Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard from the Scriptures one of the key tenets and foundational belief of our Christian faith, as we heard principally from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians in our first reading today, of the belief in the resurrection. At that time, St. Paul was addressing the community of the faithful in Corinth which then were divided on many issues, both communal and secular, as well as matters pertaining to their faith.

For at that time, there were both Jews and Gentiles among the early Christian converts throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, and Corinth was not an exception to the case. There were those who still found it difficult to accept that the Lord has risen from the dead, or that there is life after death. This could probably have also arisen from the members of the Sadducees, some of whom might have been converted to the faith, whose belief exclude any notion of spirituality and resurrection.

Some cultures, traditions and depending on the prior experiences of the converts also excluded resurrection from their belief systems, and therefore, the concept of someone rising from the dead was hard for some among the members of the community to accept. And it did not help that some among those who helped to propagate the faith also held this view, which St. Paul referred to as some of those who said that there is no resurrection of the dead.

That was why St. Paul wanted to remind them all that their Christian faith is fundamentally and essentially centred on the Christ crucified and Christ Who has risen from the dead. For if He has not been crucified or has not risen from the dead, then the Christian faith is empty, meaningless and is devoid of truth, just as the Jewish High Council or the Sanhedrin, the chief priests tried to suppress the truth by spreading lies that the disciples of Jesus had stolen His Body and claimed that He had risen from the dead.

Yet, all these falsehoods and attempts to suppress the truth had not been successful, as the courageous Apostles and the other disciples all spoke with one voice and all spoke with the same one truth, the truth of the Lord crucified and the Lord risen from the dead. And these were spoken and testified by those who had followed the Lord throughout His ministry, as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. Chief among His disciples were the Twelve, and not only that but also some women mentioned, including Mary, the Lord’s mother herself, and Mary Magdalene.

All of these had witnessed everything the Lord had done, all the miracles and wonders He had performed, saw His suffering and Passion, His death on the Cross, and witnessed His Risen Body appearing to them in the flesh, not a spirit or ghost, but truly risen and having conquered death, and they have received all the truth and wisdom He had imparted to them, and they have also received the Holy Spirit, that came down upon them on the Pentecost.

This same truth and revelation have also then been passed down to us through the Church, as the treasures of the faith, the deposit of the faith in both the Sacred Scriptures and in the Magisterium, the official teachings of the Church, have been passed down from generation to generation, from the Apostles to their successors, and from them to their own successors, right down to our Pope, the bishops, and the priests today, from whom we have heard the exact same truth.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received this truth, and have therefore become witnesses of our Lord’s Resurrection and love. That is why each and every one of us now have to be the faithful and dedicated witnesses of our true faith, in all of our actions and deeds, in our every words and in every moment in life. We are all called to give our very best in our daily life to love the Lord, to love our fellow brothers and sisters, to spread His Good News to all peoples.

Let us all spend some time to think and consider all these carefully. Let us all discern how we are going to live our lives from now on, walking faithfully and with ever greater devotion to God. Let us all be the beacons of His light and hope, the witnesses of His truth and His Resurrection, sharing the love of God to all of our fellow brethren, showing genuine love, care and concern for those who are suffering, just as the Lord Himself had loved us all, cared for us, all these while.

May the Lord, our ever loving God, continue to guide us in our journey, help us to be always faithful, to resist the temptations and false teachings, and remain firm in our faith at all times, being true and zealous in our daily living, at all moments of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 16 : 1, 6-7, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o Lord, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer for there is no deceit on my lips.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 15 : 12-20

Well, then, if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is empty, and our belief comes to nothing. And we become false witnesses of God, attesting that He raised Christ, whereas He could not raise Him, if indeed, the dead are not raised.

If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin. Also, those who fall asleep, in Christ, are lost. If it is only for this life, that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day each and every one of us are reminded of the faith and the teachings which we have received from God, and to which we have been called, just as St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians in our first reading reminded us, that we need to cling closely to the Good News and the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles, their successors and the Church.

