Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 134 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise the Name of YHVH. O servants of YHVH, praise Him, you, who serve in the house of YHVH, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise YHVH, for He is good; praise His Name, for it is beautiful; for YHVH has chosen Jacob as His own, Israel as His possession.

I know that YHVH is great, that our YHVH is above all gods. Whatever YHVH pleases, He does – in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in their depths.

Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

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

Genesis 27 : 1-5, 15-29

When Isaac was old and his eyes so weak that he could no longer see, he called Esau, his older son, and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac continued, “You see I am old and I do not know when I shall die; so take your weapons, your bow and arrow, go out into the country and hunt some game for me. Then prepare some of the savoury food I like and bring it to me so that I may eat and give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau went into the country to hunt game and bring it back, she took the best clothes of her elder son Esau that she had in the house and put them on Jacob, her younger son. With the goatskin she covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck, and she handed to him the bread and food she had prepared.

He went to his father and said, “Father!” He answered, “Yes, my son, who is it?” And Jacob said to his father, “It is Esau, your firstborn; I have done what you told me to do. Come, sit up and eat my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac said, “How quick you have been my son!” Jacob said, “YHVH, your God, guided me.”

Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near and let me feel you, my son, and know that it is you, Esau my son, or not.” When Jacob drew near to Isaac, his father felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognise him, for his hands were hairy like the hands of Esau his brother and so he blessed him.

He asked, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob answered, “I am.” Isaac said, “Bring me some of your game, my son, so that I may eat and give you my blessing.” So Jacob brought it to him and he ate. And he brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So Jacob came near and kissed him.

Isaac then caught the smell of his clothes and blessed him, saying, “The smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. May God give you the dew of heaven; and of the richness of the earth; and abundance of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you and nations bow down before you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone that curses you and blessed be everyone that blesses you!”

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on the love and dedication which God has shown each and every one of us, as we are reminded of the great love with which He reached out to us sinners, as what we have heard in our Gospel reading today ought to remind us of this fact. In that passage, we heard how the Lord Jesus called a tax collector named Levi, who would later on become one of his chief disciples, St. Matthew the Apostle.

In order to appreciate better the significance of what we have heard in today’s reading, we should understand the context and the historical norms of that time, when the tax collectors were in particular seen as people who were sinners and unworthy of God, looked down and reviled upon, often ridiculed and hated because they were seen as willing agents of the conquering Romans who then ruled over Judea.

They were even treated like traitors, as those who were considered to have sold out the Jewish people and nation to the Romans. And this compounded by the fact that no one likes to pay taxes for their living and land, makes the tax collectors truly among the most hated group of people at that time. They were considered as people who were greedy and wicked, sinful and selfish, and therefore were shunned by the general society.

Yet, the Lord reached out to them and called to them, as what He had done to Levi, calling him to be His follower, not withstanding his occupation as a tax collector. He reached out to Levi and to the other tax collectors, just as He had done with the prostitutes, who were another group of people reviled and rejected by the society as they were cast out and considered as lost cause and terrible sinners.

The Lord made it plainly clear to the teachers of the Law who doubted and criticised Him and His actions, that He did what He had done because He was seeking those who had been sick and afflicted by the dangerous sickness of sin. And yes, sin is a form of sickness that affects the body and the mind, and unless the people afflicted by these sins are cured from their sins, they will be lost forever from God.

And we must always remember that God loves each and every single one of us without exception, mankind great or small, whether their sins were significant or insignificant, whether they were great or small, He loves each and every one of us without exception, to the best that He has given us all. And this great love He has shown us, He gave to us through nothing less than His own ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.

He cared for us all, that He provided for all, including what we heard in today’s first reading, from the Book of Genesis, relating to us of the time when Sarah, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac passed away. God took good care of Isaac by providing him someone to love despite the grief that he must have endured and faced at that time, giving him Rebecca to be his wife, and at the same time, fulfilling the promise that He has given to him and his father Abraham, that their descendants will be great and numerous.

God has been so loving and so generous to us, and He wants to love us all the more, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of His saints, who have embraced this love which God has given him, and became a great role model for many of the faithful through the ages. St. Anthony Zaccaria, was a renowned priest and hardworking servant of God, who worked extensively among the people, and was known in particular for the Forty Hours Devotion that he popularised among the people.

Through this popular devotion, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed before the faithful and including other practices that St. Anthony restored and encouraged, such as the ringing of bells at 3 pm on Fridays to remind the people of the moment of Crucifixion, of God’s ultimate love, St. Anthony Zaccaria had made tremendous impact on the faith and the salvation of many souls throughout the years of his works and beyond.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, after we have heard of the extent of Our Lord’s great and vast love for each and every one of us, and of the commitment and dedication shown by St. Anthony Zaccaria, let us all follow in his footsteps and dedicate ourselves ever more to God, for His great love and merciful compassion towards us. Let us all abandon our old ways of sin, and seek to be reconciled to Him, just as He reaches out to us, regardless of how great a sinner we are.

