Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded through what we have heard from the Sacred Scriptures that we all need to escape from the darkness present in this world, and find the true Light and salvation that can be found in God alone. For too long we have dwelled in the darkness and God has come to us to free us from this darkness and bring us into the light.

The Lord blesses us all and protects us because of His great love for us. He does not want us to be destroyed and be condemned because of the darkness that are all around us. He is always ever vigilant in watching over us and in being concerned with us. And that was why He sent us His Saviour, His own beloved Son to us in the first place. If He did not love us as He does, then He would not have done whatever He had done for our sake.

I am referring to His work and ministry among us, how He went about from places to places to save His people and deliver them from the darkness of their sins, ministering and caring for them and their needs. In our Gospel passage today we heard about how He taught among the people in Capernaum in the synagogue and then healed a man who was tormented and possessed by evil spirits, casting those demons out of him.

He showed all the people that He has power and authority over all things, including even over the evil spirits, who had to obey Him and get out of the man they possessed when He commanded them to do so. He is the One Whom every being on earth, in heaven, in hell and indeed in all places and in all creation had to obey and bend to knee to worship, even Satan and all of his allies, the fallen angels and demons.

All of these forces are trying their best to bring about our downfall, striking at us constantly with temptations and efforts to turn us away from God and leading us down the path of sin. But what the Lord intends with us has been made clear as St. Paul wrote it in his Epistle to the Thessalonians in our first reading passage today, as he said that “God has not willed us to be condemned, but to gain salvation, through Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”

Through what the Lord has done, we can see just how much He truly loves each and every one of us without exception, as we are after all, His most precious and beloved creations. He did not go through so much suffering on the Cross for no reason, and that reason that He loves us all and wants us to be reconciled completely with Him is good enough for Him to bear and endure the burden of our sins and to suffer and die for our sake and for our salvation.

Yet, unfortunately, the sad reality is such that even though God truly loves us all and desires nothing but our liberation and salvation from certain destruction, but it is often that we mankind refuse to accept His generous offer of mercy and love, His compassion and willingness to reach out to us, to heal us and to make us whole again. We are often tempted and swayed by our desires and by all the worldly things present all around us, our busy schedules and preoccupations with them that prevented us from truly loving and knowing God as we should.

Today perhaps all of us should look at the example set by a holy man of God, whose feast we celebrate, namely Pope St. Gregory the Great, a great and holy servant of God, dedicated and ever committed to the service of God. Pope St. Gregory the Great was remembered for his many contributions to the Church, in the vigorous reforms he carried out, in his works of evangelisation, most prominently by sending St. Augustine of Canterbury to re-establish the Church in England among many others.

Pope St. Gregory the Great truly loved God and devoted himself to the many works to bring greater glory to His Name, in allowing the Church to grow even more and in stabilising the foundations of the Church, strengthening the leadership and rooting out corruptions and heresies from within the Church. He was also credited with the reforms in the Church music for worship, which eventually led to the famous Gregorian chants being named after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see just how much this holy servant of God dedicated himself to God, each and every moments of his life. Now, are we able to do the same with our own lives? Can we be inspired to do what Pope St. Gregory the Great had done with his own life, a life of total service and commitment to God? Let us all learn to resist the many temptations present in our lives, and resist the allure and distractions of our busy life in this world.

Instead, let us all turn towards God, in our hearts, minds and indeed, in our whole being, that we are no longer being distracted by those thoughts and distractions, of worldly ambitions, pride, greed and vainglory. Let us instead be true Christians, true disciples of the Lord from now on, knowing just how much He has loved us all, all these while. Let us all love Him dearly in the same way He has loved us from the Cross, giving our whole lives to

Him just as He has given everything to us. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 31-37

At that time, Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee, and began teaching the people at the Sabbath meetings. They were astonished at the way He taught them, for His word was spoken with authority.

