Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 12 : 1-7

At that time, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to His disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered; or hidden, that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops.”

“I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you Whom to fear : Fear the One Who, after killing you, is able to throw you into hell. This One you must fear. Do you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Do not be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?”

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 11

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

Rejoice in YHVH, and be glad, You who are upright; sing and shout for joy, You who are clean of heart.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 4 : 1-8

Let us consider Abraham, our father in the flesh. What has he found? If Abraham attained righteousness because of his deeds, he could be proud. But he cannot be this before God; because Scripture says : Abraham believed God, Who took it into account, and held him to be a just man.

Now, when someone does a work, salary is not given as a favour, but as a debt that is paid. Here, on the contrary, someone who has no deeds to show, but believes in Him, Who makes sinners righteous before Him : such faith is taken into account, and that person is held as righteous.

David congratulates, in this way, those who become righteous, by the favour of God, and not by their actions : Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven and whose offences are forgotten; blessed the one, whose sin God does not take into account!

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all listen to the word of God in the Sacred Scriptures continuing to remind us that as Christians we have to put the foundation of our faith in Christ and believe in Him wholeheartedly, and not just pay Him lip service or empty faith like that of hypocrites. We have to love the Lord above everything else and put our focus in Him, so that He is the centre of our lives and existence, and He Who has offered us freely and generously His salvation and grace, may gather us all in His presence.

In our first reading today, in the continuation of the discourse of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, we heard the courageous and passionate appeal of the Apostle in calling on all the faithful in Rome to put their trust and salvation in God, in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of the whole entire world. At that time, the community of the faithful in Rome was also composed of the members of the Jewish diaspora there, as well as some of the local Roman population who converted to the Christian faith and became believers.

And just like elsewhere in the Church, there were often tension between some of the Jewish people, who asserted that all Christians had to observe the full range of the Jewish customs and practices, as the Pharisees and the elders practiced them, including the recent converts from among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. However, St. Paul was quick in his rebuttal and his explanations on how such an attitude was not truly Christian in nature and not in accordance to what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, how He rejected the excessive practices and observances of the leaders of the Jewish people in obeying the Law of God.

Contextually, the extent of the strict observance of the Law by the Pharisees and the elders of the descendants of Israel was such that it would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people to follow the Lord and to practice their faith. Over the centuries, many adaptations, interpretations and modifications to the Law had fundamentally altered its meaning, purpose and practice so much such that it no longer truly represent what the Law of God was all about. It would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to accept the Christian faith if they were forced to follow the very strict customs and rules.

Today’s Gospel also echoed the same sentiment as we heard the continuation of the Lord’s confrontation against the Pharisees as He rebuked them for their excessive focus and obsession on enforcing a very strict way of interpreting and following the Law, as well as in practicing their faith, which they themselves were often unable to follow and do, and ended up with many merely doing it to fulfil their obligations and as a formality, or even worse, as means for them to boast about their faith and to put others down, those whom they deemed to be less worthy than they were.

This is not what a Christian should be doing, as not only that they have diverged from the true meaning and intention of the Law, but many of them had obeyed the Law and its precepts in face value only, and misunderstood what God wanted to do with us through the Law. Instead of helping to bring the people closer to God, the Law ended up being tools used to satisfy the greed and desires of some, as well as becoming the way how some discriminated against their own brothers and sisters, against those whom one hated and despised.

The Lord and His Apostle St. Paul made it clear that we must be truly faithful and centred on God in our lives and actions. We must not allow the corruption of worldly power and desires to affect us and our way of life, that we do not end up behaving like those who are hypocritical and lacking in true faith in God. We must listen to the Lord and His words, His teachings and truth, and the words of His Apostles and servants, all those whom He had sent into this world to be our guide and helper, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of them, namely Pope St. Callistus I, also known as Pope St. Callixtus I.

Pope St. Callixtus I was the Vicar of Christ and leader of the Universal Church during the time of the height of persecutions against Christians in the third century after the birth of Our Lord. At that time, there were already divisions and heresies affecting the Church, and Pope St. Callixtus I was remembered for allowing converts from among these who had lapsed from the true faith and fallen into heretical ways and teachings. He called for all of them to return to the Holy Mother Church and be repentant over their sins. Through this, many would come to realise the errors of their ways and began the path towards redemption.

However, Pope St. Callixtus I did not have it easy as there were those within the Church then who disagreed with his methods and works, and refused to admit those who have lapsed and fallen into heresy, considering that salvation can only be given once, and once people left the Church or fell into heresy, they would not be allowed to return. Nonetheless, Pope St. Callixtus I, in the spirit of what St. Paul the Apostle had written in his Epistle to the Romans, and as the Lord spoke, warning against the excesses of self-righteousness exhibited by many of the Pharisees, continued to strive for welcoming lapsed Christians right to the moment of his martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these Scripture passages today and reflect on what we have just discussed, as well as the life and efforts of Pope St. Callixtus I, all of us are reminded to look upon our own lives and discern carefully how we can lead a more Christian existence and living, in faithfully following the Lord and His truth, and in remaining true to the love that He has shown us, while avoiding the excesses of self-righteousness, ambition, ego and personal desires among others.