And what is this truth and Good News, brothers and sisters? It is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, the essence of our Christian faith in how the Lord treated the sinful woman, a prostitute who came to the feast hosted by the Pharisees for the Lord. When the Pharisee host saw this he was evidently hoping for a chance to catch the Lord off His guard by this opportune moment, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and large segments of the Jewish society then looked down on prostitutes whom they considered as sinners and unworthy.

Therefore, as the sinful woman came to the Lord, they would perhaps hope that the Lord would either cast out the woman and condemn her, therefore affirming their own position and practices of the faith, by showing that even the Lord Jesus was on their side supporting their way of interpreting the Law, or else, by allowing her to touch Him without resistance, the Pharisees could then discredit the Lord and condemn Him for allowing a sinner to taint Him among other things.

But what the Lord did to the woman, just as what the woman also did to Him were surely beyond belief of all those who witnessed the occasion. The woman took a very expensive jar of alabaster with best perfumes inside, and used the perfume to anoint the feet of the Lord with great love, and she humbled herself, most likely kneeling down low in doing so, and then dried the feet of the Lord with her own hair, the crown of her beauty and her pride.

In doing so, the sinful woman lowered herself and humbled herself such before God, with tears and sorrow, repenting for her sins with great sincerity. She must have heard of the Lord’s coming, and His fame and works, which preceded Him, must have stirred the woman, who wanted to be forgiven from her sins and faults. And that was how the woman came to the Lord and humbled herself before Him, begging for His mercy and forgiveness. And God gave her the forgiveness for the sincere repentance she had shown.

The Lord then pointed out immediately to the Pharisees who were baffled by what the woman had done and by what the Lord had told her, that the Lord is loving and forgiving, generous with His mercy and compassionate forgiveness. He used the parable of a creditor who had two people owing him money at the same time to explain this, and highlighted how the forgiveness of those debts made the indebted ones felt so thankful and appreciative of the forgiveness.

Thus, the woman, who was sinful and had done many wicked things earlier on, would naturally be more grateful for the mercy shown to her, rather than the Pharisees for example, who did not appreciate this mercy and love of God. And the Lord made this to point out that, after all, every one of us are sinners, regardless whether we are great sinners or whether we have only sinned a lot less against God, and sin is still sin to be forgiven.

Unless the sinner seeks the Lord’s forgiveness with an open heart and with the genuine desire for repentance, the sinner will not be forgiven. And as the example showed has clearly been presented to us, for each and every one of us to be forgiven, we need to get rid from ourselves pride and arrogance, hubris and ego, and be open to God’s mercy and forgiveness, to seek Him with a remorseful and repentant heart.

We are truly so fortunate to have such a loving and merciful God, and we often do not appreciate this opportunity presented to us, spurning the chances that God has given to us, in His generosity and kindness, and therefore, we should embrace this love and mercy wholeheartedly and not wait until it is too late for us. And today we should follow the good examples of the saint whose feast we celebrate, namely St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and servant of God, declared Doctor of the Church for his works.

St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the most prominent leaders of the Church at the height of the Counter-Reformation, in his many writings and works, and in his role as a bishop and Cardinal in assisting the Pope in the governance of the Universal Church, particularly in the struggle against the many heresies and divisions, various conflicts and disagreements among the members of the faithful at the time.

Through his many actions, writings and efforts, St. Robert Bellarmine was instrumental in the efforts of the Church at the time to bring many segments of the people and the communities to return to the true faith in God, to abandon the false ways and all the false heresies and divisions, and to be reconciled to God. And as we celebrate his feast day today, we ought to recall our own sinfulness and imperfections, all the obstacles that had prevented us from being reconciled to God.

Let us all atone for our sins, turn our hearts, minds and indeed, our entire beings to God, our loving and most merciful Lord and Master, that He may forgive us our sins, and forgive our great transgressions and sins. Let us all be genuinely repentant and regret fully our sins, and endeavour not to sin any more, and to be righteous and worthy of God, from now on. May God be with us always, and guide us through this journey of faith. Amen.