Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, 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 all reminded yet again of the trials, challenges, difficulties and hardships that we may have to face as faithful people of God, as proven by our many predecessors and all the saints and martyrs who had shed their blood and suffered in the midst of their lives and in obeying the Lord and His commandments. Yet, at the same time we are reminded of the assurances that the Lord has provided us His faithful ones, that He will always be by the side of all those who have faith in Him, and He will heal and strengthen them once again, all those who have suffered for His sake and entrusting themselves to Him, just as we have heard in our passages of the day.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard of the words from the author of this Epistle, speaking about the examples of the innumerable witnesses that had existed all around us and at the same time, also looking upon the good examples that the Lord Jesus had brought into our midst, the sufferings, hardships, trials, persecutions and humiliations that He Himself has suffered for our sake. Each and every one of us are reminded that whatever hardship we face in this world, and whatever tough things we have had to endure, all of these had been shared with us by the Lord, Who has taken upon Himself willingly, the entire burden of our many punishments and sins, which He took upon His own shoulders as He bore the heavy burden of His Cross. He carried them all to Calvary, all for the sake of the salvation of our souls.

Then as we heard from our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the moment when the Lord performed His miraculous healing and restoration of two individuals, one of the woman who had been suffering from haemorrhage problems for many years, while the other case was that of the daughter of the local synagogue official, who was very sick and eventually died before the Lord made it to her, but He healed her nonetheless and restored her back to life. Through all these that we have heard in our Gospel passage today and others, we are hence reminded of the providence that God will provide for all those who trust in Him, and that in His own good time, He will raise us all up again from the depth of our darkness and despair, leading us away from the darkness and into the light of salvation.

The woman who had haemorrhage problem had been suffering from her condition for many years, and she had no other recourse but to seek the Lord, as no matter what she had done, as mentioned in the Gospel today, and even with the help of many doctors, they only managed to make her condition worse. She therefore sought the Lord and had such a faith in Him that if only she could touch the fringe of His cloak, she would be healed and her troubles would cease, especially as she likely must have heard how many other miracles had been performed by the Lord. What matters is that she believed in the Lord thoroughly and completely, and entrusted herself to Him. Yet, at the same time, she also did not dare to seek the Lord openly, as her condition according to the Jewish Law and customs would have made her unclean, and she likely did not want to get attention on herself, or be shunned because of that.

We heard how this woman was healed by her faith, as she sought the Lord with faith, and her haemorrhage or bleeding stopped completely. The Lord praised her for her faith, and made an example of how her commitment and faith was so great, and it was by that same faith that she had been healed and saved. The same happened to the daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus as well. Jairus’ faith in the Lord allowed the Lord to come and bring His love and healing upon his daughter, and as we heard, he still believed in the Lord even though those gathered at his place mocked the Lord for saying that his daughter was merely sleeping and not dead. Jairus had faith in the Lord that He could save her, no matter how He would do it, and thus, by that faith, she was rescued.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the messages of these Scripture passages, let us all hence remind ourselves that while challenges, trials, hardships, difficulties may be aplenty in our lives and in our paths, but if we have faith in the Lord and keep our sight upon Him, entrusting ourselves to Him, then we have hope and assurance with us that no matter what, we shall have that promise of true happiness, joy and eternal life through our Lord, through the salvation that He has offered each and every one of us freely. And while we suffer, we are suffering with Him and together with Him, just as He has also borne His Cross, all wounded and pained by the many rejections, humiliations, betrayals and the other wicked things that we had done to Him, despite of His love for us.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is right and just for us to follow the Lord once again more wholeheartedly, and learn to commit ourselves to Him once again, to the best of our abilities. Today, we can model ourselves based on the great examples which our holy predecessor, St. John Bosco, a great priest of the Lord and holy man of God, whose feast we celebrate today, have done. St. John Bosco was remembered greatly for his great piety, love and dedication to God, as well as for his great love and compassionate care for those whom he encountered in the midst of his missions and works, as a priest and most well-known in his role as one who initiated and was in charge of an outreach to the underprivileged youth, those juveniles and teenagers who had none to lead and guide them to the right path.

St. John Bosco helped to get them proper education and place to stay for those who were orphaned and homeless, and cared for their spiritual, mental and material needs. He dedicated much of his time to touch the lives of the underprivileged, and inspired many others to begin similar initiatives, resulting in the blooming of many institutions of Christian education that benefitted especially the underprivileged youths, and in particular underprivileged girls. The faith, dedication and commitment which St. John Bosco has shown us should inspire us all as well in our lives so that hopefully we may also become good sources of inspiration and hope for many others whom we encounter and all those who have witnessed our actions and works.