In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by an evil spirit, who shouted in a loud voice, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I recognise You : You are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus said to him sharply, “Be silent and leave this man!” The evil spirit then threw the man down in front of them, and came out of him without doing him harm. Amazement seized all these people, and they said to one another, “What does this mean? He commands the evil spirits with authority and power. He orders, and you see how they come out!”

And news about Jesus spread throughout the surrounding area.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

YHVH is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? YHVH is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of YHVH, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His Sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of YHVH in the land of the living. Trust in YHVH, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in YHVH!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-6, 9-11

You do not need anyone to write to you about the delay, and the appointed time for these events. You know, that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people feel secure, and at peace, the disaster will suddenly come upon them, as the birth pangs of a woman in labour, and they will not escape.

But you, beloved, are not in darkness; so that day will not surprise you like a thief. All of you are citizens of the light and the day; we do not belong to night and darkness. Let us not, therefore, sleep as others do, but remain alert and sober.

For God has not willed us to be condemned, but to win salvation, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. He died for us, so that, we might enter into life, with Him, whether we are still awake or already asleep. Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, as you are doing now.

Monday, 2 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded to be faithful to God and to put all of our hope in Him, trusting in Him completely as the one and only source of our salvation, the very reason for our existence and the true Light through Whom we shall be freed from the darkness of our lives and by Whom we shall enter into the glorious kingdom of His heavenly glory.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Thessalonica reassured them all that God would always be with them, and trusting in God would bring them eventual happiness and glory, as the Lord will reward all those who remain true and faithful to Him, and even in suffering and death, God will always be with His beloved ones. The promise of resurrection and eternal life in God is mentioned in the same passage to reassure all the people of God.

And that is important because at that time, in the earliest days of the Church, even as more and more people came to believe in God, there were increasingly more and more tensions within the community as those who refused to believe in God persecuted and rejected those who have accepted the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. As a result, some among the faithful were wavering in their faith in the face of opposition and persecution.

Then, as we also heard in the Gospel passage today, all of us are reminded that just as Christians have been persecuted for their faith all throughout time and ages, we must not forget that first and foremost, the Lord Himself, Our Lord and Master have been rejected first, persecuted first and made to suffer, ultimately leading to His sacrifice and most painful death on the Cross, by which He saved us all and brought the fulfilment of all of God’s promises.

In that occasion, as the Lord Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth in Galilee, He preached the word of God, as prophesied through His prophet Isaiah about the coming of God’s salvation through His Messiah, and how, at that very moment, the salvation of God was revealed for Jesus Himself was finally already in our midst. He is the fulfilment of God’s many promises to us, and which He had shown and proven to us through what He has performed while He walked on this earth.

However, as the passage continued on, many among His own townspeople rejected Him and refused to believe in Him. They must have thought that just because they knew Him and His family, the family of a humble and likely poor carpenter, then the Lord Jesus could not have been the One for Whom they have been waiting for. They judged Him and became prejudiced against Him, preferring to believe in themselves rather than God.

And the Lord showed them all how they were doing exactly what their own ancestors had done when those people struck at the prophets of God, rejecting them and refusing to believe in them, even though they brought with them the truth and wisdom of God. And the Lord Himself received the greatest rejection of all, in the end, when on the moment of His Passion, they condemned Him to die, death on the Cross.

Yet, the Lord continues to love us all regardless, despite all of our sins, our stubbornness and persistent refusal to believe in Him. He is ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us and sealed by His own Most Precious Blood on the Cross at Calvary. The Lord wants us all to be saved, and He wants us all to put our trust in Him, because after all, He has loved us so much that He willingly endured all the sufferings for our sake, for our salvation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to dedicate ourselves and commit ourselves to God fully from now on? Are we willing and wanting to love Him all the more for the way He has loved us and cared for us all these while and for securing for us the path to eternal life and glory with Him? Let us all discern this carefully in our hearts and let us all truly turn to Him wholeheartedly from now onwards. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 2 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 4 : 16-30

At that time, when Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.” All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s Son?”