Let us all seek the Lord with new spirit of humility and with genuine love from now on. May the Lord be with us all and may He help us to live our lives most worthily for the Lord. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 47-54

At that time, Jesus said to the teachers of the Law, “A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them!”

“For that reason the wisdom of God also said : I will send prophets and Apostles and these people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the Sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all.”

“A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.”

As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to harass Him, asking Him endless questions, setting traps to catch Him in something He might say.

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a

Out of the depths I cry to You, o YHVH, o YHVH, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o YHVH, who could stand? But with You, is forgiveness, and for that You are revered.

I waited for YHVH, my soul waits; and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects YHVH more than watchmen, the dawn. O Israel, hope in YHVH.

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Romans 3 : 21-30a

But, now it has been revealed, altogether apart from the Law, as it was already foretold in the Law and the prophets : God makes us righteous by means of faith in Jesus Christ, and this is applied to all who believe, without distinction of persons.

Because all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God; and all are graciously forgiven and made righteous, through the redemption effected in Christ Jesus. For God has given Him to be the Victim, Whose Blood obtains us forgiveness, through faith.

So God shows us, how He makes us righteous. Past sins are forgiven, which God overlooked till now. For, now, He wants to reveal His way of righteousness : how He is just, and how He makes us righteous, through faith in Jesus. Then, what becomes of our pride? It is excluded. How? Not through the Law and its observances, but through another Law, which is faith. For we hold, that people are in God’s grace, by faith, and not because of all the things ordered by the Law.

Otherwise, God would be the God of the Jews; but is He not God of pagan nations as well? Of course He is, for there is only one God.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on them and realise that there are so much that each and every one of us can do to remain faithful to God. All of us are called to focus on the Lord and turn towards Him with sincere love and devotion, and not just showing empty and meaningless faith. This is what our Scripture passages today have been telling us, that to be good Christians, we must not do what many of the people at that time had done.

For at that time, as the Christian faith began to spread across the Mediterranean and throughout the world, more and more Gentiles or the non-Jewish people such as the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Africans, Persians and many others who came to believe in the Lord and His truth, and gave themselves to be baptised by the Apostles, the many missionaries and messengers that had been sent by God to those people to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth and love to them.

However, there were also many Jews who converted to the faith, in Jerusalem and Judea, as well as in the various diaspora communities around the world. And in various occasions, some of those Jewish Christians brought with them the same opinion and view of the Pharisees and the elders who were adopting a very hardline approach in the interpretation, application and enforcement of the Law of God which had been revealed through Moses. They advocated for the wholesome adoption of the entire Judaic traditions and customs, many of which were excessive and inappropriate additions accumulated over the centuries of its practices.

To apply such a rigid and harsh application of the Jewish customs and practices would be exceedingly difficult for the Gentiles who have converted to Christianity, as there were quite a few cultural practices of the Jewish people which were not acceptable or even frowned upon and disliked by the Romans and the Greeks. Therefore, St. Paul worked hard together with the other Apostles and leaders of the Church to standardise the approach of the Christian faith and practices, in which they all agreed at the First Council of Jerusalem not to enforce the excesses of Judaic laws on all Christians, and less still on the Gentile converts.

The Gospel passage today echoed this same sentiment as we heard how the Lord strongly rebuked the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had corrupted and misused the Law for their own purposes and benefits, and as hypocrites who claimed to believe in God and yet in their hearts and minds, God was not the primary focus and emphasis of their lives. Instead, it was their pride, ego and ambition that drove them forward in life, and as the main impetus behind their preoccupation and obsession with their very strict version of the Law.

The Lord did not mince His words and spoke plainly, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law consistently tried to oppose Him and made His works difficult, claiming to be on the side of orthodoxy and faithful teachings, and claiming to be better and more pious, and yet, behind all of that facade was that of incredible hypocrisy and stubbornness, as they continued to harden their hearts and minds against the Lord and His truth. They acted so also because they were jealous of the Lord, and this proved that much of their actions were based on self-serving and selfish desires for power and influence in the world.

That is why He spoke regarding this matter, and His servant, St. Paul the Apostle also echoed the same message to all of us Christians, that we must avoid this kind of selfish attitude and learn to be more genuine in our faith, and distance ourselves from the many temptations of worldly power and glory, resisting the temptations of our desires and the other things that often lead us to our downfall, by luring us away from the true path towards the Lord. We must not indulge in self-serving and selfish attitudes, but must learn to be humble to listen to God and allow Him to lead us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, let us all pray that the Lord will continue to watch over us and guide us, helping us to remain firm in our faith. Let us also pray that we will always grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and let us help one another in being faithful to God rather than to condemn or judge one another or thinking that we are in any way better than others or more deserving of God’s salvation. May God bless each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.