoke with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud at the entrance to the Tent, they would arise and worship, each one at the entrance to his own tent. Then YHVH would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his neighbour, and then Moses would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua, son of Nun, would not leave the Tent.

And Moses called on the Name of YHVH. Then YHVH passed in front of him and cried out, "YHVH, YHVH is a God full of pity and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in truth and loving kindness. He shows loving kindness to the thousandth generation and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin; yet He does not leave the guilty without punishment, even punishing the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

Moses hastened to bow down to the ground and worshipped. He then said, "If You really look kindly on me, my Lord, please come and walk in our midst and even though we are a stiff-necked people, pardon our wickedness and our sin and make us Yours."

Moses remained there with YHVH forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the Covenant – the Ten Commandments.

Monday, 31 July 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the story of how the Israelites rebelled against God in the first reading from the Book of Exodus, telling us about that time when the people of Israel chose to build for themselves a pagan idol, a golden calf to be worshipped as god instead of the One and only True God Who had brought them out from the land of Egypt.

They have rebelled against God and forgotten the love and mercy which He had shown them, when He brought them out of the land of their slavery. They suffered grievously in Egypt under the tyranny of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and God remembered them and the promise which He had made with Abraham and their forefathers. God sent ten great plagues upon Egypt which forced the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free, and when he reneged on that and sent his chariots after the Israelites, God destroyed the entire armies of the Egyptians in the Red Sea.

But despite the wonders that He had shown them, and despite the guidance and help which He had given them throughout their journey, the Israelites still chose to commit sin by raising up for themselves a pagan idol, a god that they established to be their god and saviour, as the one who brought them out of Egypt, just because Moses went up the Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights to receive God's laws and commandments.

They thought that God had abandoned them, and therefore, they quickly lost faith in Him and turned to alternative sources of comfort and hope, that is in the pagan worship of the false gods and idols, one that they must have been exposed to during their time in Egypt. A golden calf is one among the many deities worshipped and held sacred by the Egyptians, and thus Israel sinned against God.

We may be wondering why did the Israelites do such a thing, that is to rebel against God and to disobey His commandments. But the answer to this is really the fact that the Israelites did not allow the Word of God and His truth to develop inside of them. They witnessed all the miraculous deeds of God and listened to His words and covenant, as delivered unto them through Moses, but they did not allow them to grow in them. Their faith was a superficial faith.

In the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to His disciples about the two parables related to each other, one in which Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven being likened to a mustard seed, which is a very small and insignificant seed, compared to other fruits which have much larger seeds. However, from that very small seed, when placed in a fertile soil and provided with the optimum condition for germination and growth, the mustard seed will grow into a large mustard plant, far larger than what we would normally expect for seed of such a small size.

Then, Jesus continued with the story of another parable, of when yeast is added into three measures of flour shaped into a dough, the yeast will cause the whole dough to rise from a flat and small piece of dough into a large, expansive and soft piece of bread. Yeasts are very small and microscopic in size, and yet under the right conditions, the yeast can cause marvellous works to happen, including the fermentation of grapes into wine, and as mentioned, the formation of the leavened bread.

Therefore, after hearing and discussing all of these, what then, is the message which all of us should take note from today's Scripture readings? There are two key messages which we should take heed of, first of all, it is that we must provide a good condition and environment in our lives, in order for our faith to grow and develop within us. As we see from the parables of Jesus, using the examples of mustard seed and yeasts, mustard seed cannot grow and germinate without sufficient water in the soil, oxygen and suitable temperature, and yeast similarly cannot carry out its function unless oxygen is present.

Similarly therefore, our faith cannot grow without us providing a good condition and environment in which that faith we have can flourish. Otherwise, our faith will continue to remain dormant and will be useless to us. Thus, we have to provide a conducive environment, through love and dedication of ourselves to our fellow men, and through our commitment to God. And it is important for us to develop ourselves spiritually, by having an active prayer life, in which we constantly pray from our hearts, seeking to communicate with God.

And then, the second message is that, it does not matter how small we think our faith may be, even when compared to others who are seemingly more faithful and more pious than us, just like the small mustard seed, as long as it is given the right condition for optimum growth, eventually the seed will blossom and become fruitful. Thus, we ourselves do not need to worry or be concerned that we have little faith, for in whatever little faith we may have, as long as we are genuine in that faith, we will find our way forward.

We should thus begin from ourselves and from those who we are interacting with, from our families and friends. We should live our faith actively and sincerely through our daily actions, by loving our brethren, and showing mercy to those who have hurt us. We should increase our charity and generosity to those who are in need, and be ready to provide ourselves out of love for them.

Perhaps, we all should be inspired by the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, or also known as the Jesuit order. The Jesuits are now the largest religious order in the Church, with enormous contributions in the field of evangelisation and charity works in the Church. But their origins traced to the humble beginnings under St. Ignatius of Loyola and his companions.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born a nobleman into an influential family in what is now Spain, destined to lead a life of privilege, wealth and fame, and he was thus brought up in that manner, seeking for worldly glory and fame, as he became a knight involved in conflicts and wars raging at that time. However, as he lay wounded in one occasion after a great battle, it came to him that whatever glory and fame he sought in the world, whatever valour and honour he sought through battle were meaningless and empty.

Thus St. Ignatius of Loyola chose to leave everything behind and devote himself to the works of the Church. He gathered fellow minded men who desired to spearhead the efforts of the Church in evangelisation and charity. As it happened, it turned out that the religious order that St. Ignatius of Loyola founded went on to become a very important player in the Church's effort of Counter-Reformation in resisting and fighting back the tide of heresy of Protestantism throughout Christendom, as well as in the evangelising works of St. Francis Xavier, another Jesuit and companion of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The examples shown by St. Ignatius of Loyola show us that even though we may think that our faith is small, weak or insignificant, but if we have the desire to grow in our faith, and take the concrete steps necessary, we will be able to cultivate the faith we have in us, and we can have truly great and far-ranging effect, as shown in how St. Ignatius of Loyola, once a young nobleman with worldly ambitions and lacking in faith, after he had devoted himself to God's cause, he began the good works which impacts are still felt even to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all ask St. Ignatius of Loyola to intercede for us, that God may move our hearts which are filled with doubts and indecision, so that we may be more courageous and be more capable of taking concrete actions and steps to be ever more faithful and committed to our faith in God. May the Lord bless all of our good works, and may He give us the courage day after day to serve Him with all our might. Amen.

Monday, 31 July 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus offered His disciples another parable : "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches."

He told them another parable, "The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast than a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise." Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled whag was spoken by the Prophet : 'I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.'

Monday, 31 July 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.