Tuesday, 15 November 2022 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of our Christian mission in life, that is to be ever more faithful and committed to God. We must always keep in mind that as Christians, we have been given the mission and responsibility to proclaim the Lord and His truth through our lives and actions, our every words and deeds. The salvation of God will come to all those who have worthily carried out these missions in the way they live their lives, with real and genuine faith and not just with empty gestures and meaningless actions merely to put up appearances, as hypocrites and unbelievers had done in the past. The Lord had told us to be truly faithful to Him, and not to just make empty promises to Him.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelation of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the words of the Apostle to the Church in various places and communities established all across the region of Eastern Mediterranean Sea, which was at that time called the ‘Seven Churches of Asia’. The Apostle delivered what he witnessed and heard from the Lord through the visions he received, in which God was telling the Angels and spirits in charge of those seven Church communities, to remain steadfast in their faith and remain faithful to God, and not be easily swayed by the temptations present all around in the world. The Apostle spoke of the Lord’s reminders to His people to resist the temptations of the flesh, of pleasures and all things that will easily turn the faithful towards the wrong path towards damnation.

The Lord spoke to His people of what they ought to be doing as Christians, as those whom He had called and chosen from the world. They should live their lives righteously and with obedience to God’s will, His Law and commandments, and not to follow the wicked ways of this world. He reminded all of them that they should not be easily swayed or tempted by the allures of worldly pleasures, joys and comforts, as what many among the faithful had done at that time, in the various communities of the faithful then existing, and quite a few of those people did not stay and remain faithful to the Lord, but continuing to follow their own flawed ways and the ways of wickedness and evil. And their actions and deeds led to scandal within and outside the Church.

That is why the Lord warned them all through His Apostle, St. John, that they all ought to listen to Him and obey Him once more, and reject the wicked ways that they had been trodding along all those while. The Lord did not want them all to continue walking down that path to ruin and hence, He gave them a reminder and help, so that they might realise the errors of their ways, as He truly loved all of them, and wanted them all to be saved, by genuine and true reconciliation with Him, being forgiven from all of their sins, by the power and grace of His most compassionate mercy, and His enduring love and patience. Through the love that He has shown us, we have received once again the sure hope of life and freedom, of the promise of true happiness and joy that God alone can provide us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known story of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with Zaccheus the tax collector. Zaccheus was a notorious tax collector who had earned a lot from his trade, in gaining much wealth from the taxes he collected, and he was despised like the other tax collectors for that. At that time, tax collectors were often negatively viewed by the other people, especially so by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, namely all those religious and intellectual elites who considered themselves as being the righteous and worthy guardians of the people of God, and who zealously guarded their way of living the Law of God. They deemed the tax collectors as among the worst of sinners, unworthy of God and His salvation, because of their actions and wickedness in life.

They were considered and deemed as traitors to their country and people, as they and their actions were deemed as selfish and wicked, in persecuting and extorting the people for their own desires and wishes. They were therefore often ostracised and treated badly by the people, because of this prejudice which existed back then, and then continued to be repeated by the same people who sought to justify themselves for their righteousness and piety like those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Zaccheus was an embodiment of this so-called wicked man, unworthy and undeserving of God and His grace, His salvation and love. And yet, the same Zaccheus went all out in seeking the Lord and trying to reach out to Him. He climbed a tree just to see the Lord because of his short stature, and he risked his life and threw away all of his pride and ego in publicly declaring his faith in the Lord.

Not a lot of people can do what Zaccheus had done, in publicly admitting his mistakes and publicly promising to rectify the mistakes and wickedness he had committed. Zaccheus promised before all assembled that he would return and compensate all those whom he had extorted and gained from illicitly, not just by the same amount, but even thrice and four times more of what they had lost. Through that act, Zaccheus had shown his determination to abandon his past, wicked and unworthy way of life, and embracing God’s love, compassion and mercy, which the Lord gladly extended to him, Zaccheus was well on the way to redemption and therefore to enter into the glorious kingdom that God has promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard these readings from the Scriptures, each one of us are therefore reminded that as Christians, all of us should embrace the Lord and His truth, and abandon our wicked way of life, listening to Him and following Him wholeheartedly in the same way that Zaccheus had done. We also have yet another example and inspiration whom we can follow in one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating this day, namely that of St. Albert the Great, also known as St. Albertus Magnus, a great saint and servant of God, a great philosopher and Doctor of the Church, known for his immense contributions in Christian philosophy and theology, as well as various other aspects of the faith, in which he had inspired countless others to follow the Lord faithfully as he had.

