Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all presented with the tale of the seven brothers and their mother who were persecuted for their faith by the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. They were forced to do things that were against the Law of God. Then in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people using the parable of the silver talents to explain what each of His disciples and followers had to do with their faith.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of the Maccabees, continuing with the tale of persecution of the Jewish faithful during King Antiochus’ reign, who was determined in his megalomania and ego to stamp out any dissent and any other religious expressions, set and bound to introduce and enforce Greek customs and practices on the people of his domain and realm, including that of the descendants of the Israelites in the land of Judea, Galilee and elsewhere. This resulted in the great persecution which we had heard for the past few days.

In that particular occasion mentioned today, the seven brothers remained firm in their faith and dedication to the Lord, committed themselves wholeheartedly to Him despite the sufferings and trials that they were then facing, facing certain death and terrible suffering just as they approached martyrdom for the Lord. They all died one by one before their own mother who saw their courage and faith in God. And when the King tried to persuade the last son and asking the mother to ask her son to apostatise, the mother instead encouraged her son to remain faithful.

In any case, all the seven sons and their own mother were all martyred for their great faith, as they committed themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and not wishing to corrupt themselves with the corruption of sin and disobedience against God. They chose to suffer and die rather than to commit sin against God, and to stand firm against those who persecuted them, knowing that God was with them and that their sufferings and deaths would not be in vain, as their rewards would be great in Heaven.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the parable of the silver talents as described by the Lord, in which the Lord spoke of a king and master who entrusted his servants some amount of wealth in the form of silver talents that were then invested by two of them, who received ten and five silver talents each, while the last servant who received one talent of silver kept the silver hidden and did not do anything to it at all. At the time of the master’s return, he called for a reckoning from his servants of the silver talents that he had entrusted to them.

And we heard how the master praised the first two servants for having doubled what they had received by investing them, putting their hard work and efforts on the possessions entrusted to them, and therefore he entrusted to them even more things as he knew that those servants could be trusted and were worthy and hardworking. On the contrary, the servant who did not do anything to his silver talent was punished and had his silver taken away from him to be entrusted to the one more trustworthy than he was.

Coupled this with what the master then said, that to those who have been entrusted a lot, a lot will be expected, all of us therefore are reminded that each and every one of us as Christians have to dedicate ourselves and everything that God has blessed and granted us all, we have to commit to action and contributions for the greater glory of God. It means that we cannot be idle or complacent with the way that we live our lives, or else, just like the servant who did nothing to the silver talent entrusted to him, then whatever we have received, will be taken away from us and we will have no part in God’s kingdom.

Today, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us have the responsibility to live faithfully in accordance with the laws and customs, the ways and the many other directions that God has provided for us through His Church and through all the gentle reminders that He has given to us all these while. And we should be inspired today by one of the Lord’s great saints, whose feast we are celebrating, namely that of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a holy woman and a most devout servant of God.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary was a princess of Hungary who was betrothed and married at a young age to the lord of Thuringia in Germany. She was influenced by St. Francis of Assisi and other contemporary saints and holy people to lead a life that is virtuous and worthy of God. She spent a lot of effort in being charitable and in taking care of the need of the people in her husband’s realm, which the latter approved without much of a problem. She remained truly faithful even after her husband’s early death in the Crusades, in which St. Elizabeth dedicated herself to a celibate, religious life.

Despite the pressures from the people surrounding her and from her family for her to remarry for advancing their political aims, St. Elizabeth of Hungary remained adamant in living a holy and celibate life, dedicating her time and effort to serve the Lord through prayer and charity. She was well remembered and respected for her many contributions to the poor and for her care and love for the less fortunate ones in her community. It was also told that miracles also happened throughout her lives. She died at a young age, and miracles happened soon after.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves faithfully in the same manner as St. Elizabeth of Hungary had done? This wonderful and holy predecessor of ours had committed herself and her life to the Lord and we should do well to do the same with our own, reminding ourselves of the responsibilities that we all have. Let us all turn towards the Lord with a renewed faith and conviction, and dedicate ourselves to work for His greater glory from now on and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country in order to be crowned king, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants, to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

“The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.’ The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front of me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 16 : 1, 5-6, 8 and 15

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

Hold firm my steps upon Your path, that my feet may not stumble. I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word.

