Wednesday, 10 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the tale between Joseph, the son of Jacob or Israel and his brothers in Egypt at the time when the whole world experienced a widespread famine, and Joseph, having been abandoned by his brothers many years before, had become the powerful Regent of Egypt. And the brothers of Joseph came to him without knowing who he actually was, and Joseph recognised who they were.

There is some sorts of parallel today, in what we heard in the first reading from the Book of Genesis and the Gospel passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, as the Gospel passage recounted to us the moment when the Lord Jesus chose His twelve chief disciples, the ones who later on would be known as the Twelve Apostles. In both, there are twelve individuals involved, in the first reading being the twelve sons of Israel, and in the Gospel, the twelve disciples of Jesus.

The number twelve has a particular significance in the Bible as it represents the completeness of things, as the whole nation of Israel eventually came from these twelve sons of Jacob, becoming the twelve tribes of Israel. And the reunion between Joseph and his brothers in today’s passage was also no less symbolic and significant, if we understand the intention of why the Lord called His Twelve Apostles.

Since the time of ancient Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel have been torn apart many times, because of their disagreements and conflicts between them, and the division would become permanent when the ten northern tribes formed the separate kingdom of Israel and the remaining two tribes of Judah and Benjamin formed the kingdom of Judah after the death of king Solomon.

When the northern kingdom was overrun and destroyed by the Assyrians and then followed on by the destruction of the southern kingdom by the Babylonians, the tribes and the people of Israel were scattered all over the place, and later on, all over the world. It was just like the separation that happened between Joseph and his brothers, when the jealousy of the latter made them to plot to abandon Joseph to the slavers of Midian.

And what did the Lord Jesus called His Twelve Apostles for? He called them all first with the mission to go to the towns of the Israelites, to the lost sheep of Israel, to gather them all back to the fold of the Lord, essentially to reunite all the scattered people and the tribes of the Lord. When He told them not to go to the pagan territories, it was not that the Lord was biased against the non-Jews and the pagans, but it was because at that time, the primary objective was for the Word of God to be preached to the people whom God had first called.

Therefore, after this mission has been completed, with the suffering, death and resurrection of Our Lord, and subsequently when the Lord commanded His Apostles and disciples to go forth to the nations and baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, the mission of the Apostles were expanded to include the evangelisation of the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, but with the same intention.

And this intention is for them all to bring together all the scattered flock of the Lord, from all peoples and from all the nations, all who have been scattered and separated from God because of their sins. Sin has been the cause of the sundering of the love between God and mankind, and many have been lost to the Lord because of their sins. It is now up to us, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the ones who now bear the same responsibility that the Apostles had once borne, for us to carry on their mission and reach out to all those who have not yet heard of God’s truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect in what way each and every one of us will be able to dedicate ourselves more closely to the Lord, and in what way we will be able to contribute through our own actions and examples, in living our lives with genuine faith so that many more will come to believe in God through us.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He continue to bless us all in all of our endeavours from now on. May He strengthen us and encourage us to live ever more faithfully from now on, and give us the wisdom and strength to carry on living as true Christians. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 1-7

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the Twelve Apostles : first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray Him.

Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Wednesday, 10 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 10-11, 18-19

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

YHVH frustrates the plans of the nations and brings to nothing the peoples’ designs. But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations.

But YHVH’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving kindness; to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 41 : 55-57 and Genesis 42 : 5-7a, 17-24a

When the land of Egypt began to suffer from the famine, the people came to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do as he tells you.” When the famine had spread throughout the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians for the famine was indeed severe over the land.

As the famine had worsened throughout the whole world, people came from other countries to buy grain from Joseph. So the sons of Israel were among those going to buy grain, for there was famine in Canaan. It was Joseph, as governor of the land, who sold the grain to all the people. When his brothers arrived they bowed before him, with their faces to the ground.

Joseph recognised his brothers but did not make himself known and so he put them in prison for three days. On the third day Joseph said to them, “I will help you save yourselves, for I am a man who fears God. If you are sincere, let one of your brothers remain prisoner in the house of the guard where you now are, and the rest of you take the grain to save your families from famine. Then you will bring back your youngest brother; so the truth of what you say will be proved and your lives spared.”

