Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 20 : 1-13

The whole congregation of Israel came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered together against Moses and Aaron. They disputed with Moses saying, “Would that we had perished with our kinsmen in the presence of YHVH! Why have you led YHVH’s community to this desert to die here with our cattle? And why did you bring us out of Egypt to this wretched place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates and there is not even water for drinking.”

Moses and Aaron fled from the assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of YHVH appeared and YHVH spoke to Moses, “Take your rod and assemble the community, you and Aaron, your brother. In their presence command the rock to give forth water and you will make water gush from the rock for the community and their livestock to drink.”

So Moses took the rod from before YHVH as he had been ordered. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly in front of the rock and said to them, “Listen, you rebels. Shall we bring water for you from this rock?” Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. And then water in abundance gushed out for the community and their livestock to drink.

But YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, “You did not trust Me nor treat Me as the Holy One in the sight of the Israelites; because of that you shall not lead this community into the land that I am giving you.” It was at the waters of Meribah that the sons of Israel quarrelled with YHVH and where He showed His holiness to them.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the Scriptures to remind us to keep our faith in Him strong, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter in life. In the Scripture passages we heard from both the Old Testament and the New Testament today we can see the contrast between what happened in the time of the Exodus and at the time of the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading today, we listened to the story of Caleb and his fellow men chosen to be those who would scout ahead of the whole nation of Israel to see the land promised to them and their ancestors, the land known as Canaan. They saw the whole land and saw the people who lived in them, and except for Caleb, the rest of the scouts came before the Israelites and made them to fear the Canaanites because they seemed to be so powerful and tough, and they made the whole nation to go against God and Moses.

And all these happened despite God having provided for them throughout the whole journey and guided them through the difficult moments, liberating them with great power from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, and brought them out of the land of Egypt, providing for them and their needs along the way, giving them manna to eat and water to drink in the middle of the desert.

God has done so much for His people and yet, they refused to believe in Him and did not want to trust Him. They became fearful and refused to enter the land promised to them because they did not have strong and genuine faith in God. They thought rather in human and worldly terms, fearing that they were not powerful enough to overcome the many people living in Canaan at that time, some of whom were described as powerful and mighty, even like giants in appearance.

Then, we heard from our Gospel passage today, the irony of having one of the same Canaanite, or in another source, a Syro-Phoenician, which corresponded to the region of Canaan itself, who actually had such a strong and genuine faith in God, surpassing the faith of all those who have called themselves as the chosen people and the chosen race of God. And for this to come from a Canaanite and a woman was indeed special, to the point of being revolutionary and breaking prejudices held at that time.

The Canaanite woman begged the Lord to heal her daughter and cast out the demon that had been tormenting her. But the Lord’s response to her seemed to be not just cold and unfeeling, but in fact could be seen as rude and being condescending, if we do not understand the context and the purpose of why the Lord Jesus made such a reply to her. The Lord’s intention with such a remark was in fact to show all of His disciples the kind of prejudice that the people of Israel had against the Canaanites that kind of mirrored what they had exhibited all the way from the time of the Exodus.

The Israelites took great pride in the fact that they were a people chosen by God, and the remnants of that once great people by the time of Jesus, namely the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee often looked down and despised the foreigners living in and around them, from the Samaritans to the Syrians, Phoenicians and all other peoples whom they deemed to be outside of the exclusive group chosen by God.

It was in fact so bad that the Lord showed perfectly just how prejudiced and unbecoming their judgmental attitude against the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles. He used a comparison with dogs to refer to the non-Jewish people and how food from the table of the house should not be given to them, a reference to the blessings and the salvation found in God. But yet, the woman remained persistent and showed her genuine faith by humbling herself before the Lord.

It is an irony that the Canaanite woman had greater faith than the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, as the latter became fearful and panicked when they saw the people in the land promised to them by God and having seen all the wonders that God had done for them all those while. And those people thought that the Canaanites were godless and unworthy people when that Canaanite woman mentioned in the Gospel probably put all of them to shame in the matter of faith.

Today, all of us are called to follow the example of the faithful Canaanite woman who had faith in the Lord and devoted herself wholeheartedly to Him, despite of the rejection and refusal she seemed to be getting. She remained firm in her resolution to be faithful and to trust in God, unlike the Israelites who had wavered in their faith so easily just because of some challenges they were to face ahead of them.

On this day, perhaps we should also look upon the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate this day, namely that of Pope St. Sixtus II, a martyr of the early Church and also St. Cajetan, a holy priest and founder of the Theatines religious order. Their faith and dedication to the Lord through their lives should be inspirations for us to follow in how we should live out our own lives as well.

Pope St. Sixtus II was martyred together with several other martyrs during a harsh persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Valerian in the early days of the Church, when many of the faithful suffered grievously just because they believed in God. And as their shepherd, Pope St. Sixtus II courageously stood by his faith in the Lord and committed himself totally to Him, that he did not budge from his faith even under the threat of suffering and death.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was a holy and dedicated priest, who followed the Lord’s call and ministered to the poor and the people who were less fortunate and troubled in the society, and co-founded the religious order later on known as the Theatines, with people who had similar calling and passion to help with the needs of those people who were often looked down by others in the community.

Now, having seen the faith present in all these people we have discussed about today, let us all be inspired by their examples and grow to have the same kind of faith in us, in our sincere and genuine belief and commitment towards God. Let us all put our trust in God and no longer doubt His providence and love from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us throughout this journey and may He continue to be with us and bless us all in our good many endeavours in life. Amen.