So He said, “Doubtless you will quote Me the saying : Doctor, heal yourself! Do here, in Your town, what they say You did in Capernaum.” Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country.” Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land.”

“Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet; and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Monday, 2 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 95 : 1 and 3, 4-5, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

How great is YHVH and worthy of praise! Above all gods, He is to be feared. For all other gods are worthless idols, but YHVH is the One Who made the heavens.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Monday, 2 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 4 : 13-18

Brothers and sisters, we want you not to be mistaken about those who are already asleep, lest you grieve as do those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose; it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus. God will bring them together, with Jesus, and for His sake.

By the same word of the Lord, we assert this : those of us who are to be alive at the Lord’s coming, will not go ahead of those who are already asleep. When the command by the Archangel’s voice is given, the Lord, Himself, will come down from heaven, while the divine trumpet call is sounding.

Then, those who have died in the Lord, will rise first; as for us who are still alive, we will be brought along with them, in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the celestial world. And we will be with the Lord forever. So then, comfort one another with these words.

Sunday, 1 September 2019 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are contemplating on a topic which many of us often find difficult to practice in our daily lives and as Christians, especially in this world which is often filled with many temptations and desires that prevent us from practicing this very important. Christian virtue that can lead us to be closer to God. And what is this virtue, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is humility.

Humility is something that we often profess to have and preach as Christians. We always like to say that we have humility in us, and yet, very often and more than not, we do not practice humility in our daily lives, and we do not act humbly in how we interact with one another and in how we utter our words and in reaching out to others. On the contrary, we are often tempted by the pride within us, and acted with ego, pride and arrogance.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself presented to us what is the problem with ourselves in how we act in our daily living. He mentioned how people often jostled and even fought over the places of honour in events and banquets, seeking places of greater honour and exposure, so that one may gain more prestige or satisfaction from having a position of greater honour and esteem than that of another person.

And yet, as the Lord Himself said, there will always be bound to be others who have greater esteem and honour than us, and it is bound that we will be displaced by another who is of greater rank and honour than us, and as Our Lord said, those who want to glorify and honour themselves will end up being humiliated and dejected of having been asked to step aside for those with greater power and honour.

In the end, for all of our pursuits of glory, power, fame and influence, what do we all gain, brothers and sisters in Christ? We gain nothing, and indeed, we end up losing as Satan will have a great time trying to persuade us to take revenge and be angry, to be jealous with one another and to strive to be more powerful and more famous than another person. We spend a lot of time trying to make ourselves more beautiful or handsome, more attractive and more acceptable to others as a result.

In fact, we also cause a lot of sufferings to one another because of our pride and our greed, our inability to resist the many temptations of power, of glory, of fame, of wealth and worldly pleasures. Many conflicts and wars have been caused by the insatiable desires of man who desired more power, more prestige, more wealth and everything else that often corrupted us mankind into the path of sin and wickedness.

The Lord has given us many blessings and good things in life, and yet we mankind are always hard to be satisfied. In truth, we will never be satisfied as long as we try to seek satisfaction in all these worldly things, in all the glory and wealth and riches of the world. The Lord has blessed us with what we need but we seek more than what we need and succumb to the temptations of the flesh, and we therefore fell into sin.

Today, all of us are called as Christians to look deep into our own lives and reflect on every actions, words and deeds we have done and spoken all these while. We are called to contemplate on how we have lived our lives thus far, and most importantly, whether we have truly put God at the very heart and centre of our whole being, and as the whole reason and purpose of our every words, actions and deeds.

Surely, more often than not, as we have discussed just earlier, we have lapsed from this path and fell into the path of pride, the path of greed and the path of sin. We fell into this state because we are weak in the flesh, and temptations are always plenty all around us. And unless we take the concrete action and efforts to resist those temptations and grow stronger in our relationship with God, we will likely end up continuing down this slippery path towards damnation.

