Sunday, 5 November 2017 : Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say; but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even lift a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Sunday, 5 November 2017 : Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 2 : 7b-9, 13

We were gentle with you, as a nursing mother, who feeds and cuddles her baby. And so great is our concern, that we are ready to give you, as well as the Gospel, even our very lives, for you have become very dear to us.

Remember our labour and toil; when we preached the Gospel, we worked day and night, so as not to be a burden to you. This is why we never cease giving thanks to God for, on receiving our message, you accepted it, not as human teaching, but as the Word of God. That is what it really is, and, as such, it is at work in you who believe.

Sunday, 5 November 2017 : Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 130 : 1, 2, 3

O YHVH, my heart is not proud nor do I have arrogant eyes. I am not engrossed in ambitious matters, nor in things too great for me.

I have quieted and stilled my soul, like a weaned child, on its mother’s lap; like a contented child is my soul.

Hope in YHVH, o Israel, now and forever.

Sunday, 5 November 2017 : Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Malachi 1 : 14b – Malachi 2 : 2b, 8-10

For I am a great King; and My Name is respected through all the nations, says YHVH of hosts.

This warning is also for you, priests. If you do not listen to it, or concern yourself, to glorify My Name, says YHVH of hosts. But you, says YHVH of hosts, have strayed from My way, and, moreover, caused many to stumble because of your teaching. You have broken My Covenant with Levi.

Therefore, I let all the people despise you and consider you unworthy, because you do not follow My ways; and you show partiality in your judgments. Do we not all have the same Father? Has the same God not created all of us? Why, then, does each of us betray his brother, defiling the Covenant of our ancestors?

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures in which first of all we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, speaking about the matter between the salvation of the Jews and the pagan peoples. It was mentioned how the Jews stumbled so that the Lord might be able to save the pagan peoples, and through that, the Jews themselves might be saved.

This is related to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, the familiar words of the Lord Jesus in which He related the story about the people who were clamouring and fighting over places of honour, using a wedding banquet or event as an example. He related to the people how it is often that many are seeking for the most important places, desiring prestige and honour, but only later humiliated because even more important guests came and took over their seats.

How does this relate to what we heard in the first reading? The Jews or the people of Israel were the ones whom God had first chosen and called from among all of mankind. He called their forefather Abraham and made a Covenant with him. As a result, the Israelites became a race that God had chosen to be His own, especially from the time when He directly intervened to bring them out from slavery in Egypt and into the land He has promised to them.

The Jews took great pride in this and they were always ready to boast that they were chosen by God to be His people, to the point that they actually looked down on the pagans and the non-Jewish people, whom they deemed to be less worthy of the Lord, because they were not chosen by God. Yet, they themselves were blind to their own shortcomings and faults, and through their constant disobedience and lack of faith, they have been punished many times.

And God did not intend to just call the Israelites and exclude all the other races and peoples. Ultimately, God wants everyone, every mankind to be reconciled to Him, for He created each and every one of us out of His great love for us, and because of that great love, He does not want any of us to perish in sin and in the darkness. Rather, He wants that each and every one of us can come into the light.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. They prided themselves in obeying the tenets of the Law, and as Jesus mentioned, they liked to the praised and to be honoured. They were the epitome of those who came to the wedding banquet and sought the first and most important place in the room. Yet, the room and the place has not been given to them, because they have no God in their hearts, and in their pride, they have placed their own interests ahead of God’s interests.

That was why the Lord Jesus chided them and rebuked them, and saying that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were going faster towards the kingdom of heaven than them, even though these people were often seen and labelled as sinners and unworthy people, least of all those who were thought to be worthy of God and the heavenly glory He promised to all His faithful ones.

Why is that so? That is because, those people as we witnessed throughout the Gospels, were willing to listen to Jesus and His teachings, and many of them, in tears, turned themselves to the Lord in repentance for their old ways of sin, and recognising their sinfulness, they desired to be forgiven by God. They have been the last ones, but because of their humility and willingness to listen to God and to obey Him, God had raised them to greater glory.

