Wednesday, 30 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the words of Job, the suffering servant of God, as he described the vastness of God’s majesty and power, His infinite greatness and the absoluteness of His will. And we heard how Job lamented and stated just how small and insignificant he was amidst all those things. In the grander scheme of things, whatever Job had experienced, was nothing but a tiny drop in the vast ocean.

To understand all these, we must see it in the context of Job’s great suffering. Job had lost everything that was dear to him, all his possessions and even his beloved family, all in one fell swoop as Satan struck at him to try to make him abandon his faith. Job however remained faithful even when Satan tried harder and struck at his health, making itchy and painful boils to appear all over his body.

Job remained faithful to God despite all of that, and he remained firm in his conviction that God was not the One Who made him to suffer, and even his personal afflictions could not sway him to think otherwise. Nonetheless, all these, coupled with the fact that some of his companions argued that Job must have committed serious sin to have deserved such punishment, as at the time, afflictions as suffered by Job were often seen as the sign of divine punishment and displeasure.

That was why Job despaired and uttered such words, as he desired to be helped by God and to be freed from his sufferings, but he thought that it was by his own fault that he has deserved all of those, and thus, with lamentation, he accepted his fate humbly, to suffer and remain obedient to God. Contextually we also need to realise that this was from a time when the fullness of truth of God’s providence has not been revealed yet.

Most importantly, we see how Job, although he was suffering and beset by many troubles, friends who abandoned him and even accused him of wrongdoing, he remained committed to God and to righteousness. And he blamed neither God nor the others for his misfortunes. And this is what each and every one of us need to take note of as we respond to God’s call highlighted to us in the Gospel today.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to those who followed Him and desired to follow Him what it means for all of them to follow Him and being His disciples. While it might seem that the Lord was very harsh when He said that those who have chosen to follow Him and looked back were not fit for the kingdom of God, and how He said that those who died ought to be left on their own to be buried, the Lord in fact wanted to emphasise and highlight that to be His follower is something that requires commitment from us, and that we may even have to make sacrifices at times.

Like Job, we must have faith and trust in God even when we have nothing left with us. If we still put our trust and depend on worldly attachments, then it will be difficult for us to endure in the path as Christians. It does not mean that we must literally abandon everything and leave all behind as those who followed the Lord had done. Rather, it is the attachment, excessive and unhealthy desires and temptations for worldliness that we must rid ourselves from.

Today, we should also look upon the inspiration and example showed by St. Jerome, one of the great Church fathers and one of the original Doctors of the Church. This year is also significant as this feast day today celebrating St. Jerome marked the sixteen centuries that had passed from his passing, and his contributions to the Church and the Christian faithful cannot be underestimated.

St. Jerome was particularly remembered for his compilation of the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible, which at that time had been the canon of the Scriptures of the Church. This Latin translation is known as the Latin Vulgate Bible, written in the contemporary or Vulgar Latin, and became the basis for many future versions of the Sacred Scriptures.

However, what was not often known was how St. Jerome was quite promiscuous and hedonistic in his youth, experiencing all sorts of worldly pleasures when he was still a pagan student of philosophy. But after years of discovery and journey, his conscience eventually led him to convert to the Christian faith and renounce all of us his past sinful ways of life. And St. Jerome devoted himself deeply into the study of the Scriptures, from which eventually would stem his works in the Latin Vulgate among many other writings.

St. Jerome also became an ascetic, spending his life in secluded cave where the Lord and Saviour Himself was born, in Bethlehem, for the rest of his life in the intellectual pursuit of faith, writing many treatises and writings on the matter of the faith that still influenced many even to this day. The life and works of St. Jerome is an inspiration for us, that as Christians we should leave behind our past life of attachments to worldly pleasures and instead seek to follow God with a new heart filled with faith.

Let us all discern our lives’ path going forward as we remember the story of Job, his sufferings and despite of all those, continuing to be faithful to God. And let us all be inspired by the story of the life and faith, the conversion and the dedication of St. Jerome, and strive to be holy and dedicated to God as he had done. May the Lord bless us always, and be with us, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 57-62

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples went on their way, a man said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

To another, Jesus said, “Follow Me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for, first, I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said to Him, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wednesday, 30 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 87 : 10bc-11, 12-13, 14-15

I spread out my hands to You, I call upon You every day, o YHVH. Are Your wonders meant for the dead? Will ghosts rise to give You thanks?

Is Your love and faithfulness remembered among those gone to the netherworld? Are Your wonders known in the dark; Your salvation, in the land of oblivion?

But to You, o YHVH, I cry for help; every morning I pray to You. O YHVH, why do You reject me; why do You hide Your face?

Wednesday, 30 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Job 9 : 1-12, 14-16

Then Job answered : “Very well I know that it is so. But how can a mortal be just before God? If one were to contend with Him, not once in a thousand times would He answer. His power is vast, His wisdom profound. Who has resisted Him and come out unharmed?”

“He moves mountains before they are aware; He overturns them in His rage. He makes the earth tremble and its pillars quake. He commands the sun, and it does not shine; He seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the skies and treads on the waves of the seas. He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and every constellation. His wonders are past all reckoning, His miracles beyond all counting.”

“He passes by, but I do not see Him; He moves on, but I do not notice Him. If He snatches away, who can stop Him? Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’ How then can I answer Him and find words to argue with Him? If He does not answer when I am right, shall I plead with my Judge for mercy? Even if I appealed and He answered, I do not believe that He would have heard.”

