Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. But He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : Here is My Servant, Whom I have chosen; the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him; and He will announce My judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick until He brings justice to victory, and in Him, all the nations will put their hope.

Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 10 : 1-2, 3-4, 7-8, 14

Why, o YHVH, do You stand afar? Why hide from us in times of distress? The wicked are in power; the weak suffers harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes.

Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God. In their pride the wicked say, “There is no God.” They see no further.

Their mouths are filled with cursing, deceit and threats; spite and mischief are under their tongues. They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim.

But You see those in misery, o God, and You take it in hand. The unfortunate commits himself to You; the orphan turns to You for help.

Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Micah 2 : 1-5

Woe to those who plot wickedness and plan evil even on their beds! When morning comes they do it, as soon as it is within their reach. If they covet fields, they seize them. Do they like houses? They take them. They seize the owner and his household; both, the man and his property.

This is why YHVH speaks, “I am plotting evil against this whole brood, from which your necks cannot escape. No more shall you walk with head held high, for it will be an evil time.” On that day, they will sing a taunting song against you; and a bitter lamentation will be heard, “We have been stripped of our property in our homeland. Who will free us from the wicked who allots our fields.”

Truly, no one will be found in the assembly of YHVH to keep a field for you.

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, 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 the exchange between the prophet Isaiah and Hezekiah, the king of Judah. At that time, king Hezekiah fell very ill and was about to die, even during the peak of his years, still relatively young by the standard of that age and time. King Hezekiah was desperate and he turned to the Lord for help, through His prophet Isaiah.

King Hezekiah lamented that even though he has been faithful to God, and that he had led the people to return to the true worship of the Lord, abandoning their former pagan idols, but he was soon to die and perish due to his illness. He prayed to the Lord with tears and regret, asking Him to keep in mind whatever good things he had done in his life. And God heard his prayers, extending his life.

In this, and in what we have seen through the Gospel passage, in which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus severely because He allowed His disciples to perform what was supposedly forbidden during the day of the Sabbath, we can see what the Lord’s true intention is for each and every one of us as Christians. As mentioned, He wanted mercy and not sacrifice.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that the Lord wants from us true and genuine love, dedication and commitment. He does not want faith that is just a formality or a faith which is just for show to others. For example, king Hezekiah of Judah has indeed steadfastly loved the Lord, casting aside the idols that had been worshipped throughout Judah until then, and restoring the worship of God back to the people.

This is the kind of love and commitment which the Lord wants from each and every one of us, and not the kind of superficial love which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law has often shown. Many of them wanted to be praised and seen in the fulfilment of the obligations of their faith, and hence, they ended up subverting the Law itself to suit their own misguided and wicked agenda.

The Lord Jesus is reminding us through these passages of the Scriptures, that ultimately, God made His laws and revealed them to His people for a singular purpose, and that is, to bring them all back to His loving embrace. The Law was meant to reconcile mankind to God, and not to push away man from His salvation. That is why, the Law was meant to turn mankind’s heart back to God, and God sought the love and faith in each and every one of us.

In the end, as long as we cling on to the Lord, and put our trust in Him, we shall not be disappointed, for He will be with us and will protect us. He will not withhold His grace from us, and we shall be truly satisfied. Of course, there will be trials, challenges and tribulations, but ultimately, in the end, what awaits all of us who remain faithful to God will be eternal glory and true joy with God.

And God remembers and knows all that we have done in life, whether it is good deeds or wicked deeds. He remembered the deeds of king Hezekiah, and blessed him and gave him new lease of life according to His will, as He was pleased with what Hezekiah had done. He did not forget those who have been faithful to Him, but remembering them to the time when He will grant them His inheritance.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate the feast of St. Apollinaris of Sweden, one of the early Church fathers, bishop of Ravenna and martyr of the faith. He was a truly dedicated servant of God, dedicating his whole life for the good of the flock entrusted under his care. St. Apollinaris endured many persecutions and hardships throughout his life that ended up with his martyrdom.

Yet, St. Apollinaris remained firm in his faith and conviction to serve the Lord and His people. He went through all the troubles and trials with faith, entrusting everything to God, in Whom he had complete and total faith in. This is a role model of the faith which all of us the faithful should adhere to, in all of our ways. Are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Apollinaris of Ravenna?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our lives, and think of how our lives have been influenced by our faith. Have our faith been genuine and filled with true love for God, or have we rather allowed ourselves to be overcome by our attachments to the world and ended up sidelining God, and having a life that was not centred on God? Let us all think about this, and see what we can do in the time to come, to be ever more faithful and committed, to be ever more true in our faith.

May the Lord be with us and bless our efforts and works, that in everything we say and do, we will always do them for the love of God, and also for the love and concern of our fellow men, as St. Apollinaris of Ravenna had shown us. May God be our strength and be our Light, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 12 : 1-8

At that time, it happened that, Jesus walking through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at Your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the Temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty?”

“I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words : It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Isaiah 38 : 10, 11, 12abcd, 16

Once I said : In the noontime of my life I go; I am sent to the land of the dead, for the rest of my years.

I said : Never again shall I see YHVH in the land of the living; never again shall I see the inhabitants of the earth.

Like a shepherd’s tent, my dwelling has been pulled down and thrown away; like a weaver, You rolled up my life and cut it from the loom.

O Lord, give me back my health and give me back my life!

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Isaiah 38 : 1-6, 21-22, 7-8

In those days Hezekiah fell mortally ill and the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him with a message from YHVH, “Put your house in order for you shall die; you shall not live.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to YHVH, “Ah YHVH! Remember how I have walked before You in truth and wholeheartedly, and done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Then the word of YHVH came to Isaiah, “Go and tell Hezekiah what YHVH, the God of his father David, says : I have heard your prayer and I have seen your tears. See! I am adding fifteen years to your life and I will save you and this city from the power of the king of Assyria. I will defend it for My sake and for the sake of David My servant.”

Isaiah then said, “Bring a fig cake to rub on the ulcer and let Hezekiah be cured!” Hezekiah asked, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the House of YHVH?” Isaiah answered, “This shall be for you a sign from YHVH, that He will do what He has promised. See! I shall make the shadow descending on the stairway of Ahaz go back ten steps.”

So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had covered on the stairway.