May the Lord continue to love us and may He show His generous mercy at all times, and may all of us draw ever closer to Him and be worthy to receive the salvation which He has promised to all of us, who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from where He healed the paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 105 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, for His love endures forever. Who can count YHVH’s mighty deeds, or declare all His praises?

Blessed are they who always do just and right. Remember me, o YHVH, when You show favour to Your people.

Rescue me when You deliver them; let me see the triumph of Your faithful; let me share the joy of Your nation; and join Your people in praising You.

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Genesis 23 : 1-4, 19 and Genesis 24 : 1-8, 62-67

Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years. She died at Kiriatharba – that is Hebron – in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to weep and mourn for Sarah. Abraham left his dead one and spoke to the Hittites, “I am only a stranger among you; give me a burial place among you, so that I may bury my dead.”

After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. Abraham was now old and well on in years, and YHVH had blessed him in every way. Abraham said to his senior servant, who was his steward, “Put your hand under my thigh and you will swear to me by YHVH, God of heaven and earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom we live; rather it is to my country and my kinsfolk that you will go to choose a wife for my son, Isaac.”

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not want to follow me to this country. In that case should I take your son to the country you came from?” Abraham said to him, “In no way will you take my son back. For YHVH, God of heaven and God of earth, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, spoke to me and swore to me that He would give this country to my race.”

“He will send His Angel before you, that you may find a wife for my son. But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be free of this oath. In any case you are not to take my son down there.”

Now Isaac had come from the well of Lahai-roi, for he was living in the Negeb. As Isaac went out in the early evening to meditate in the field, he looked up and saw camels coming. Rebekah also looked up and when she saw Isaac she alighted from her camel and said to the servant, “Who is this man in the field coming to meet us?”

He replied, “It is my master!” She then covered her face with her veil. The servant related to Isaac all that he had done, and Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of Sarah, his mother. He made her his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Thursday, 4 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the moment when Abraham was asked by God to give his son Isaac to be sacrificed to Him on Mount Moria. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus healing a paralysed man only to be criticised upon by the teachers of the Law, which made the Lord to rebuke them for what they have done.

In our first reading passage today, we heard about the sacrifice of Isaac which God requested of Abraham, and this, if we do not understand God’s true intention and context, would have been very disturbing and difficult to accept. At that time, it was common in fact for deities and gods, the pagan idols to be offered sacrificial offerings, including even human sacrifices. It would therefore not be totally out of place for God to have requested such a thing from Abraham.

However, this request came after God has promised Abraham that his descendants through Isaac would be numerous like the stars and the grains of sand, and how they would become great nations on earth. God specifically also mentioned to Abraham earlier on that His promise and grace did not extend through his other son, Ishmael, but through Isaac only. Imagine what kind of thoughts and ruminations that went through in the mind of Abraham as he heard the Lord’s commands.

Yet, despite that, he obeyed without reservation, trusting completely in God’s will. Abraham obediently and faithfully brought Isaac to Mount Moria where he thought of offering him as a sacrifice to God. He must have been sad and filled with questions in his heart, but his love and obedience for God never changed. He followed through God’s plan and for that, he was blessed by God Who used the opportunity to see the faith which Abraham had for Him.

In today’s Gospel passage, we then heard of the Lord Jesus healing the paralysed man and the teachers of the Law immediately commented on when He forgave the paralysed man from his sins and made him whole again. We ought to look into this occasion and contrast it with what we have heard in our first reading today, regarding Abraham and his faith. While Abraham was faithful and trusted in God despite probably having some doubts, he committed himself regardless, but the teachers of the Law immediately went to criticise the Lord.

That is what happened when there is a lack of faith in our hearts, as the teachers of the Law were very knowledgeable about the details and the particulars of the customs and rules applied by the Law, and yet they failed to understand the meaning and purpose behind those laws, which in truth were given to us mankind by God so that the Law may become a guiding light for us to follow, that we do not fall into error.

Instead, they focused on the wrong aspect and approach, becoming preoccupied with the technicalities and the prescriptions of the Law rather than understanding its true nature and purpose of use. That is where they were not like Abraham, who knew God’s will truly in his heart, and devoted himself completely to Him, with the only desire to serve Him and to love Him with all of his strength and abilities.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of another holy servant of God, that is of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was married to the King of Portugal and therefore is a rightful Queen of Portugal, and even though she was born into nobility and richness and power, but she remained humble, devout and upright in her living. In time, her examples and influence managed to convert even her husband, the king, who had been leading a sinful life until then.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal showed many other courageous displays of faith, and after her husband passed away, she retired into a monastery where she continued to serve the Lord through prayer and service. She was instrumental in peacemaking when conflict was almost inevitable between that of her son, the then king of Portugal and the king of the neighbouring kingdom of Castile.

In St. Elizabeth of Portugal and Abraham, we can see the genuine faith of those who have given their lives to God and entrusted themselves to Him, knowing His will and His ways. Are we able to follow in their footsteps as well? Or are we more like the teachers of the Law who are just concerned about fulfilling our obligations to God and not truly loving Him and trusting in His will?

Let us all draw ever closer to God from now on, and find ways for us to dedicate ourselves ever more to Him. May He continue to guide us throughout our journey, now and forevermore. Amen.