Tuesday, 29 September 2020 : Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the great feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, three of the seven Archangels who stand in the presence of God and are the mightiest of all of His heavenly forces. Today we dedicate ourselves to God through the guidance and protection of St. Michael the Archangel, the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, St. Gabriel the Archangel, the Messenger of God, and St. Raphael the Archangel, the Healing and Mercy of God.

In each of these mighty Archangels of God, we have powerful allies in our constant struggle and fight in the spiritual warfare for the sake of our souls. For the devil, the great enemy of all mankind and all of God’s faithful children, is out there, ever plotting our downfall and destruction, sending out his forces against us, trying to tempt us into sin and therefore, leading us to our downfall.

And first of all, St. Michael the Archangel, as mentioned is the Prince and leader of the Heavenly Hosts. He was the same Michael that showed himself to Joshua, the successor of Moses before he was about to enter into the Promised Land, reassuring him and the people of Israel that God Himself would march before them and guide them all to victory. And he is also the same Michael mentioned in the Book of Revelations as well.

In that vision of St. John the Apostle, we heard how he saw the great War in Heaven, which in fact predated all the events of history, as all these happened early in the history of creation. This happened as according to Scripture, Church tradition and the Church fathers, the devil himself was once a mighty and brilliant Archangel of God. In fact, as Lucifer, the Angel of Light, he was the most brilliant and mightiest among all of God’s Angels.

But it was there then Lucifer fell into pride, hubris and ambition, succumbing to the desire to seek the Throne of God, as written in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, that he desired nothing less than the Throne of Heaven and to raise himself over the stars of God, a reference to the Angels of God. His unbridled ambition led him to aspire to rebellion against God, and he swayed many among the Angels to side with him.

It was told that when God went up from His Throne, Lucifer dared to sit on the Throne and thus proclaimed his rebellion. It was Michael, although not as powerful or brilliant as Lucifer, who brought God’s wrath and retribution on him and the other rebel Angels. Michael, whose name means ‘Who is like God’ led the faithful Angels against Lucifer, after which would be known as Satan, the devil and the great enemy, as well as those rebel angels who supported him.

Thus that was how the War in Heaven brought about the downfall of Satan, who was crushed and defeated, cast out from Heaven and together with all the fallen angels, were cast out and condemned. St. Michael the Archangel, who led the loyal Angels in defeating the proud Satan. He might not have been the mightiest and most brilliant among the Angels like Satan before his fall, but he was faithful, humble and dedicated. It was told that he would tremble in the presence of God and yet fearless in the face of the enemy.

That was why God made St. Michael to be the Prince and leader of the Heavenly Hosts. He is the terror of the devil and all of the forces of evil, our chief defender in the constant battle and struggle against all those who sought our destruction. To St. Michael the Archangel, we pray this prayer, which was composed by Pope Leo XIII, ‘St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And may you, o Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell and with him those other wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.’

And not to forget St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, the other two Archangels who are also God’s great champions in the fight against the devil. St. Gabriel the Archangel is God’s esteemed Messenger, being the one sent to proclaim the Good News to the world, the one who appeared to Mary announcing the coming of God’s Saviour, Jesus Christ, and was also likely the Angel who appeared to Zechariah proclaiming about John, the one who was to be the Herald of the Messiah.

The name Gabriel means ‘God is my strength’ and with his words, he struck fear into Satan and all the forces of the wicked, as he announced the coming of God’s final victory against evil, the coming of His Saviour by which all the machinations and efforts of the devil would all be defeated and crushed. Just as St. Michael leads the forces of God into battle, St. Gabriel announces God’s retribution and battlecry against all His enemies.

Meanwhile St. Raphael the Archangel was known through his participation in the events described in the Book of Tobit. St. Raphael, whose name means ‘God has healed’ brought healing and help to both Tobit and Sara, who both were faithful but had suffered either physically for the case of Tobit, blinded and unable to see, or spiritually in the case of Sara, who was beset by the powerful demon Asmodeus that had killed seven of her past husbands.

Through his journey with Tobias, the son of Tobit, disguised as a man, St. Raphael eventually chased Asmodeus away and bound him, freeing Sara who was once tormented by that demon. And as Tobias gained Sara as a lawfully wedded wife, St. Raphael also brought healing to the eyes of Tobit, and revealing his true identity before all of them, he showed God’s healing and mercy, undoing the wicked plots and works of the devil and his forces against us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this day in memory of the Holy Archangels of God, let us renew our faith in God, and renew our conviction and desire to serve Him faithfully, that we may all walk ever more righteously in His path, and no longer be afraid of the devil and all of his wicked plots. The Lord has set His Archangels and His mighty Heavenly Hosts between us and the evil ones.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle and help us to be humble like you, that we may not fall into pride and ambition, greed and vanity like the devil, but remain firm in our commitment to serve God faithfully with all our might. St. Gabriel the Archangel, bearer of God’s Good News and triumph, help us to trust in the Lord and His providence, that we may always hope in God as our Strength, that no evil will prevail against us as long as we put our faith in God.

And St. Raphael the Archangel, bearer of God’s healing and mercy, help us to seek healing in God, for the weakness of our flesh and especially for the corruption of our souls by sin. Just as Tobit and Sara was healed by your intercession on their behalf to God, intercede for us sinners as well. O Holy Archangels of God, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, pray for us, be with us and guide us in battle, in the constant struggle for our souls. Amen!