Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through the Scripture passages we heard of the wondrous deeds and works of God Who has performed such great miracles and wonders for the sake of His beloved people Israel, as part of the exhortation which Moses, the leader of the people mentioned to them to remind them to be faithful to the Covenant which they had made and sealed with God, as a lasting promise of faith and commitment.

In that passage from the Book of Deuteronomy in our first reading, we heard of the many wonders of God Who had taken care of the many needs of His people, protecting them from their enemies and guiding them patiently through the many years of their journey in the desert. It is a reminder also of the love and commitment which God has showered His people and which He has remembered for the love He had for them and their ancestors.

Therefore, Moses exhorted the people to remain faithful to the Law of God and to His commandments in all things, so that He would continue to bless them and protect them, and that they would prosper in the land promised to them and their ancestors, to which God was leading them into. At that time, the people of Israel were known to be stubborn and rebellious, refusing many times to obey the Lord and preferred to follow their own ways.

They were reminded that if they remained by the side of the Lord and stayed faithful, they would be blessed and glorified just as God has promised to each and every one of them. And this reflects the same message which our Gospel passage today delivers to us, as the Lord mentioned to His disciples of the reality of being His follower, in what they would have to endure as those who have devoted themselves to His cause, and the promise of true glory and happiness that will come in the end.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, we believe in God and take Him as Our Lord, Master and Saviour. And if we truly have faith in God and are truly devoted to Him, then we should realise that as the members of His Church, we will have to expect challenges and difficulties in our journey of faith, obstacles and barriers that will be in our paths, as we embark on our way to follow the Lord.

The people of Israel crumbled under the temptations of earthly desires and impatience, and they could not remain faithful to God, and instead, desiring quick-fixes and shortcuts to their problems. Essentially they trusted more in their own human instincts and desires rather than putting their trust in God and His providence. As a result, they fell into disobedience and sin, not realising just how much God had done for their sake, out of sincere and genuine love.

We really need to think and spend some time to reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on the words of the Scripture we have received today. The Lord called on us to follow Him, and made it clear to us that following Him means for us to take up our own crosses and follow Him in this journey of faith, and those who follow Him faithfully will receive from Him the assurance of eternal glory and the fullness of His providence.

And we must realise how fragile our human existence is, and how easily it is that we can fall into temptation as our predecessors have shown us. The people of Israel themselves showed us through their wicked behaviours throughout their journey in the desert. And then, throughout history, we can see just how much wickedness, injustice and suffering have been caused by our attachments and inability to resist the temptation of desire and the pulling power of sin.

Today, we mark the feast day of one renowned saint of the last century, whose life and exemplary faith are reminders for us to turn away from our sinful ways. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also more popularly known as St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith, and who took up the religious life as a nun of the Congregation of the Discalced Carmelites during the years in between the two great World Wars.

She was an intellectual who was attracted to the truth found in the Christian faith, and that led her to Christ in accepting the faith and eventually becoming a committed religious nun. She loved God very much and dedicated herself to the rigours of the Discalced Carmelite life, and as at that time, the whole world was about to be plunged into the Second World War coupled with the persecution of Jews by the NAZI regime, she also prepared herself for the eventuality of martyrdom.

Instead of seeking glory and happiness for herself, St. Edith Stein showed us a life of total surrender to God and full trust to the Lord and His will. She was martyred in a concentration camp during the war, having been arrested and imprisoned by the NAZI regime, and placed into the horrible concentration camp and sentenced to death in a gas chamber. Yet, even after her death, the inspiring life story and exemplary faith of St. Edith Stein continue to inspire many Christians right to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow the examples set by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Edith Stein, holy woman and holy servant of God? Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves wholly to Him, turning away from our sinful and wicked past? Let us all spend time to reflect on this, and think in what way we can grow ever closer to God and be more faithful to Him, each and every day from now on. Amen.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 76 : 12-13, 14-15, 16 and 21

I remember the deeds of YHVH; I recall His marvels of old. I meditate on all Your work, and consider Your mighty deeds.

Your way, o God, is most holy. Is there any god greater than You, our God? You alone, are the God Who works wonders, Who has made known His power to the nations.

With power, You have redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. You led Your people, as a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 4 : 32-40

Ask of the times past. Inquire from the day when God created man on earth. Ask from one end of the world to the other : Has there ever been anything as extraordinary as this? Has anything like this been heard of before? Has there ever been a people who remained alive after hearing as you did the voice of the living God from the midst of the fire?

Never has there been a God Who went out to look for a people and take them out from among the other nations by the strength of trials and signs, by wonders and by war, with a firm hand and an outstretched arm. Never has there been any deed as tremendous as those done for you by YHVH in Egypt, which you saw with your own eyes.