As I have just mentioned earlier, the great problem that we now can see as the great obstacle preventing us mankind from reaching out to God, is pride. Our human pride, our ego and ambition makes us to be non-receptive to God’s love and mercy, and many of us had ended up hardening our hearts against Him, closing Him out of our hearts and minds, not letting Him to speak to us that we might know His will. Instead, often it is always about ‘I’ or ‘Me’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look at the examples of the holy predecessors, particularly, St. Charles Borromeo, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, as role models for us to follow, that we may know how to live a good and virtuous Christian life, and not engulfed by our pride and ego. St. Charles Borromeo was renowned as a great reformer of the Church, a Cardinal of the Church, as well as the influential and powerful Archbishop of Milan, perhaps second in its importance as compared to Rome.

Yet, St. Charles Borromeo, who was born to one of the most influential noble families in the region, who enjoyed close relationship with both the Church and the ruling class, did not let all these things to corrupt him or to make him proud of his lineage and position. When he was made a Cardinal and entrusted with the role of managing the Roman Curia, or the governance of the Universal Church in Rome, he lived in austerity and ordered the members of the Curia to do the same.

He helped to organise the great reforms of the Church through the Council of Trent, which helped to rejuvenate the faith in the Church and destroy or remove the impurities and excesses of the previous decades and centuries when the Church was filled with many corrupt individuals seeking for power, wealth and influence through the Church. And later on, as the Archbishop of Milan, he was also credited with the enforcement of the reforms among the clergy and laity in his Archdiocese.

He cared for the poor and the sick in his Archdiocese of Milan, and it was told that in one occasion, when the governor and the ruling class of Milan fled the city because of a great pestilence that struck it, St. Charles Borromeo remained behind to care for the people who were sick and provided for their needs. He was also known for leading a procession barefooted through the streets of Milan with a rope around his neck, as a sign of penitence and humility before God, asking Him to forgive the sins of His people.

The examples of St. Charles Borromeo should be an inspiration for all of us Christians today, that in all of our actions and deeds, we should be humble and not to listen to the voice of our ego, pride and human ambition. Let us all seek to be the last in worldly matters, but the first in the eyes of God, as the Lord Jesus reminded us in the Gospel passage today. Let us also not build for ourselves a temporary treasure in this world, but instead seek the eternal glory of heaven. St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us! Amen.

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 1, 7-11

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for He had noticed how they tried to take the places of honour.

And He said, “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited; and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you, ‘Please give this person your place.’ What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat!”

“Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that you host may come and say to you, ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honour for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 93 : 12-13a, 14-15, 17-18

Fortunate the one You correct, o YHVH, the one You teach Your Law; You give them relief from distress.

YHVH will not reject His people, nor will He forsake His heritage. Justice will return to the just; and the upright will follow, in its wake.

Had YHVH not helped me, I would have fallen into the silence of death. No sooner did I say, “My foot is slipping,” Your kindness, o YHVH, held me up.

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 11 : 1-2a, 11-12, 25-29

And so I ask : Has God rejected His people? Of course not! I, myself, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected the people He knew beforehand.

Again, I ask : Did they stumble so as to fall? Of course not. Their stumbling allowed salvation to come to the pagan nations, and, this, in turn, will stir up the jealousy of Israel. If Israel’s shortcoming made the world rich, if the pagan nations grew rich with what they lost, what will happen when Israel is restored?

I want you to understand the mysterious decree of God, lest you be too confident : a part of Israel will remain hardened, until the majority of pagans have entered. Then, the whole of Israel will be saved, as Scripture says : From Zion will come the Liberator, Who will purify the descendants of Jacob from all sin. And this is the Covenant I will make with them : I will take away from them their sins.

Regarding the Gospel, the Jews are opponents, but it is for your benefit. Regarding election, they are beloved, because of their ancestors; because the call of God, and His gifts, cannot be nullified.

