Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 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, on this day we heard from the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading passage, in which he beseeched and asked God to be merciful to His people, for they have been assailed by their enemies, beaten up and in danger of being destroyed and annihilated. At that time, during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah was on its last days of existence, as it was threatened by the power of the mighty Babylonians.

Yet, the people of Judah still refused to listen to the prophet’s warnings and they in fact persecuted him and made life very difficult to him. They arrested him and put him into prison, all because they would rather believe in the false prophets and guides, and in continuing to live in the state of sin, disobeying the Lord’s laws and commandments, profaning His Temple and House.

It was in this context that the prophet Jeremiah made his plea and prayer before God, for the sins of the people were very great indeed. If they continued to live as they were, their punishment and the consequences for their sins would be very great. Nothing would have been left of the people which God had led into the Promised Land of Canaan, and just as their northern neighbours, they would face destruction and annihilation unless they repented from their sins.

In the end, the people of Judah lost their kingdom, and they lost their Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians together with Jerusalem, which was sacked at the end of the kingdom of Judah. Most of the inhabitants, God’s people, were brought into exile in the faraway lands of Babylon, and what the prophets had prophesied and foretold for a long time became a stark reality. But eventually the people repented and turned back to God.

They realised the suffering and humiliation they endured, caused by the disobedience of their ancestors, and led by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, they would return to their homeland many decades later, to rebuild their cities, as well as the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They repented their sinful ways and cast aside many of the wicked acts and corruptions that had led their ancestors to sin.

And all of these showed us God’s true and enduring love for us all, His people. He despised our sins and wickedness, but in the end, He still loves each one of us. Every one of us that has been lost to Him because of sin, unrepented in stubbornness, are painful wounds in His heart. He does not desire the destruction of sinners, but rather their repentance, forgiveness and redemption, that all of them may be reconciled with Him.

That is why in the Gospel passage today, the parable of the wheat and weed, we heard about a sower of good seeds, representing God, who went against the enemy who tried to sabotage the field by sowing weeds among the good seeds. The devil is always trying to spread his lies and tempt us to sin, to disobey and rebel against God’s will. That is why the wheat grows up intertwined with the weeds, as there are both good and evil within us.

But God did not outright destroy us for our sins. Indeed, our sins are despicable in His sight, but He allowed us the opportunity to seek forgiveness and to be reconciled with Him, so that, in the end, we will be made worthy and clean again, free from the chains of our sins. Therefore, we will be truly worthy to be called God’s children and as God’s beloved people.

Today, together with the whole Church, all of us celebrate together the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, the largest religious order present in the Church today. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier, born from a noble and rich family in what is today known as Spain, but had a moment of conversion and revelation, in which, he changed his life completely, and devoted himself to a new existence with a new purpose in God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola initially desired for worldly glory, honour and power, as how he was conditioned in within his family environment and noble upbringing. Hence, he joined the military, fighting in the army in order to gain for himself valour, power, fame, recognition and honour, all the things that the world treasured at that time. But he did not find true fulfilment and consolation in them.

When he was grievously injured and imprisoned by his enemies during one particular siege, St. Ignatius of Loyola went through a spiritual conversion in which he was convinced to follow the religious life, called by God to turn away from worldly glory, and instead seek to bring greater glory of God. This would later on become the motto of the Jesuits, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the greater glory of God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola continued to study more about the faith and eventually was ordained as a priest. Gathering likeminded men of his time, filled with zeal and fervour for the faith, as well as missionary zeal, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, which very quickly became the epicentre of the efforts of Counter-Reformation against the false Protestant heresies spreading in many parts of Christendom at that time.

St. Ignatius of Loyola and many of his fellow Jesuits established schools and seminaries, through which the efforts of Counter-Reformation were done, as the spearheads of the Church’s work to call many of those who have fallen into heresy to return to the Mother Church. Many people and many souls were saved because of the works of the Jesuits, and many of them had to suffer persecution for their faith.

The example of St. Ignatius of Loyola shows us all that while all of us are sinners and are unworthy of God because of our sins, but through sincere and genuine repentance, we can truly make a difference in our lives. As the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola has shown us, that God Who has called us to be reconciled with Him can make us into such great instruments of mercy and forgiveness for many others, and many more can be saved, through us, who have been saved first.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we all strive to turn away from our own sinful lives, and from all the wickedness we have committed thus far, which made us all unworthy to be truly called children of God? Let us all be inspired by the fervour and the courage which St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits showed, in the midst of difficulties and even persecution, to do the work of God, and to gain greater glory, not for ourselves, but for the greater glory of God.

May the Lord be glorified through our works, and may He be glorified by the strong and living faith present in each and every one of us. May He continue to bless us and all of our works, that we may truly walk the path to the eternal glory and true joy that God alone can give, and not the world. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (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, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die.

Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 14 : 17-22

This you will say to them : Let my eyes shed tears night and day without ceasing! For a great wound has the virgin daughter of my people been wounded, a most grievous wound. If I go into the country, I see those slain by the sword. If I enter the city I see the ravages of famine. For the prophet and the priest did not understand what was happening in the land.

Have You then rejected Judah forever? Do You abhor Zion? Why have You wounded us and left us with no hope of recovery? We hoped for salvation but received nothing good; we waited for healing, but terror came! YHVH, we know our wickedness and that of our ancestors, and the times we have sinned against You.

For Your Name’s sake do not despise us; do not dishonour the throne of Your glory. Remember us. Do not break Your Covenant with us! Among the worthless idols of the nations, are there any who can bring rain, or make the skies send showers? Only in You, YHVH our God, do we hope, for it is You Who do all this.

Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first beginning with the anger which God had shown His people, those living in the kingdom of Judah, for their refusal to listen to Him and their hardened hearts and minds, which could not allow them to love their God. They had instead persecuted the prophets and killed them, and continued to live in their sinful state.

God was angry with His people because despite all the good things and love He had done to them, they had turned away from Him, abandoned Him and forgot about Him, and threw away all of His laws and commandments. And despite all the miraculous deeds and powers He had shown them, they had instead chosen to put their trust in idols made from wood, stone and gold.

But the Lord did not give up on His people, for He still loved them dearly, each and every one of them. And that is why He sent us all Jesus, His own beloved Son, to be the One through Whom He would bring about salvation to all of His people. And in the Gospel today, all of us heard Him speaking to the people and to His disciples, about the kingdom of heaven, which has come into this world.

The Lord used the parable of the mustard seed to teach the people about the coming of God’s kingdom, telling them what they need to do in order to be faithful and to be committed to God’s ways. He used the mustard seed to show them the example of what the coming of the kingdom of God means to the people who are willing to embrace God and His kingdom.

The mustard seed is a very small seed, one that is insignificant and often overlooked. However, as the Lord mentioned and as those who have grown mustard greens before, we will realise just how wrong our perception can be, as mustard seed when grown into a full-fledged plant, is a large and bountiful tree filled with many branches and leaves. It is a wonderful and often overlooked transformation that accompanied a mustard seed’s growth.

Then the Lord Jesus also told the story of a person who placed three measures of flour and mixed them together with some yeast. The yeast is a crucial component in this process, as without yeast, the flour and mixture will just remain as it is. But with the yeast, as all those who have used them to make bread should know, the flour and mixture will rise as the yeast use the flour material and produce gases as it ferments the bread mixture.

And that is how the ordinary flour and yeast mixture are transformed into wonderful, delicious and nourishing leavened bread. Without yeast and the right conditions, this would never have happened. And the same applies to the mustard seed, as without proper care and the right conditions, the mustard seed as with other plants, would never have grown healthy and strong into a full-fledged plant.

What is the significance of these things to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we look back at the despicable and shameful deeds of the people of God in the first reading passage today, and comparing that to the time of the Lord Jesus, when many of the people listened to Him and became His followers, experiencing profound and even total change in their respective lives, therefore, we can see how the same applies to us as well.

This means that each and every one of us must take in and make the word of God, the revelations of God’s truth, all of His laws, commandments and teachings as preserved and taught to us through the Church, as the centre of our lives. And that is how we can grow in our faith and in our dedication to God. Our lives will surely experience change and transformation by God performing His work in us and through us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, a renowned orator and teacher of the faith, who was also a great bishop and committed servant of God. St. Peter Chrysologus was known as such, as ‘Chrysologus’, the Golden-Worded due to his great charism in his homilies, through which he explained in great clarity and detail the meaning and importance of the Word of God to the people.

Many people at that time adhered to various versions of the teachings of faith, even those which were deemed as heresies and improper. But St. Peter Chrysologus patiently and devoutly taught the true teachings of the faith through his carefully and wisely worded homilies and preachings, by which many of the people came to repentance because they listened to him and came to regret their sinful lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if this has happened before to our predecessors, surely we can also do the same with our own lives. We must not wait any longer, for if we continue to wait and continue to disobey God through sin, we may end up finding that it is too late for us, and we may end up in eternal damnation and suffering in hell. What is at stake for us, is nothing less than the fate of our eternal soul.

Therefore, let us all, from now on, put God as the priority and the focus of our life and our existence, and do our very best to serve Him, resisting the temptation to sin and always listening to His will. Let us all deepen our spirituality and prayerful relationship with God, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to God, our loving Father. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

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 what was spoken by the Prophet : ‘I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.’

Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Deuteronomy 32 : 18-19, 20, 21

They have disowned the Rock Who fathered them; they have forgotten the God Who gave them birth. The Lord saw this, and in His anger rejected His sons and daughters.

He said, “I will hide My face from them and see what will become of them. They are so perverse, so unfaithful!”

“They made Me jealous with their false gods and angered Me with their idols. I will, therefore, make them envious of a foolish people, I will provoke them to anger with an empty-headed nation.”