Saturday, 5 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God speaking to us about the love which He has for us all His people, and the assurance which He has given to His people that He will bless them and protect them, even if they had fallen into sin and disobeyed Him and suffered because of all of that. God is ever loving, merciful and compassionate, but then at the same time, we should not take this generosity and love for granted.

He has always taken care of us, but we are often too busy and distracted from being able to understand and appreciate this generous love God has given us. Instead, we tried to find our happiness, joy and satisfaction in the many other things in this world, following the temptations and falsehoods spread by the evil one instead of looking for the truth. But we must realise that following the path of the devil will not bring us any good things in the end, only destruction and eternal regret.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself confidently proclaimed before all of His disciples, that He has seen the downfall of Satan, struck down in defeat, falling from Heaven into his downfall. And this is spoken because first of all, the Lord Himself had struck down Satan at the beginning for his prideful rebellion against Him, as mentioned in the Book of Revelations, how he even convinced a third of the Heavenly Hosts in his rebellion, those who would become the fallen angels and demons.

At that time, Satan was unable to achieve his goals and was defeated together with his forces, and were thrown out of Heaven. Knowing that he had no way to defeat God Who is Almighty and All-Powerful, he instead targeted us, the ones whom God loves, by tempting us and trying to pull us away from God and into the damnation and annihilation that Satan and the fallen angels themselves had been sentenced to.

We see just how much his temptations and efforts had led to many souls, throughout the ages, to fall into those temptations and therefore sinned against God. He tempted them with many pleasures of this world, the joy of having many worldly possessions and things, wealth and money, fame and glory, status and standing within the community, among many others. And all these distracted us from being able to find the path towards God.

And we also have certainly heard how the devil even tried to tempt the Lord Jesus, when He came into the world to be our Saviour. The devil likely did not know the full purpose and intention of the Lord’s coming, but he still tried nonetheless, tempting the Lord Jesus with satisfaction of food for the stomach, when he asked Jesus to turn the stone into bread, pandering to the greed in us, and then also with pride and our desire for attention when he brought Jesus up to the Temple’s parapets and asked Him to jump from there, and also when he showed the whole glory and power of the earth’s kingdoms that he would give if only the Lord Jesus worshipped him as god.

We need to see how the Lord Jesus rebuked Satan for his efforts in tempting Him, resisting and rejecting his efforts and advances, staying completely faithful to the mission which His Father has entrusted to Him. The Lord said that God alone should be worshipped as the one and only true God, and we must have trust in His words and obey His will. Ultimately, we have to realise that for all the good things that the devil presents to us, just as he did to the Lord Jesus, all of those things are temporary and illusory.

It means that all those good things of this world, which the world has often tempt us with, in our society obsessed with excessive consumerism and hedonistic lifestyles, they are all distractions that we need to learn to control and resist, to refuse the distractions of the devil, who made his path to look more appealing and good for us, even though the end is nothing less than eternal darkness and despair of damnation.

Instead, let us all spend this day reflecting on our own way of life, and how we can be more committed and faithful to the Lord despite the challenges we may face in this journey of faith, so that we may choose the right course of action in each and every moments of our lives, by choosing the side of the truth and by accepting the cross of Christ as we walk down this journey of faith. Let us all grow ever more faithful and be closer to the Lord and be good inspirations for one another, in strengthening our faith in God and in resisting the temptations and the efforts of the devil to destroy us.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey, and may He grant us the strength and commitment to be able to walk courageously and faithfully from now on, to devote our time, effort and attention to serve God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds and all of our strength. Amen.

Saturday, 5 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 10 : 17-24

At that time, the seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on Your Name.” Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice, rather, than your names are written in heaven.”

At that time, Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will. I have been given all things by My Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you, that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Saturday, 5 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 68 : 33-35, 36-37

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity. Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and whatever moves in them.

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. His people shall dwell in the land and possess it; the children of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His Name will dwell in it.

Saturday, 5 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Baruch 4 : 5-12, 27-29

Take courage, my people, you who preserve the memory of Israel. You have been sold to the nations but not for your destruction; because you had aroused the anger of God, you were delivered to your enemies. For you displeased your Creator in sacrificing to demons and not to God. You have forgotten the Eternal God, the One Who nourished you.

You have filled Jerusalem with sadness, she who brought you up. For she saw the anger of God fall on you and she said, “Listen, you neighbouring cities of Zion, God has sent me a great sorrow. I have seen the captivity of my sons and daughters, which the Eternal One brought on them. I had nurtured them in joy; with tears and sadness I saw them leave. Let no one rejoice on seeing me a widow and abandoned by all. Because of the sins of my children I am now alone, because they have turned away from the Law of God.”