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.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors. Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them :

“I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world Who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for the love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language : “My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day.”

“I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures all of us are called to reflect on what it means for us to have faith in the Lord and how we should live our lives so that they may be truly reflective of who we are as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord, and as those who are loving Him and seeking Him in our lives, and always ever striving to walk in His presence worthily.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the Maccabees of the continuation of the great persecution of the faithful Jewish people under the reign of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of the Seleucid Empire that at that time had dominion over the land of Judea and Galilee where most of the Jews were living in. As I mentioned yesterday, this king was renowned in history for his great ambition and megalomania, and in how he tried to suppress local customs and way of life in favour of his own Greek culture.

Today we heard how in his persecution, the king persecuted a holy and devout old man, a revered elder of the Jewish community named Eleazar. As per the king’s orders, everyone had to abandon their Jewish customs and practices, the teachings of their faith and embraced Greek traditions, which included the things and actions that were considered as against the Law of God as passed down through Moses and preserved by the Jewish people.

Eleazar’s friends and the king’s men, not wishing to see the old man suffer and die from refusing to obey the king’s commands, tried very hard to persuade him to at least make a show of compliance and obedience, so that he could be spared and then still practiced his faith and beliefs in private. However, Eleazar firmly refused to do that, and he reasoned well saying that as an elder of the people, all the more that he should show example to others, in his faith in God. To publicly show that he was abandoning his faith would cause scandal so great that would have lead many others to abandon their faith too. Thus, Eleazar chose to remain faithful and die for his faith.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard from the story of the Lord Jesus and Zaccheus, a short man and an infamous tax collector. I am sure many of us know of this story, in which Zaccheus was curious about the Lord and wanted to see Him, but because of his height, he actually had to climb a tree just in order to be able to see Him. The Lord then responded to Zaccheus’ vigour and desire to see Him, and told him that He would want to go to his house and stay there.

The Lord did this even though many people there witnessing the events grumbled and gossiped about the Lord spending time in the house of a sinner, as tax collectors back then were very much hated and even treated not just as terrible sinners but also the traitors to the nation. All the more, Zaccheus was a notorious and particularly wealthy tax collector at that. For the Lord Jesus to associate Himself with such a person must have been truly puzzling and scandalous to the people, and yet the Lord still pushed on, telling all of them that there was a sinner who desired to seek the Lord and for His forgiveness.

What this means to all of us is that all of us are called to seek the Lord with all of our heart and strength, and we should have the same faith as our holy predecessors, like that of Eleazar and Zaccheus, to be meek and humble before the Lord, recognising that we are sinners while at the same time striving to do our best to live our lives with holiness and virtues. We should not be discouraged to live our lives with commitment and devotion to God.

Today, all of us can also be inspired by the examples showed by another two saints, namely St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude the Great. St. Margaret of Scotland was the Queen of Scotland during the Medieval era who was remembered well for her great piety and personal holiness and devotion to God. She was exemplary in fulfilling her duties as queen of the realm, while positively influencing her husband, the king of Scotland, in the management of the realm, and was very much involved in charity outreach to the poor and those who suffer.

St. Margaret of Scotland cared for the poor throughout her kingdom and spent a lot of effort in providing for them, while also helping the kingdom to grow spiritually in faith, through her works and reforms. She also inspired many others through her great personal piety, spirituality and devotion, which she showed not just publicly, but also in her intense personal devotion, her prayerful life before God. She dedicated her life to God and to her kingdom, a truly great role model for us all.

Meanwhile, St. Gertrude was a great and renowned German mystic, religious nun and theologian, who was also a member of the Benedictines. She devoted her whole life to God in prayer, as part of her religious community, while writing extensively on the matters of the faith, so much so that her writings and works still influence many theologians and other great saint theologians to this very day. She also had a great piety and dedication to God, receiving many visions that she also recorded in her works.

Today, having heard the courageous examples from so many of our dedicated and holy predecessors, all of us are therefore reminded of what we ourselves as Christians should be doing with our lives. Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to the Lord with all of our might and strength, that we may always persevere against even trials and persecutions for the sake of the Lord? All of us are reminded to walk always ever in the path that the Lord has set before us. Can we commit ourselves to God from now on, with all of our strength?

May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us to have the faith required to persevere through the trials and challenges present in our path in this world. May God bless us all in our every efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.