St. Albert the Great spent a lot of time and effort in doing the will of God, in his role as a great philosopher and teacher of the faith, inspiring many younger generations of the servants and followers of God to gain more knowledge and understanding of His truth and love, which he passionately carried out, through his many writings and teachings, his efforts, as a servant of the Church, in carrying out the missions entrusted to him by the Pope. As the Bishop of Regensburg, he was known for his great humility and piety, and his great love for his flock, dedicating his time and effort for the salvation of souls. He did not seek worldly glory or ambition, and did all he could to glorify God by his every actions, deeds and his way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired to follow the Lord in the manner that these faithful and dedicated predecessors of ours had done, and let us all renew our commitment to God, to live our lives ever more worthily from now on. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen our resolve and courage to continue living our lives virtuously and worthily in accordance with what He has taught us to do. May God bless us always, now and forevermore, and may He bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 November 2022 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 19 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Tuesday, 15 November 2022 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 14 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4ab, 5

Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words.

Those who do no harm to their neighbours and cast no discredit on their companions, who look down on evildoers but highly esteem God’s servants.

Those who do not lend money at interest and refuse a bribe against the innocent. Do this, and you will soon be shaken.

Tuesday, 15 November 2022 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Revelations 3 : 1-6, 14-22

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Sardis, “Thus says He Who holds the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars : ‘I know your worth : you think you live but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen that which is not already dead. For I have found your works to be imperfect in the sight of My God.”

“‘Remember what you were taught; keep it and change your ways. If you do not repent I will come upon you like a thief at an hour you least expect. Yet, there are some left in Sardis who have not soiled their robes; these will come with Me, dressed in white, since they deserve it. The victor will be dressed in white and I will never erase his name from the book of life; instead, I will acknowledge it before My Father and His Angels.'”

“‘Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches.'”

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea, “Thus says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God’s creation : ‘I know your works : you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold so I will spit you out of My mouth.'”

“‘You think you are rich and have piled up so much that you need nothing, but you do not realise that you are wretched and to be pitied, poor, blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold that has been tested by fire, so that you may be rich, and white clothes to wear so that your nakedness may not shame you, and ointment for your eyes that you may see. I reprimand and correct all those I love. Be earnest and change your ways.'”

“‘Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you, and you with Me. I will let the victor sit with Me on My throne just as I was victorious and took My place with My Father on His throne. Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches.'”

Saturday, 12 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Scriptures the words of the Lord reminding us of the great love of God that He has shown and bestowed upon us, as our loving Father and Creator. We can really trust in the Lord and have faith in Him because He alone truly cares for us so deeply, that He still patiently awaits us and reaches out to us from time to time, no matter how long it has been since we listened to Him and how we have constantly disobeyed Him from time to time again. The Lord wants each and every one of us to be once again reunited with Him, by our reconciliation with Him and our rediscovery of the path of righteousness that He has led us into.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. John the Apostle speaking to the faithful all around Christendom, calling on all of them to provide for one another with love and care, especially for the missionaries who went from places to places in spreading the Word of God and His Good News of salvation. At that time, early Christian missionaries travelled from place to place without much support and help, save that from God and His strength, and also from the kindness and generosity of the people whom they were visiting, including that from the local Christian communities that had by then been established. Without these support and help, the early Christian missionaries would have indeed found it difficult for them to carry out their mission efficiently.

For they were up against many difficulties and challenges, and also persecution by both the Jewish authorities, the Pharisees and elders, the chief priests, as well as the local governors and the Roman authorities among others. Yet, those missionaries carried out the will of God and continued to labour hard for the sake of their fellow brothers and sisters, because they embody the love of God and His kindness and mercy, just as He has shown us all earlier on. Thus, just as God has loved us all and showed us His love and kindness, thus, we too should be loving and kind, caring and helpful to one another. Those missionaries shared the love of God with their fellow brethren, to those who have not yet known God’s love, and especially those who have been lacking in love.

Therefore it is just right that we support them in whatever way we can, and not only that, but in our own lives and actions, in our every words, actions and deeds, we should show this same love to one another as well, or else we are no better than hypocrites, who profess to believe in God and yet do not act in the manner that is compatible to that belief, or even outrightly contradictory in nature in our way of living of our lives. Unless we make the conscious effort to live our lives in accordance with God’s will, and ask the Lord for His guidance and strength, then we will end up having a lot of challenges and difficulties in going through this journey of faith through life. Sometimes we also do not realise that all that we need, is actually just to ask God for help.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord used a parable to highlight this to His disciples and to all of us. He spoke of an evil judge who was wicked, proud and arrogant, and feared no one, even God, and yet, that evil judge was bound and persuaded to give in to the persistent demands made by an old woman, who kept on looking for him and persistently sought him to settle her case and issues, and she was so persistent that despite the wicked judge fearing no one, even he was compelled to do as the old woman asked and desired, if only because by doing so, he would be spared from the woman’s ever continued and incessant demands on him to settle her case in court. By using that example, the Lord wanted to make it clear to us, that if the old woman could make the evil judge to turn towards her, all the more then the Lord, Who loves us dearly, will listen to us, if we call on Him.

