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

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages by which we are reminded of the duty and responsibility that each and every one of us have to keep as all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as true Christian disciples and as the followers of God’s will and commandments. All of us are called to be full of faith and love for God in all things.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the victory and triumph of the rebellion of Judas Maccabeus, one of the Maccabean brothers who revolted against the kings of the Greek Seleucid Empire because of their oppression of the faithful people of God and their attempts to destroy the Law of God and outlawing the worship of God and by forcing the Greek pagan worship to the Jewish people.

The city of Jerusalem was taken over by the pagans and the citadel built there kept the entire populace under the power of the kings, while the Temple of Jerusalem was desecrated and made to be a mockery of the faith, where pagan idols and pagan worship took place at the altar once reserved only for the worship of the One and only True God. As such, the House of God was defiled and could not be used for the purpose of divine worship.

That is how it was until the time when Judas Maccabeus and his forces managed to score victories against the king in rebellion and eventually came to occupy the Temple of Jerusalem once again, and as described in our first reading passage today, the abominations, pagan idols and corruptions in the Temple were cleared out and the old altar torn down to make way for a new altar dedicated to God.

There is then a clear parallel between that event and how just over a century later, the Lord Jesus cleared the same Temple from the corruptions of merchants and sinners as described in our Gospel passage today. At that time, the Temple courtyard just outside the main Temple building itself was filled with numerous merchants and people peddling their wares and goods to the visitors and worshippers of the Temple.

Yet, many if not most of those merchants and peddlers cheated their customers to gain more profits for themselves. They bought their goods at a low price while raising their sale prices to be as high as possible to profit from all the people visiting the Temple for various purposes. As many of the worshippers came from faraway places, they would have no choice but to accept the prices imposed by the merchants even at a great loss.

Such wicked and sinful practices should not have been allowed at the Temple, and yet the Temple authorities tolerated them all and even became angry at the Lord Jesus when He cleared them and chased those merchants out of the Temple grounds. Why was that so? That is because the presence and the activities of the merchants were mutually beneficial to both the merchants themselves and the Temple priests and elders.

When the Lord Jesus chased those merchants outside the Temple, the Temple authorities, the elders and the chief priests became angry because while the Lord stated the right thing but those Temple authorities were more concerned about their own worldly concerns and attachments, their desire to retain power and authority, and saw the Lord Jesus as a dangerous threat to their own worldly power.

But the Lord wants us all to know through these that if we are too attached and distracted by the many temptations of life present in this world, we will end up forgetting what our true focus in life should be. And we will end up walking down the same path of wickedness and sin that have been mentioned in our Scripture passages today. We heard of the defilements of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, twice, first by the Greeks and then secondly by the wicked merchants with the tacit approval of the elders and the priests.

But more importantly for us all today is to take note that each and every one of us are also in fact God’s Temple, the Houses of His holy Presence. Why is this so? That is because firstly, through our Holy Communion and by sharing in the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, we have partaken in the Lord Himself, being fully present in the Eucharist in Body and Blood. And not only that, but the Lord Himself has given us His Holy Spirit through our Baptism and which He reaffirmed and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, if we are God’s Holy Temples and are His dwelling place, then if we act in manners that are wicked and sinful, we are in fact corrupting and defiling the holiness of this Temple that is our body, our heart, our mind and our soul. We are no better than the Greek kings, those wicked merchants and all those who have defiled God’s Temple. And we saw how God’s anger became manifested against all those who had done that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today all of us are reminded of this fact and are called to live upright and virtuous lives, turning away from sin and from all sorts of temptations that can cause us to fall and to defile the sanctity of these Holy Temples of ours. And today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Cecilia for inspiration and strength.

St. Cecilia, whose feast day we celebrate today, is a well-known patron for musicians and choirs. Yet, she was also a dedicated servant of God, who remained true to her faith in God despite the challenges that she had to encounter because of her faith, that she had to suffer and eventually die for the sake of her faith. St. Cecilia dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity, and although she was forced to marry a pagan noble by her parents, she remained a holy virgin and persuaded her husband, who was touched by the miracle he had seen and became a Christian as well.

St. Cecilia met her martyrdom with faith, as she was executed following her husband and her brother-in-law, both having become Christians through her. She remained adamant and strong in her faith, and no amount of suffering could have convinced or pressured her to abandon her faith in God. Truly, her dedication and commitment to God is an inspiration to all of us who are still struggling in this world in our own journeys of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to be virtuous and righteous, maintaining our purity from sin as St. Cecilia herself had done in her way. We do not have to follow her in her vow of chastity and virginity, but rather, we should imitate her love for God, and as a result, keep ourselves away and free from sin as best as we can that the Temple of God’s Holy Presence, our bodies and our whole beings may remain pure and worthy of Him. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord in all things and devote our whole lives to Him from now on. May God bless us all, our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours. Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH.

You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.