Friday, 3 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us through the Sacred Scriptures are told the difficulties and challenges facing the early Christians, especially those of the Jewish origin, as what St. Paul told to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome in his Epistle. In that Epistle, St. Paul wrote about the anguish which he had of being sundered from among his people, the descendants of Israel.

St. Paul himself, while being a highly educated and Hellenised Jew, was also once a very zealous follower of the laws of Moses, as evidenced in his prior activities as Saul, purging the land of Judea and Galilee from the faithful Christians, arresting them and striking against the early Church. However, God called him to be His disciple, and Saul had a conversion of heart, mind and being, and answering God’s call, he became one of the Apostles.

But by doing so, he has sundered himself from the Jewish authorities, who were against Jesus and His teachings. As mentioned in the Gospels, those who believed in Jesus and propagated His teachings were thrown out of the synagogues by the Pharisees and the chief priests, equivalent to the excommunication from the Church as we know it today, when a Christian is sundered from the Church and God’s salvation due to a serious and grave error.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, yet St. Paul would rather choose to be with God and to obey His commandments rather than going back to the old ways, even though if he had done so, he would have gained prestige and honour he had when he was highly esteemed as Saul. In the Gospel today, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who challenged Him as they have often done, as they refused to believe in Jesus and in His teachings.

They have erroneously believed in the laws and customs that they have inherited from the time of Moses and the prophets, as these had been heavily modified throughout the history of Israel. As a result, they ended up interpreting the laws literally without understanding why those laws were given to the people of God in the first place. They thought that the laws were in place to govern the people of God in how they behave and live, but those laws had a singular purpose by God, and that is love.

The Law of God which He gave to Moses was intended to guide the people that they may come to love their Lord and Creator, the love that they should give the One Who had loved them and cared for them, ever since the beginning of time, and ever since He established the Covenant with Abraham their forefather. And Jesus came into this world, in order to deliver to them this truth, that God loves them and wants each and every one of them to be reconciled with Him.

And He wants all of them to experience conversion, by turning towards Christ and abandon their old ways of sin and darkness. Yet, mankind can be very stubborn, just as the people of Israel themselves had shown, in their constant refusal to listen to God, and in their constant waywardness, in their refusal to turn themselves towards God and to listen to Him. Instead, they have walked their own path, and persecuted those who have been sent to remind them, from the prophets to the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember the deeds of those who have given themselves completely to the cause of the Lord, and also that of today’s saint, St. Martin de Porres, a holy religious who have lived righteously in accordance with God’s will, inspiring many others to do the same with their lives. He was a lay member of the Dominican order, or the Order of Preachers, who was an illegitimate son of a nobleman, and being born a mixed race in the New World, what is now Americas, he encountered lots of difficulties early on and throughout his life.

St. Martin de Porres did not let all of these to deter him, and he was resolved to serve the Lord and His people, by joining the Dominican order as a lay brother. He was prevented from joining as a full member due to his status as an illegitimately born child as well as his mixed ancestry. Yet, he continued to devote his time and effort, helping his brethren who were sick and poor, caring for them, loving them and show them the gentle compassion that represents God’s love for His people.

The examples of St. Martin de Porres, as well as the holy saints and Apostles, in their loving care and works among us, should remind all of us Christians that we must live according to God’s Law, not by obeying blindly to the teachings of the Church, but rather understanding them and following the examples of our holy predecessors in faith. Let us all live righteously as God’s children and learn to devote ourselves to Him in all of our lives’ effort, our time and attention.

May the Lord bless us always and may He strengthen each one of us, that we may live courageously according to His will, loving one another and doing what He has taught us to do, and thus loving Him also with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and our entire beings. Amen.

Friday, 3 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 14 : 1-6

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. In front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy; so Jesus asked the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

But no one answered. Jesus then took the man, healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “If your lamb or your ox into a well on a Sabbath day, who among you does not hurry to pull it out?” And they could not answer.