Thursday, 27 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Sirach 42 : 15-25

Now I shall remind you of the works of the Lord and relate what I have seen. The Lord’s works depend on His word, and creation obeys His will. The sun shines on everything and the work of the Lord is filled with His glory. Not even to His holy ones has the Lord given full knowledge of all His marvellous works. The Lord, Master of the Universe, has ordained that all should stand firm in His glory.

He penetrates both the depth of the abyss and the human heart and knows their secrets. For the Most High has full knowledge and ordains the signs of the heavens. He knows the past and foretells the future and reveals the traces of the world’s mysteries. No thought escapes Him, no word is hidden from Him.

He has ordered the marvellous works of His wisdom, from ever and forever. Nothing can be added, nothing can be taken away and He has no need of counsel. All His works are beautiful, even to the smallest spark of light. All this lives and endures forever : all is useful and obedient to His will. All things are in pairs, one opposite the other, and nothing He makes is in any way deficient. One thing emphasises the excellence of the other; who could ever weary of admiring His glory?

Wednesday, 26 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded of the need for us to follow the Lord sincerely and wholeheartedly, because we love Him and want to follow Him and obey His Law, and not because we want anything good or any benefit for ourselves. We are reminded that our faith should not be a transactional faith or faith that is caused by our desire for any reward or satisfaction. Rather, we must truly be faithful, even when there seems to be nothing for us.

The Lord shows us all through the Gospel that we have just heard today, that following Him and walking in His path often mean encountering trials and difficulties, challenges and obstacles, just as much as the Lord Himself had to suffer and to endure the worst of persecution, humiliation and ridicule, the worst of pain and burden, as He was betrayed by His own disciple, arrested and condemned to death, rejected by His own people and made to endure the burden of the Cross, which He willingly took up for the redemption of all.

And this is what He told His disciples back then, before He was to endure all of these, so that they would realise what it truly means to become the followers of His, and what it means to be faithful to God. This is because back then, just any other people in any organisations or groups, the disciples joined for various reasons and certainly not few among them joined because they wanted to benefit and gain favour with the Lord, Whom many of them saw as the Messiah that in their perspective and understanding would be the One to free them from the rule and tyranny of foreigners and restore the kingdom of Israel.

That was why when the Lord began telling the truth about His mission, like when He revealed Himself as the Bread of Life, the Paschal Lamb to be slaughtered for the salvation of all, many of His followers could not take or accept the truth, and many left Him. More left Him because they could not get what they wanted or could not see glory or fame for themselves if they continued on following the Lord. And yet some others left and abandoned Him because they were afraid of the opposition and trials that they had to endure if they remained a follower of the Lord.

Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord likely because he was tempted by money and opportunity to gain from that betrayal, and while his exact reason may not be known, it was likely that the less-than-righteous and less-than-noble reasons led to his betrayal. The other disciples bickered and disagreed amongst themselves on who was the most important and preeminent among them, and as we heard, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, tried to gain favour and advantage over the other disciples, seeing that they were often close to the Lord and entrusted by Him to many exclusive occasions when only them and St. Peter accompanied Him to some of His missions and miracles.

The Lord then told all of them that to be His followers, they had to endure many things, and to drink the same cup that He was to drink, referring to the cup of suffering that He would be drinking at the moment of His Passion, suffering and death throughout the journey of the Way of the Cross right up to the Cross at Calvary. To be His disciples, it is not about earthly or worldly glory, fame or renown, power or influence, and indeed, it is not about oneself and about our own selfish desires.

On the contrary, to be Christians, we are all called to be centred on God, to be selfless and loving, dedicated and committed, and often we are called to make sacrifices and to give up things that we may enjoy for ourselves. This is what the Lord had spoken about in all of our Scripture passages today. He reminds us to offer ourselves, our heart and our whole being to Him, in following Him, and the best example for us, is none other than the Lord Himself, the Son of Man, Who emptied Himself completely, and took up the Cross in perfect obedience to His Father’s will.

Today we also have another role model, St. Philip Neri, whose feast day we celebrate, and who can be a great inspiration for us how we live our own lives as Christians. St. Philip Neri was an Italian priest who was remembered for his tireless and long time ministry among the people of Rome, so much so that he was known as the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’, and then also for his founding of the Congregation of the Oratory, a community made of the secular clergy and other faithful dedicated to the Lord to a life of sanctity and prayer.

St. Philip Neri was also well known for his Forty Hours Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, which he constantly promoted and tried to popularise among the faithful. Over time, more and more people came to know of the Forty Hours Devotion, and they came to commit themselves anew to the Lord through the devotion, and became stronger in their faith. The great piety and sincere dedication showed by St. Philip Neri became the foundation of so many good works of the Oratorians across the ages, as they were all inspired by the commitment and the energy that St. Philip Neri devoted to serving God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have been reminded of what it means to be true disciples of the Lord, we are all brought to remember the things we should be doing in giving ourselves to the Lord, in following His Law and commandments, to offer our whole selves and hearts, our whole strength for His greater glory. This is what we are all called to do, as one who believes in God, as a true believer, that we truly offer ourselves, not just merely paying lip service but with our whole conscious efforts and commitment, from now on.

Let us all therefore walk in the path that the Lord has shown before us, faithfully devoting ourselves just as St. Philip Neri and the many other saints, our holy predecessors in faith had done. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of worldly glory, power, fame and ambition, and resist them with faith. May God be with us all and may He strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 10 : 32-45

At that time, Jesus and His disciples were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead. The Twelve were anxious, and those who followed were afraid. Once more Jesus took the Twelve aside to tell them what was to happen to Him.