Take courage, my children, cry out to God, for He Who sent you into exile will remember you. Thus, as you distanced yourself from God, return to Him and seek Him ten times more earnestly. For He Who caused these evils to fall on you will bring you salvation and eternal joy.

Friday, 4 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us through the Scripture passages which we have heard today are reminded of what it means for us to be Christians, in that each and every one of us ought to obey the Lord and follow His path, and not to fall into the temptations present in this world and end up therefore falling into sin as what the Scripture passages had presented to us this day.

In our first reading today, we heard the lamentations of the people of God as represented by the prophet Baruch, in which he spoke of the sins which the people of Israel had committed all the many years after God had shown so much love, care and concern for them, after He had brought them out of their slavery and suffering in Egypt into a land overflowing with milk and honey and full of prosperity, making them into a powerful and glorious nation.

And yet, those people rejected God and went to seek the pagan idols and gods instead, abandoning the Law and the commandments God had given them for the wicked ways of the world. They disobeyed God and committed sinful acts and deeds before Him for many, many years, and yet, God still patiently tried to bring them back to Him and to reconcile them to Him through His messengers and prophets.

The lamentations and the words spoken by the prophet Baruch were yet another reminder to the people of God just how much they have erred and lived in a state of sin for all those years. And this is what is also echoed in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus spoke up against the cities of Galilee, of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, when He rebuked those cities for their lack of faith.

And this rebuke was made in the context of how those cities, which were the ones mainly occupied by the Jewish people in Galilee, had not welcomed the Lord and accepted Him as they should have, and even as the Lord performed miraculous deeds and taught among the people there, they still doubted Him, unlike that of the other places in Galilee and even in Samaria where the Lord were welcomed and the people there listened to His message of truth and believed.

The Lord put it very clearly and bluntly that those who reject Him will only have condemnation in the end for them, and they will suffer because of their conscious abandonment of God’s love and grace. God has done so much, again and again to help them and to provide for them from time to time, because of His enduring love for us that remain strong even when we have disappointed Him so much, because He does not want us to be destroyed.

As we can see, all of us should appreciate just how much God has loved us all, and we should therefore do our best to love Him and to serve Him wholeheartedly by having a conversion of heart, mind, body and soul, so that while once we were deeply rooted in sin and wickedness, now we may turn ourselves into the true and faithful children of God. And today, we should therefore be inspired by the examples and the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the renowned saint and founder of the Franciscan order whose feast we are celebrating today.

St. Francis of Assisi was born as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, the son of a wealthy merchant Pietro di Bernardone in Middle Ages Italy. At that time, the father of St. Francis wanted him to be the successor of his career and business as a rich silk merchant, and therefore provided the young St. Francis with plenty of good education and excellent worldly upbringing intended to prepare him for the role.

He lived a high life and a life filled with all sorts of luxury, but gradually he became disillusioned with all the wealth, glory and privileges he had, as told by the few encounters he had with the poor, which began to affect St. Francis’ outlook on the world and his own life’s calling. Eventually, he received God’s calling through several occurrences as he began to withdraw himself from the usual worldly indulgences, and began to turn towards the Lord with faith.

It was told that as he passed through an abandoned chapel of San Damiano, he heard God’s calling to restore His church, which the young St. Francis took literally as a calling to repair the abandoned and ruined chapel. St. Francis quietly took some of his father’s wares and sold them to get the necessary funds to repair the chapel, but the priest in charge of the chapel refused to accept the ill-gotten money.

Nonetheless, St. Francis had to hide from his father’s anger and sought protection from the local bishop. When the father of St. Francis demanded that St. Francis returned what he had cost him, and even wanted to make him to renounce his rights to his inheritance, St. Francis surprisingly took off all the garments from his body and returned them back to his father, naked and empty as he was on the day of his birth.

From then on, St. Francis of Assisi embraced fully his faith in God and lived his life as a penitent in Assisi, eventually gathering like-minded men to begin the foundations of what would eventually known as the Order of the Friars Minor or better known after its founder as the Franciscan Order. Through his efforts in founding the Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi inspired countless others to follow the Lord with a renewed zeal and commitment.

St. Francis showed all of us what it means for us to focus our lives’ attention and effort on the Lord, in order for us to become His true disciples. He resisted the temptations of worldly glory, for money and possessions, for fame and for wealth, for glory and for the pleasures of the body, and instead sought for the greatest treasure that can be found in God alone. Are we able to do the same with our own lives, brothers and sisters in Christ?

It does not mean that we should abandon everything we have or sell everything we have and give them to the poor, but rather, we must resist the urge, desire and temptation to focus our lives on the wrong pursuit for more money, glory, fame and worldly things, and instead, make good use of those blessings we have received for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all reflect on this, and discern how we can better serve God through our lives from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us, and may He empower each and every one of us to become true Christians in the mould of St. Francis of Assisi, our role model in faith. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.