Now, let us look at the impetus for all these temptations and for all the wickedness we have committed. In truth, everything leads to one thing, and that is pride or ego. Pride and ego is the greatest and most serious of all forms of sins, just as Satan himself was once the most brilliant and greatest among the Angels of God who was tempted by pride and fell from grace, and ended up in perpetual rebellion against God because of that same pride.

Similarly, pride has entered into our hearts and minds, corrupting our whole being and pushing us deeper towards sin. Pride is the source of all other sins, just as greed and gluttony comes about because of our own pride and ego, that desire to satisfy ourselves and our ego, sloth and lust that come about because of the same desire and want to please ourselves and gain things for ourselves, often at the cost and suffering of others, and many others.

That is why pride and ego are such dangerous enemies that we constantly have within ourselves, which become a great obstacle to us in our journey of faith towards God. How do we then resolve or counter this? The answer lies in what we have discussed earlier today and throughout today’s Scripture readings. It is humility that is the greatest weapon we have in our constant battle against pride and ego within us.

And the Lord wants us all to grow deeper in this humility, a most difficult and rarest of all Christian virtues in my opinion, as it is always very difficult for us to go up against our pride and ego, the ambition and arrogance and the selfishness that are present within us. But humility can be cultivated and it can grow within us, brothers and sisters in Christ, if only that we make the conscious effort to grow in humility and in our relationship and faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember what the prophet Sirach mentioned in our first reading passage today, that the greater we become, the more humble we should be, and how we should submit ourselves to the power of God and not seek for things beyond our means, or as I have mentioned, causing even suffering and pain to others in our endless pursuits for power, glory, fame and worldly things.

Then, in the second reading today, I want all of us to remember what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews pointed out in the passage, that God truly is great and Almighty, far beyond our comprehension, full of power and glory. In how God was shown as the Lord of lords, King of kings, with innumerable Angels glorifying and serving Him, the Master and Lord of all the universe, it serves to remind us all, that no matter how great we are, how glorious we are, how famous and powerful we may be in this world, we are truly nothing before the Lord.

Therefore, for all our pursuits for more power, fame, influence, glory and all worldly things, all of these are truly meaningless and futile because after all, we must realise that all these things do not last, and will not last into eternity. These are the treasures of this world that the Lord has told us to be false treasures, as distractions for us in our pursuit for the true treasure, which is truly found in God alone.

Today, henceforth, all of us as Christians, we are all called to be more humble in our lives and in how we act, in how we interact with one another, in how we live out our lives in this world today. And even more importantly, humility is something very important that we must have in today’s world, especially because today we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

On this day, we remember our roles as the Lord’s stewards of creation, which means that this world we are living in today, we have been entrusted to its care, just as God entrusted the world in the very first chapters of the Book of Genesis to the first men, the whole world with all of its living creatures and the whole earth itself to our care. And this is truly a very great responsibility for us all to bear.

In this regard, we need to be humble in knowing how God has entrusted with this great responsibility and duty, because He trusts us all to perform our responsibility with the best of our abilities, making use of the many gifts and talents that He has provided us with. Instead of exploiting and bringing harm to this world by our ego, by our greed and insatiable desire for wealth and worldly glory, why don’t we love what God has created for us instead?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on let us all be truly devoted to God in all things and strive to be faithful always to Him, and show our faith and dedication through our every words, actions and deeds. Let us all be filled with humility in every actions, knowing that we are truly nothing without God, and all the glory and the wonders of this world are nothing and meaningless if we are not in God’s loving grace.

May the Lord continue to bless us all with His love and tender compassion, and may He grant us all the strength and conviction to live our lives faithfully from now on, with all humility and resisting the many temptations of this world, especially that of pride within our hearts. May the Lord bless us all and our good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 1 September 2019 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 14 : 1, 7-14

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 had 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 your 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 raised.”

Jesus also addressed the man who had invited Him, and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives, or your wealthy neighbours. For surely they will also invite you in return, and you will be repaid.”

“When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they cannot repay you; you will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.”