Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to St. Paul, who wrote to his contemporary and student, St. Timothy, one of the first bishops appointed to lead the dioceses of the Church in its earliest days. In that passage excerpt taken from the Epistle, St. Paul told St. Timothy about the bishops and deacons of the Church, and the criteria under which they should be selected for the good sake of the Church and the faithful.

Bishops were also known as overseers, as those appointed to take care over a portion of the people of God gathered in a certain area, cities and provinces. To them it has been granted the authority to oversee and manage the faithful, both the priests and the laity, as shepherds appointed over the flock of the Lord. As such, their roles were very important, as they led the people of God, and they were entrusted with the safeguarding of the fullness of the truth and the teachings of our faith.

Therefore, bishops must have been good and dedicated servants of God, exemplary in their actions, words and deeds. That was why St. Paul emphasised to St. Timothy the criteria in how a bishop should be selected. The idea was that, a bishop should be, as much as possible, be free from serious impediments and impropriety, as his actions and words will be closely followed as examples by the flock entrusted to his care.

There had been many occasions when bishops had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the traditions handed down from the Apostles and therefore from the Lord Himself. Those bishops had instead chosen to walk down the path of heresy, where they misled those entrusted to their care and ending up leading many people down the path to damnation because of their lack of faith. Not only that their sins were severe, but the impact on the Church and the faithful were also often enormous.

Meanwhile, deacons as mentioned by St. Paul were also required to be of men of proper standing and of good behaviour and faith. Why is this so? That is because deacons, just as priests and bishops played a very important role in the Church and among the faithful, for just as the bishops led the faithful, and the priests ministered to them spiritually, the deacons were the ones entrusted with many of the charitable works of the Church, caring for the needs of the people of God.

Deacons must also be upright in their actions, for if they were not, they could scandalise the faith and the Church, as they were often entrusted with many of the Church’s possessions and properties in conducting their missions. And they were also frequently needed at the frontline of action, take for example, St. Stephen and his fellow deacons, in which St. Stephen had to even lay down his life defending his faith, as the first martyr of the Church.

As we can see, it is not easy to be devoted servants of God, because of the many challenges that will inevitably come to be obstacles and hurdles in their path. And temptation will always be present, trying to lure away the faithful, even those who have faithfully serve the Lord, to abandon their holy mission, and to save themselves. They will need our support, prayers and help.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, as there are many of us whom God had called and chosen to be the successors of the many good and holy bishops, priests and deacons that we have had, and yet, many of the people called had not responded to God’s call, and then, some others still failed in their calling, as they lapsed and some abandoned their vocation. These are truly very regrettable occurrences, which should not have happened. Yet, this is where all of us as Christians must truly help one another, and support God’s faithful servants.

Those of us who have received the calling from God may want to heed the examples of St. Januarius, or San Gennaro of Naples in Italy, a Roman saint and bishop of Naples, who lived during the difficult years of the Early Church, which was greatly suffering under persecution from the Roman state and its Emperor Diocletian, who carried out one of the most vicious and terrible persecution of the Church and Christians. He led the faithful people entrusted to his care, and he helped to hide the people that were chased by the Roman officials, that they would not be arrested.

He did all these while risking himself, and still faithfully discharging his duties in teaching and guiding the people to God. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his flock, and when he was eventually arrested by the authorities, he remained strong and resolute despite torture and suffering, and he faced martyrdom with great courage, knowing that he had done all that the Lord had asked him to do and even more. And his examples have inspired many others to continue to persevere in their faith even unto this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray, and fervently ask God what is it that He wants from each one of us. If He has called us and chosen us to be His servants, then let us pray for discernment, that we will be able to make the right decisions, and commit ourselves to God’s cause, in the manner St. Januarius had done. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may we draw ever closer to Him with each passing day. And let us also pray for all the good servants of God, our deacons, priests and bishops, and all others who dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us. God has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 100 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6

I will sing of Your love and justice; to You, o YHVH, I will sing praise. I will walk the way of integrity – o YHVH, when will You come to me?

With a blameless heart, I will walk within my house. I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the deeds of faithless people.

He who deals with others treacherously, I will silence. He who talks and acts arrogantly, I will not endure.