You saw this that you might know that YHVH is God and that there is no other besides Him. He let you hear His voice from heaven that you might fear Him; on earth He let you see His blazing fire and from the midst of the fire you heard His word. Because of the love He had for our fathers, He chose their descendants after them, and He Himself made you leave Egypt with His great power.

He expelled before you peoples more numerous and stronger than you, and He has made you occupy their land : today He has given this to you as an inheritance. Therefore, try to be convinced that YHVH is the only God of heaven and earth, and that there is no other. Observe the laws and the commandments that I command you today, and everything will be well with you and your children after you. So you will live long in the land which YHVH, your God, gives you forever.

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture by which each and every one of us are reminded to put our trust in God and have complete faith in Him, the One Who alone is the source of our strength and our lives, and also the one and true firm foundation of our lives. We must not allow the forces of those who seek our downfall to have their way with us.

What do I mean by this, brothers and sisters in Christ? The reality of our world is that there are plenty of forces out there seeking our destruction, namely Satan and his fallen angels, all those who have rebelled against God and planted the same seeds of disobedience and rebellion that we too will end up falling into the same damnation and suffering that they are to suffer for eternity for having rejected God.

In our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we heard of the rebellion of Israel against God at the place called Meribah, when they complained and grumbled against God for having led them through the desert to such a desolate and undesirable place, arguing that they would have been better had they remained in Egypt even though they would have remained under slavery there.

And all of these happened despite God having cared for them, protected them, guided them and blessed them each and every days of their entire journey, providing them with food and drink, even in the middle of the barren desert. But the people of Israel were not satisfied, and they craved and desired for more. They wanted more things to satisfy their own greed and desire for earthly satisfaction, and thus they complained and grumbled without end.

The people would not believe because they did not have true faith in God, and this caused frustration in Moses and Aaron who were the leaders of the people. And in a moment of anger and frustration, Moses actually disobeyed the Lord Who commanded him to speak to the rock to provide water to the people, and instead struck it with his rod. Moses must have been truly frustrated with the endless complaints and grumblings from the people and as a result, Satan managed to enter into his heart and mind, and made him to falter.

In the Gospel passage today, there is also a parallel in which St. Peter the Apostle tried to prevent the Lord and persuade Him not to follow through the sufferings that He had to endure in His Passion as part of the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. But the Lord quickly brushed St. Peter’s comments and rebuked Satan who had spoken through him. As the Lord Himself said that His Apostle was thinking as how man thinks and not as how God thinks, thus, Satan was trying to tempt Him to turn away from the work of salvation He was to do.

In all of these we have seen how the desires and greed for this world, the desire for the satisfaction of our bodies, our stomachs and other form of desires can lead us into temptation and Satan and all of his wicked allies are fully aware of this. They will do their best to try to turn us into the path of sin and therefore bring about our downfall. The Lord warned us all to be vigilant and to be strong in our faith, lest we fall into the temptations and sin.

In the same Scripture passages, we hear the allusion of a rock in both the Old Testament and New Testament passages. It was told that in the time of the Exodus, according to Scriptural tradition, there is a rock that always followed the Israelites wherever they go, and it was this rock that provided the people of Israel with the much needed water for them to drink. It was this same rock that Moses hit with the rod in today’s passage.

And then, in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus uttered His famous words, entrusting the Church that He has established on the ‘Rock’ of faith, and this rock is referring to St. Peter himself, to whom God has entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, for the name Petros of St. Peter means ‘Rock’, and as the appointed Vicar of Christ, he is the direct representative of the True Head of the Church, none other than the Lord Himself.

Thus, the Rock of faith is ultimately a reference to the faith in God, that rock-solid and firm faith in God’s providence and strength, which will never fail, that even the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church because of this very reason. If we are to resist the temptations of Satan and all of his persuasions and coercions, and not to fall into the temptations just like what Moses, St. Peter and the people of Israel had experienced, then we must adhere strongly to the ‘Rock’ of our salvation, that is Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today also marks the feast of a great saint whose life will become an inspiration for each and every one of us on how we can be truly faithful to God and be firm in our commitment to Him. St. Dominic was the founder of the Order of Preachers, also known after their founder as the Dominicans. He was renowned for his great piety and zeal, for his missionary efforts in reaching out to the people of God.

He performed many works and helped to make firm the foundations of his rapidly growing Dominican order, travelling from place to place, preaching and doing the work of God, while leading a very holy personal life and practice. St. Dominic truly devoted himself to the Lord and gave his whole being to the service and to the greater glory of God. His exemplary life should be an inspiration to all of us in how we should live out our own lives as well.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith, and may through the intercession of St. Dominic, the Lord may continue to strengthen us and encourage us to live with strong and genuine faith from now on, that we will draw ever closer to God and be ever more devoted. May God bless us all in everything we do, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.