Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said : “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (in the year 164 B.C.) they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs, accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.

They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. The front of the Temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; and the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors. There was no end to the celebration among the people; and so profanation of the Temple by the pagans was forgotten.

Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.

Thursday, 21 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. On this occasion we recall the moment when Mary as she was presented to God at the Temple of God in Jerusalem at the time of her birth. On this day we commemorate that moment when Joachim and Anna, Mary’s parents brought her before God and dedicated her to the Lord.

And on this day therefore, we remember how at that time, the Lord has chosen Mary to be the instrument of His salvation and work in delivering all of His people from their fated destruction. The Lord has made her to be special, the Immaculate Conception, free by the grace and will of God from all the taints and bonds of original sin, so that she would be worthy of becoming the Vessel of God’s Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

On that day, Mary was presented to the Lord, offered to Him and dedicated to Him, to the holy and yet challenging life that she would have to endure and go through. That was the beginning of the mission which Mary was to take up, as eventually the Archangel Gabriel came to her and revealed to her the Good News of God’s salvation. And it was then that Mary accepted her role fully and obeyed God’s will perfectly.

By what Mary had done, through her dedication and commitment to the Lord, her thorough obedience to the will of God even if that meant suffering and pain for her, especially when she had to see her own Son, Our Lord and Saviour being rejected, humiliated and condemned to die by the leaders and elders of her own people, we can see what being a true Christian is all about, in giving her all for the sake of the Lord.

That was what the Lord Jesus Himself had said in our Gospel passage today, when He spoke of how those who obey the will of God and followed His commandments faithfully are those whom He considered to be His mother, His brothers and His sisters, essentially to be part of His own beloved family. And He made this remark not out of disrespect of His mother, unlike what some would have misunderstood, but rather, in fact, He highlighted His mother’s own virtues and good examples.

It is what each and every one of us are therefore called to do today as we recall the memory of the Presentation of Mary, the Blessed Mother of our Lord and God. The Lord is calling on us to follow His mother’s own good examples, her purity and her faith, her commitment to the Lord’s wishes and her total obedience and surrender in allowing herself to be the instrument through which God made evident and real His salvation.

Mary is indeed our perfect role model, the one whom we should look up to in how we should live up to our lives. She is the bright star of faith that we should be following as the saying goes indeed, ‘to the Lord Jesus through Mary, His mother’. By following Mary, all of us can find our path towards the Lord better, even amidst the many challenges, obstacles and trials that we may have to face in this journey of faith.

Let us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, dedicate and present ourselves before the Lord, and let us all grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, in the love which we all should have for Him and in the hope that we should always put in Him. Let us all be ever more courageous in living our lives with genuine faith and may God continue to bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 21 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Thursday, 21 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Thursday, 21 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Zechariah 2 : 14-17

Sing and rejoice, o daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says YHVH. “On that day, many nations will join YHVH and be My people, but My dwelling is among you.”

The people of Judah will be for YHVH as His portion in His holy land. He will choose Jerusalem again. Keep still in YHVH’s presence, for He comes, having risen from His holy dwelling.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture through which we are called to reflect on what is our true calling in life as Christians, and how we should proceed in life in being obedient to God and in following His will and obeying His commandments. And today we heard two main readings, first of all from the Book of Maccabees on the persecution of a mother and her seven sons, and from the Gospel passage on the Lord’s parable of the silver talents.

In that passage from the Book of the Maccabees we are presented with the grim story of the great persecution of the faithful Jewish people by the king of the Seleucid Empire, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who wanted the entire people of his whole empire to embrace the same customs and practices, that is of the Greeks, speaking the same language, doing the same customs and worshipping the same pagan idols and gods, abandoning their old ways.

To this extent, the people were forced to abandon the ways of their ancestors, including the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites in Judah who were forced to abandon circumcision and to consume food that are considered unclean according to the laws of Moses. This law of the king was enforced under the pain of great suffering, torture and death. The suffering and painful death of the mother and her seven sons were one among the many sorrowful stories of those who chose to remain faithful in the Lord.

The seven brothers remained resolute, courageous and strong even in the midst of the greatest persecutions, in the real and fearsome reality of death, as they saw how one by one, they were tortured and made to suffer before being martyred for their faith. Most painful was indeed for the mother to have seen all of her seven sons to be martyred before she herself was martyred, and yet, even she remained strong in her faith despite all she had had to endure.

This can be related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the famous parable of the silver talents, where three servants were given different amounts of silver by their master who was about to go on a journey. In that occasion, two of the servants made good use of the silver and invested them. As a result, they gained double the original amount they received from their master by the time he returned and asked them about the silver entrusted to them.

Yet one of the servants hid the silver out of fear of his master and refused to do anything with it, and as a result, he did not gain anything from the silver that he should have made use of or invested in. The master was furious at the lazy and irresponsible servant and cast him out to be punished. And all these are reminders for each and every one of us, that just as the master truly is a representation of the Lord, our God, then we are all like the servants of that master.

For God has entrusted to us many gifts, each and every one of us having unique set of abilities, talents and powers, and also the opportunities to make use of these. God has given us all the free will to choose how we are to use these blessings that He has bestowed us with, whether we want to use them for the good purposes and for the glory of God, or to misuse them for wicked purposes or to ignore them and keep them unused and hidden.

The mother with her seven sons in our first reading today have the gift of faith, hope and love, and through the story of their courageous defence of their faith and readiness to face suffering and martyrdom, we have seen how they made good use of what God has given them, sowing the good examples and becoming inspirations for one another, that all of them could remain true to their faith and resist the temptations to give up and to sin.

Now, we do not have to follow them exactly in how they have suffered and died for their faith, and we may not have to do it in their manner as circumstances for us will likely be different, for better or for worse. Nonetheless, all of us as Christians are called to be faithful and to be committed to God, our Lord and Master just as how those seven brothers and their mother had been faithful and true to their faith.

Let us all therefore renew our faith and conviction to live our lives from now on, no longer ignoring or misusing what God has given to us, in the faith we have in us, in the talents and abilities He has given us, in the seeds of hope and love He has sown in our hearts. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord, spreading His love through our own actions, and be the bearers of His truth by our words and deeds.

May the Lord’s truth and salvation come upon many more of His beloved children through us all, His servants, to whom He has entrusted many things for the sake of His greater glory. May our every words, deeds and actions glorify God, now and forevermore. Amen.