Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (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 reminding us all of the love which God has constantly shown to us, despite all of our disobedience and refusal to love Him. He has always been faithful to the Covenant He made with each and every one of us, and He has blessed us all throughout these lives we have, and everything that we are today, all of these are because of Him and His endless love for us.

In our first reading passage today from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses, who was at the last moments of his life, was speaking to the entire congregation of the people of Israel, those who have survived the whole forty years journey through the desert, having been led and guided by God throughout all those years of ordeal, suffering, trials and time of purification from their sins.

Those who have sinned and disobeyed God had perished in the desert as God Himself had told them, while their sons and daughters and those who remained faithful to God were the only ones who would then enter into the land promised to them and their ancestors, the land of Canaan. Moses reassured them all that God would be with all of them and they had nothing to fear. It was because of that fear which made Israel disobeyed and distrusted the Lord that caused the whole nation to wander in the desert for forty years in the first place.

God has always been faithful, and He continues to love His people generously as He has always been. And that is the clear message of today’s passage from the Book of Deuteronomy. God will care for us and take care of everything we need, but we need to trust in Him and put our whole lives, our whole existence in His care and devote ourselves to His providence and His compassionate mercy.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, reminds us yet again of this love which He has for all of us. By using the example and parable of the lost sheep, He shows that if even any one of us, represented by the sheep of the flock, wanders off and becomes lost, God, as our ever loving and dedicated Shepherd, will go all the way to look for us and to find us, and be reunited with us.

That is exactly what He has done, brothers and sisters in Christ, by willingly humbling Himself and assuming the form of our humanity, in becoming the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, to become the One through Whom we would be saved, by His works and by His ultimate sacrifice of love, the sacrifice of the Cross. God loves us so much that He willingly embraced all the sufferings and the pains of the punishments for our sins, and by His Cross, He unites us all back to Himself, reconciling us all by the atonement for our sins.

But His love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness will not be able to enter into us, if we remain obstinate and stubborn as those Israelites who have disobeyed and rebelled against God. They have closed their hearts and minds against the Lord and preferred to follow the temptations and false promises of Satan instead of listening to and obeying the Lord Who has loved and cared for them throughout all those years.

That is why, all of us need to reexamine our lives and reflect on the other words of the Lord today, Who has mentioned that unless we are like children in the manner of our faith, we will not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Why is this so? That is because we all surely know how children usually behave. Children below a certain age of understanding and knowledge are truly pure and innocent, and they will believe whatever they have heard, seen and experienced wholeheartedly.

And this is exactly the kind of faith that all of us must have as well, a pure love and commitment to God, a genuine dedication and longing for Him. We should not be swayed by the many temptations in life, the temptations of desire, the temptations of worldly glory and the many other things that often prevented us from finding our path towards the Lord. Today, therefore, we should look at the examples shown by two great saints of the early Church who have overcome the temptations of worldly glory and chose to be truly faithful to the Lord.

Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were two great leaders of the early Church during the years of terrible persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Maximinus in the early third century after the birth of Christ. At that time, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were in fact on the opposing sides of the bitter divide between two factions in the Church, when Pope St. Pontian was elected to be the successor of St. Peter. Some of the Church elders has elected St. Hippolytus earlier on as an Antipope.

The bitter division and conflict between the two saints then and their followers threatened to cause great schism in the Church, but eventually, by the grace of God and because of the persecutions against the Church, they were reconciled to each other, and when the Pope was arrested and exiled, Pope St. Pontian chose to voluntarily resign his position, and it was likely that St. Hippolytus did so as well, allowing for the restoration of the full unity in the Church and the continuation of the line of St. Peter even after they were exiled and martyred for their faith.

The example of humility shown by those two saints and their devotion to God and to the people entrusted to them, despite the divisions that occurred temporarily at that time should show us that if we are able to cast off the temptations of pride, of worldly glory and power, of influence and fame, and accept humbly the cross of Christ as Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus had done, we too can share in their glory, through our own virtuous and exemplary lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray to the Lord, asking Him for strength and encouragement, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him and find our way to the salvation He has promised to us all. May all of us be ever more committed and be able to serve Him from now on with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 32 : 3-4a, 7, 8, 9 and 12

For I will proclaim the Name of the Lord and declare the greatness of our God. He is the Rock, and perfect are all His works, just are all His ways.