I will choose from the faithful of the land, those who may dwell with Me; only the upright shall be My servant.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Timothy 3 : 1-13

If someone aspires to the overseer’s ministry, he is, without a doubt, looking for a noble task. It is necessary, that the overseer (or bishop) be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, responsible, judicious, of good manners, hospitable and skilful in teaching.

He must not be addicted to wine, or quarrelsome, but be gentle and peaceful, and not a lover of money, but a man whose household is well-managed, with obedient and well-mannered children. If he cannot govern his own house, how can he lead the assembly of God? He must not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited, and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must enjoy a good reputation among the outsiders, lest people speak evil about him, and he fall into the snare of the devil.

Deacons, likewise, must be serious and sincere, and moderate in drinking wine, not greedy for money; they must keep the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Let them be first tried and, if found blameless, be accepted as deacons. In the same way, the women must be conscientious, not given to gossip, but reserved and trustworthy.

A deacon must be husband of one wife, and must know how to guide his children and manage his household. Those who serve well as deacons will win honourable rank, with authority to speak of Christian faith.

Monday, 18 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us today heard about the story of the army centurion in the Gospel passage, where he requested the Lord Jesus to heal his very sick servant. Yet at the same time, feeling the uttermost unworthiness upon him, the army centurion spoke to Jesus in the words we are surely familiar with, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.’

In this we see how each and every one of us are afflicted in our body, our mind, our heart and our soul, all of us are sinners who are unworthy of God, just like the army centurion who felt that he was unworthy that God should come to his house even though it was for the healing of his servant. He did so because, probably he was not Jewish but Greek or Roman as was custom at that time for a Roman army centurion, and it was considered taboo for a non-Jew to enter the house of a Jew and vice versa.

How about us? Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been tainted by sin, the affliction that is affecting all of us, corrupting our mind, heart, body and soul, our entire being. And it was because of our sins caused by our disobedience against God, beginning with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our first ancestors that we have ended up being cast out of Eden, the gardens of God, and sundered away from His grace and love.

Therefore, in our state of sin, we have become unworthy of God, and we cannot stand in God’s presence, because He Who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the presence of sin, just as darkness cannot withstand the bright light of the Lord. All those who sin and have been corrupted by sin are therefore supposed to be damned and rejected, to suffer the same fate as accorded to the devil and his angels, that is eternal suffering in hell fire.

Yet, that was not what the Lord wanted to happen to us, as He gave us all a new hope, through Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and mankind, for He, having taken up the flesh of man, taking up our own human form upon Him, lies between God the Creator and Master of all, and the children of man. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man, having both divine and human natures united in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Therefore, He is the bridge that has bridged the once uncrossable chasm between God and us, caused by the sins we have committed, which separated us from God. He has given us another chance to be reconciled with God, and through His cross, His suffering and death on that cross, He has brought us mankind back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father and Creator.

Yet, many of us are reluctant to return to Him, and many of us are even ignorant or hostile to His love. We do not act in the manner the army centurion had done, but instead, first of all, many of us think that we cannot be afflicted or that we are in the wrong. We think that our way and what we have done in life cannot have been wrong, and that we are fine in whatever it is that we are doing. Yet, the reality is that many of us are heading down the wrong path.

Should we let our pride and ego to become obstacles in our journey towards reconciliation and reunion with God? Should we let our obstinance and the temptations we encounter in life to derail our effort and progress towards the salvation in God? We should not. We should instead heed the examples of the army centurion, who despite knowing that he was unworthy, but he had complete and full faith in the Lord, that the Lord will be able to do what He wills to do for those whom He loves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are God’s beloved children, and yet we have been sundered from Him and were separated from His grace because of our sins and mistakes. Now we all need to realise just how sinful and wicked we have been, how corrupted and unworthy we have been, and then we have to realise that there is a way out of this predicament. It is through our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, that we will be saved.

Let us all therefore from now on, draw ever closer to God’s loving embrace, and sincerely seek repentance and resolve to turn away from all of our sinful habits and actions. Let us all no longer be stubborn and prideful, but instead, humbly, like the army centurion in the Gospel today, seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, which He readily gives to all those who are willing to repent and desire reconciliation with Him. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 18 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 7 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 18 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 27 : 2, 7, 8-9

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your innermost Sanctuary.

YHVH is my strength, my shield; my heart was sure of Him; I have been helped and my heart exults; with my song I give Him thanks.

YHVH is the strength of His people, the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, be their Shepherd and carry them forever.