However, many times we find that we do not call on Him, or seek Him, and for many reasons at that. Many among us do not know God well, and we do not have that close and intimate relationship with Him, and He is not the One we turn to first. Instead, we turn towards the many worldly means all around us. We end up depending on those things instead of on God, and some among us also feared God more than we love Him, because we are afraid that He will punish us for our sins. Again, all of these show that we do not truly know God well, as if only that we know Him well, then we will know and realise just how beloved and how fortunate each and every one of us have been, to be blessed as such with God and His love.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is important for many of us is that we need to open our hearts and minds, our whole beings to God’s love. It is precisely because many of us have been so self-centred, selfish and proud, filled with ego and greed, giving in to the temptations all around us that we were unable to recognise the love of God present in our midst, and we are also therefore devoid of that love in our own lives and actions. If only we can learn to love the way that God has loved us all thus far, we will truly be transformed and changed, no longer the wicked creatures of our worldly attachments and desires, but truly becoming worthy people and children of God, a people filled with God’s love, light and hope.

Today, we should all be inspired by the examples set by St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, the saint and martyr whose feast we are celebrating. His great examples in being faithful and loving to God, faith in Him, and also his love and care for his flock, those people entrusted to him by God, all should inspire us all to become better and more dedicated disciples and followers of God ourselves. St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was the Archbishop of Polotsk over the territories in what is now Belarus and parts of northern Ukraine, where back then there were divisions among the faithful people of God between those who were in Communion with the Pope in Rome and those who were in rebellion against the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was one of the bishops who led the faithful who wished to reconcile themselves to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope and restore the unity of the Church, as part of the efforts known as the Union of Lublin. However, that reunification of the churches did not solve all the problems and divisions that existed, as quite a few among the clergy and the people resisted the efforts at reunification, and struggle to maintain their divisions and independence. St. Josaphat Kuntsevych laboured hard to minister to all of his flock and bridge the differences among his flock, including reaching out to those who resisted the efforts of reunification. He continued working hard despite all the opposition he encountered, and which led to his martyrdom as the mob rose up against him and murdered him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the faith and good examples set by St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, and learn to love more generously in our lives, to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters with love, and to love our God with all of our hearts, our strength and our efforts. Let us all be courageous in asking the Lord for help too when we need it, for His guidance and strength, power and encouragement. May the Lord be with us all and be with His Church, so that all of us will always grow ever more in faith and love in Him. May God bless our good works and efforts, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 12 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my opponent!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Saturday, 12 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family, there his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness, he is kind, merciful and upright.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

Saturday, 12 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

3 John 5-8

Beloved, you do well to care for the brothers and sisters as you do. I mean those coming from other places. They spoke of your charity before the assembled Church. It will be well to provide them with what they need to continue their journey, as if you did it for God.

In reality, they have set out on the road for His Name without accepting anything from the pagans. We should receive such persons, making ourselves their cooperators in the work of the truth.

Friday, 11 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained in the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the coming of the end of days, and the end of our own worldly existences just as this current liturgical year is coming to an end. We are also reminded that each one of us as Christians are expected to walk in the path that the Lord has shown to us, to be righteous, just and good as He has taught us to do. And that is our Christian mission and obligation that each one of us have been entrusted with, and we should not forget that, as we carry on living our lives from now on henceforth. We must be good role models for each other and show others how we should follow the Lord our God.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Epistle of St. John the Apostle, the reminder that God loves each and every one of us, and that same love ought to be shown by all of us as Christians, as God’s followers, as His people and children. It is the love which God has for us that made everything possible, and we have hope exactly because of this love. We should have deserved destruction and damnation because of our sins and disobedience against God, and yet, by God’s mercy, love and compassion, we have been given the hope out of our current conundrum and trouble, and we have received the assurance of liberation and salvation from evil, sin and death, all those things that sought to dominate and drag us down to the path towards damnation.

St. John the Apostle spoke to the people of God through his Epistle regarding the commandments and the laws that God has given to each and every one of them. Those laws and commandments teach us to love in the manner that God has loved us first, for us to love others generously, caring for the needs especially for those who are in need of more help and love. Unfortunately, in many occasions throughout our human history and also even within the history of the Church and our Christian faith, many among us have not truly practiced this way of life as the Lord wants us to. We preferred to think of ourselves and our selfish desires, greed, pride and ego instead of caring for others and loving those around us. This is what had become a serious obstacle for so many people in following God truly and faithfully, because they put themselves and their desires before serving God.