Recall the days of old, think of the years gone by; your father will teach you about them, your elders will enlighten you.

When the Most High divided humankind and gave the nations their inheritance, He set up boundaries for the people after the number of the sons of God.

But the Lord keeps for Himself His portion Jacob, His chosen one. The Lord alone led them, without the aid of a foreign god.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 31 : 1-8

When Moses finished telling all Israel these words, he said, “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I can no longer deal with anything – Remember that YHVH told me that I shall not cross the Jordan River. Now Joshua shall be at your head, as YHVH has said. He, your God, will go before you to destroy these nations before you, and you will drive them away.”

“YHVH shall deal with these cities as He dealt with Sihon and Og, the Amorite kings, and their land, which He destroyed. So when He has given these nations over to you, you shall do the same, according to what I have commanded you. Be valiant and strong, do not fear or tremble before them for YHVH, your God, is with you; He will not leave you or abandon you.”

After this, Moses called Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel : “Be valiant and strong, you shall go with this people into the land which YHVH swore to their ancestors He would give them and you shall give it to them as their possession. YHVH shall go before you. He shall be with you; He shall not leave you or abandon you. Do not fear, then, or be discouraged.”

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the love that God has given us all, which He has lovingly reminded His people in the first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, of the love which He has shown them in taking care of them like a father taking care of his children, protecting them, guiding them to the right path and treating everyone equally.

And there is a parallel to what we have heard in that passage to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in our Gospel passage today, when the tax collectors of the Temple came to the disciples of the Lord and asked them on the matter of paying the Temple taxes. For the context, all the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites living in the land of Judea, Galilee and other parts of the land of Israel at that time, they had to pay the Temple tax as part of their contribution and obligation.

And the Lord mentioned using a comparison, how only strangers and aliens are taxed and obliged to pay a fee, while the sons and daughters of the kings and rulers are free from such fees, as they were considered as the family of those same kings and rulers. How can those kings and rulers expect the members of their own families, those who were dear and beloved to them to pay taxes and to be subjected to the same treatment as strangers?

By using this comparison, in fact, the Lord once again stressed to us how loving and compassionate He has been to all of us, that He has not treated us all like strangers and aliens, but rather, treating us as His own children. For truly, we are children of God, not just because He has created and made us from nothingness, and out of love, but also because through Christ, we all have shared in the relationship that the Lord Jesus has with His heavenly Father.

For the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, but also at the same time the Son of Man, because His Divinity has descended into this world and embracing the fullness of humanity through His mother, Mary, becoming fully Man but yet remaining fully Divine at the same time, having the two distinct natures of Man and God united and being inseparable in His person, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It was by His act of ultimate sacrifice on the Cross then that Christ has sealed a new Covenant between God and mankind, a new and everlasting Covenant that will never be broken again, for the Precious Blood of the Lord Himself sealed that Covenant, as it poured down from the Cross of our salvation. And through that, He united all of us to Himself, and brought us all together to be reconciled to God, His heavenly Father.

Now, all of us having heard this, we should appreciate just how much God has loved us all as His own children, as those whom He loves very dearly. But many of us have not loved Him as we should have, and we have often wandered off away from His path, many times. And because of that, we have fallen into sin and darkness, and yet, God continues to love us and wants to be reconciled with us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of His glorious saints, whose life should become an inspiration for us in how we should live our own lives as well. St. Jane Frances de Chantal was the wife of a wealthy nobleman who became a widow early in her marriage and had to take care of her children on her own. She was known for her great piety and generosity to the poor and the needy.

Initially, she was unable to forgive the person responsible for her husband’s death, but after a life-changing experience of having listened to a sermon on the matter of forgiveness and the love of God, she changed her mind and wanted to devote herself totally to God as a religious nun. Eventually, she did become a religious and established a new religious order especially for those who had not been able to join the religious life due to health or age.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal truly loves God, and she devoted her whole life to serve Him, by loving Him and spending time with Him through prayer, and even more importantly, by loving all those whom the Lord has loved, that is her fellow brothers and sisters, those who were unloved, rejected and unwanted by the society. Are we able to love God in the same way that St. Jane Frances de Chantal had done? And ultimately are we able to love God just as He Himself has loved us first?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves, our time, effort and energy from now on to the Lord with all of our hearts and minds. Let us all turn towards God with love, and let us be ever more faithful to Him from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.