They did as they were ordered and said among themselves, “Alas! We are guilty because of the way we treated our brother when he pleaded with us for mercy, but we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us.” Reuben answered them, “Did I tell you not to sin against the boy. But you did not listen and now we are brought to account for his blood.”

Now they did not know that Joseph understood them as there was an interpreter between them. As for Joseph, he withdrew and wept.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the calling and transformation which God has made upon us, as He calls upon us His people to follow Him and to do His marvellous works. In the first reading we heard of the story of what happened between Jacob and God, when he unknowingly wrestled against Him, and then in the Gospel we heard of the Lord’s call for more workers to harvest the harvests of the Lord.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the encounter between Jacob and God disguised in the form of a Man. Jacob had just returned from the land of his forefathers where he spent many years in exile fleeing from his brother Esau, and over there, he managed to thrive and raised up a large family of his own. He was then on his way back to the land of Canaan, and when God came upon him, it was at the moment just before Jacob was about to meet his brother after many years.

Jacob was afraid that his brother was still very angry at him even after all those years and thus, sent his family and belongings ahead of him. It was then that God, disguised as a Man, struggled with him and wrestled with him all night long until the morning. And it was then and there that God renamed Jacob as Israel, as the one who struggled against God and survived. It was from that moment on that Jacob was known by his new name, a name that would become the name of an entire nation, of Israel.

In the Scriptures, name changes are always very symbolic and very important moments in a person’s life, as a name change indicates a profound change in a person’s direction in life, such as when God made a Covenant with Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah when she has received the fulfilment of the promise of God of bearing a son, and of the Apostles themselves, Simon who received the new name of Cephas or Peter, and Saul who changed his name to Paul after his conversion.

Therefore, in the first reading today, God called on Jacob to be courageous and to put his trust in Him even as he was struck with great fear of expecting the vengeance of his brother. He called on Jacob to a new existence and a new life, and renewed the promise of the Covenant which He had made with his forefathers, a significant milestone in the life of Jacob, who from then on was known as Israel.

This is linked to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard of the works of the Lord Who went about healing the people, casting out demons and proclaiming the Good News. The Lord went around seeking His people to heal them and to make them whole once again, and He had pity on them when He saw them like sheep without a shepherd, and therefore, poured forth His love upon them.

The Lord is calling on each and every one of us as He sent out His disciples to the people He loved, to follow in their footsteps and to do what they have done, in reaching out to the people and to show forth God’s love in their midst. Just as God has reassured Jacob of His faithfulness and love, and just as the Lord Jesus showed His love to the people He held dear, therefore, all of us should be the bearers and witnesses of this same love to our fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us celebrate the feast of many holy martyrs and saints who have given their very best in witnessing to the love of God among men, in standing up for their Christian faith and their commitment to the message of God’s truth, despite the tough persecution and challenges that they had to face. We commemorate today the memory of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his fellow saints, the Holy Martyrs of China.

Many of them were missionaries who came to China spreading the truth of God among the people, showing them the Good News and salvation of God, spreading the message of God’s love and mercy. And some among them were those who have accepted the truth and chose to become Christians, and paid dearly for their faith. The authorities and many of the people at the time viewed the missionaries and Christians with suspicion or even hatred.

And when in the various occasions, the local Christians and the missionaries were oppressed and persecuted, they endured great challenges and pain, suffering and torture just because they believed in the Lord Who has loved them and called them to salvation through Him. St. Augustine Zhao Rong, one of the first Chinese then to be ordained a priest, and many other of his companions in martyrdom, stood by their faith in God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the devotion and commitment of these holy martyrs should inspire us in our own lives to love the Lord in the same way that He has loved us. For these martyrs were willing to suffer and even die for their faith because they knew of the Lord’s generous love and mercy towards them. And indeed, we should reflect on the fact that, if God Himself has willingly suffered, took up His Cross and die for our sake, then why should we not love Him all the more?

Let us all be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and let us all commit ourselves ever anew to Him from now on. May the Lord be our Guide, and may He give us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 32-38

At that time, as the two blind men were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.