St. John also warned the faithful of all those who spread false messages and false ideas contrary to what the Lord Himself had taught and shown us, all those who sought to subvert the messages of truth to their own benefits and desires, to achieve their own ends and goals. At that time, there were all those who sought to change the teachings of the Lord as passed down through the Apostles, as it would also be throughout the history of the Church. Heresies and false teachings had sprung up all the time, causing many of the people of God to be led astray and turn their backs against God and His truth. They gave in to their temptations and refused to listen to God, His Good News and truth. The Lord has reminded us all to remember His love for us, that we may also embody the same love in our own actions.

The Lord Himself has shown us the perfect examples, of Him reaching out to the worst of sinners and all those who had been shunned by the other people, like the tax collectors, the prostitutes and all those who were ostracised because they were diseased, sick, and possessed by evil spirits among others. He did not hold against them their sins, but extended His loving mercy and compassion, reaching out to them, walking among them, and journeying with them, to love them all most tenderly despite the fact that it was them who had earlier on abandoned Him and betrayed Him first, preferring to walk in the path of sin rather than to walk in the path of His righteousness and truth. And that way, God has always been so patient in loving us, that He sincerely and truly desires to be reconciled with us all, despite our many sins.

That was how and why, He decided and willingly took upon Himself the weight and burden of His cross and sufferings, to be rejected and abandoned, betrayed and struck down by the world, and by all those who hated and persecuted Him, so that by His suffering and death, He obeyed His Father’s will most perfectly, and showed unto us the perfect example and manifestation of His love for each and every one of us. He Himself had once said that, there is no greater love than for one to lay down his or her life for a friend, and there, the Lord Himself willingly endured all the sufferings and laid down His life for our sake, that through Him, all of us may be saved and have the sure hope of eternal life and happiness with Him. He endured the most painful and humiliating death, that we may be spared our fated destruction and enter into eternal life.

And why do we have to keep this in mind? That is because God has loved us so wonderfully, that He has generously reached out to us with love. Yet, if we continue to reject and resist Him, then in the end, it is our rejection and refusal for God’s love and mercy that will condemn us to eternal suffering and damnation. Our Gospel passage today is clear, that the Lord Himself reminded us all how the time of reckoning and judgment can come just at any time. Unless we are ever vigilant and ready, and careful in how we live our lives, then we may end up falling down this path towards sin and evil, towards destruction and damnation. We have to be careful as the temptations of worldly desires and greed can indeed be very strong, and even many among the righteous had been tempted and fell from grace because of that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the good examples set by our holy and devout predecessors, and especially today we honour St. Martin of Tours, a great saint and man of God whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Martin of Tours was once a Roman centurion or army captain, who was a renowned soldier and who was also a devout Christian during the times when Christianity was already widespread and no longer persecuted in the Roman Empire. St. Martin of Tours was also famously known in one particular occasion when he encountered the Lord disguised as a poor, old man in the middle of a cold season, without anything to cover or protect himself from the cold. In that occasion, St. Martin did not hesitate and took his sword to cut his centurion’s cloak in half and gave that half to the poor man to protect himself.

That very night, in a vision, St. Martin saw the Lord revealing Himself before him, as the old man holding the piece of cloak that he had cut from his own cloak earlier on. Ever reminded of this appearance of God among the poor and the weak, the less fortunate and the old ones, St. Martin was deeply affected and touched, and eventually, he left the army behind, and was also elected by the people’s acclamation and support as the Bishop of Tours in the southern region of what is now France. St. Martin of Tours dedicated himself wholeheartedly as the shepherd to his flock in Tours and cared for them most tenderly and generously, showing us all what it means for us to love as genuine Christians and showing the love of God through our very actions and deeds, in all of our interactions. He also resisted those who tried to bring about the falsehoods of their heresies to confuse the people, and he was very active in opposing the efforts of the heretics in spreading their falsehoods.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow the good examples set by St. Martin of Tours, in loving one another, especially the unloved ones, the poor and the weak, those who are sick and dying, and those who are ostracised and without anyone to care for them. Let us all walk therefore always ever more faithfully in the path that God has set before us, ever remembering His love for us, and doing the same henceforth to Him and to our fellow brethren, in obedience to His Law and to His will. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 11 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.”

“So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose himself, but whoever gives his life will be born again.”

“I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding corn together, one might be taken and the other left.” Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”