“You see we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be given over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn Him to death, and hand Him over to the foreigners, who will make fun of Him, spit on Him, scourge Him and kill Him; but three days later He will rise.”

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to Him, “Master, we want You to grant us what we are going to ask of You.” And He said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They answered, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, when You come in Your glory.”

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptised in the way I am baptised?” They answered, “We can.” And Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink; and you will be baptised in the way that I am baptised; but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not Mine to grant. It has been prepared for others.”

On hearing this, the other ten were angry with James and John. Jesus then called them to Him and said, “As you know, the so-called rulers of the nations behave like tyrants, and those in authority oppress the people. But it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you shall make himself slave of all. Think of the Son of Man, Who has not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Wednesday, 26 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die.

Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Sirach 36 : 1-2a, 5-6, 11-17

Have mercy on us, Master, God of all, and look on us; make every nation stand in fear of You. Take action against the pagan nations and let them see Your power.

Give new signs, do fresh wonders, stretch out Your hand and be glorified in Your strength. Kindle Your fury and rouse Your anger, destroy Your opponents, crush Your enemy.

Have pity, Lord, on the people known by Your Name, on Israel whom You called Your firstborn. Show compassion to the Holy City, to Jerusalem where You rest. Fill Zion with the fame of Your wonders, and Your people with Your glory. Confirm the promises made to Your people long ago and fulfil the promises made in Your Name.

Reward those who wait for You and fulfil the words of Your prophets. Hear the prayer of Your servants, Lord; hear Your priests giving Aaron’s blessing to Your people. So that all on earth may acknowledge that You are Lord and everlasting God.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests, Popes and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to remember the commandments and the Law of the Lord, which we should follow and obey wholeheartedly, with all of our hearts and with all of our might. God has given us all His Law to help and guide us in our journey, that we may find our way amidst the numerous temptations and obstacles in our path. We are reminded to keep the commandments of the Lord and to commit ourselves sincerely through real and genuine actions.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Sirach, the exhortation from the Lord with regards to His commandments, as He told the people through the prophet Sirach to give generously to the Lord, offering themselves, whatever they can offer and dedicate to Him. This is because all those who trust in the Lord and all who walk in His path will never be disappointed for He is always ever faithful, and He will always be by the side of those who kept themselves faithful and committed to Him.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples, reassuring them that all those who have given themselves, committed their time and effort, and made sacrifices for the sake of the Lord, they would not be disappointed and left without providence and help. Their reward in the end will be truly great, as God remembers those who love Him and who give themselves for His cause. The Lord will guide them and remain with them throughout their journey no matter how tough it may be.

That is why through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today, as Christians we are all called to put our trust in the Lord and commit ourselves to Him, just as the disciples had done, and how the early Church Christians, so many saints and martyrs had done. And today in particular, we do not just have one, but three great saints, our holy predecessors whom we celebrate their feast day, whose life and devotion to the Lord are indeed great inspiration for us to live as true Christians following the will of God.

First of all, St. Bede the Venerable is a renowned English saint and a famous Benedictine monk remembered well for his many literary works in various areas and fields, and in particular, his writings for the Christian faith and theology were spectacular and influenced many people and remained well read and referenced on for long after his time. St. Bede the Venerable also lived a life of humble simplicity and prayer, dedicating his whole time and efforts completely to the Lord. Through his writings, he inspired many more people to come to know the Lord, revealing His truth to them.

And then, Pope St. Gregory VII was the leader of the Universal Church and Supreme Pontiff at a time of great change and transformation in the Church and the secular community, remembered especially for his confrontation against the powerful Holy Roman Emperor during the Investiture Controversy. The Pope has always been the Vicar of Christ on earth, as the one appointed in the shoes of St. Peter to be the sole representative of the Lord, and therefore has supreme authority over all matters pertaining to the Church and faith, over all the spiritual matters of all Christians.

But the Holy Roman Emperor as the successor of the Roman Emperors claimed authority and control over the appointment and management of bishops and other spiritual matters of his own subjects. Emperor Henry IV at that time refused to budge to the Pope’s authority to appoint bishops and over other spiritual matters of the Church. This resulted in drawn out struggle, and although the Emperor used all of his means to claim over the Pope’s authority, Pope St. Gregory VII did not give in to those demands and efforts. He remained firm in devoting his efforts for the good of the Church despite all the obstacles.

Lastly, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a renowned religious Carmelite nun and mystic who was devoted to the Lord, filled with prayer and commitment to God, devoting her whole time and effort in prayer and in contemplation, and she received visions of the Lord that became inspiration for others, including due to her piety and commitment through prayer. Many people venerate her for her deep devotion and piety, and great humility, as she was known to wear a crown of thorns regularly as self-mortification and as a sign of her faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the story of the faith of these saints, and reminded of the Lord’s promises and reassurance in our Scripture readings today, are we all willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner? We are all called to spend our time and efforts to serve the Lord, and to follow Him wholeheartedly. Let us all therefore serve the Lord and follow Him from now on with all of our heart and with all of our might. Let us all walk in the path of the Lord courageously and confidently from now on.

May the Lord be with us all and may He give us the strength and courage to walk in His path, at all times. May God bless us and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.