May the Lord continue to guide us all and bless our many good works and efforts, and may He continue to strengthen and empower us all to be the beacons of His light and truth, and to be the fearless and most faithful ambassadors of His love and grace in our world today. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 5 : 21-43

At that time, Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake, and while He was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around Him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at His feet, and begged Him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.”

Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing from every side. Among the crowd was a woman, who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors, but instead of getting better, she was worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind Him and touched His cloak, thinking, “If I just touch His clothing, I shall get well.” Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint.

But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from Him, so He turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched My clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do You ask who touched You?”

But He kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward trembling and afraid. She knelt before Him, and told Him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” And He allowed no one to follow Him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at Him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and His companions into the room, where the child lay.

Taking her by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha, kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old). The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and He told them to give her something to eat.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 21 : 26b-27, 28, 30ab, 30c-32

I will fulfil my vows before all who revere You. The lowly will eat and be satisfied. Those who seek the Lord will praise Him. May your hearts live forever!

The whole earth will acknowledge and turn to the Lord; the families of nations will worship Him.

Before Him all those who rest in the earth will bow down, all who go down to the dust.

My soul will live for Him. My descendants will serve Him and proclaim the Lord to coming generations; they will announce His salvation to a people yet unborn, “These are the things that He has done.”

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 12 : 1-4

What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us! So let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us.

Let us look to Jesus the Founder of our faith, Who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus Who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary.

Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (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 all reminded of the need for us to have faith, a genuine and strong faith in the Lord, to trust in Him wholeheartedly and not to be easily swayed by fear and indecision in our trust in the Lord. Just as the examples from the Scripture passages today should have highlighted to us, all of us should remember the past examples of how God has provided for His people and how many among them have received liberation and rescue from their trials and troubles. And even when the people of God apparently did not receive any help from the Lord, that is actually more because the Lord operates in His own time and in His will. But no matter what, the Lord will always love us and show His care for us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of that Epistle spoke of the past examples of how people in the past have had faith in God even through their darkest moments, and even when they did falter, the Lord had always helped them out of their predicament. The Lord never abandoned them or left them all alone. Even when they were suffering, the reality is that God has always been with them all the way, and sent to them His deliverance, help and assistance through various means, either directly or indirectly. The Lord has always reached our to His faithful ones, granting them His help and strength, as He had done to Abraham and Sarah in the past, Isaac, Jacob and all the other members of His beloved people and flock.

When Abraham and Sarah were already desperate for a child after having many years of failed attempts to have one, the Lord reassured them and reminded all of them that His promises and Covenant will always hold true no matter what. God made a solemn Covenant between Himself and Abraham. He promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and peoples, and that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the heavens. All these indeed came true, as Abraham trusted in the Lord and followed Him wherever He had led him to. The Lord guided Abraham and protected him, and gave him a son, Isaac, whom He had promised to him from the beginning. Even when the Lord tested Abraham for his faith by asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, while Abraham might have had moments of pain and doubt, he remained faithful nonetheless.

While Sarah also doubted the Lord and even laughed at the suggestion that she would have a child within the year from the Lord Himself Who came to visit Abraham, eventually she remained firm in her faith and trust in the Lord, believing that the Lord will always be faithful and will never abandon His faithful ones. The Lord gave Abraham who was willing to give even his own beloved son as a sign of his faith and trust in the Lord, the assurance of His blessings and faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established with him, sparing Isaac and reminded him and all of us yet again of just how loving, gracious and committed the Lord is to love all of us. Throughout history, this has been repeated and renewed again and again, as the Lord continued to reveal His faithfulness and love to us. The author of this Epistle was also trying to reveal more about the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people as this author had intended.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the the disciples of the Lord Jesus travelling through the lake, during which time a great storm and huge waves came to batter the boat that they were in. In that occasion, the Lord was sleeping while the disciples were panicking and worried that those waves would crush and destroy their boat, which would have likely caused them to drown to their deaths in the middle of the stormy seas. They desperately begged the Lord for help and asked Him to help them, and the Lord rebuked them for their lack of faith and trust in Him. The Lord Jesus then showed His power and authority by commanding the wind and the waves to be still, and immediately the entire storm vanished miraculously to the total astonishment of all the disciples who witnessed it.

Through what we have heard in that Gospel passage we can see how the boat represented the Church of God, while the disciples all represented all the faithful people of God, all of us who are part of God’s Church. The Lord Himself is at the Head of the Church, guiding the boat to its safe destination, just as He has always led us through the many difficulties and challenges facing us in our journey throughout life. Those storms and waves represented the many challenges, trials and obstacles that we will have to face as members and parts of God’s Church, which may indeed tempt us to abandon everything and the Church, seeking for other sources of help rather than to trust in the Lord. That is exactly what happened if someone in that boat were to try to abandon the boat and jump into the water instead of trusting in the Lord.

This is a reminder for each one of us that no matter how tough or difficult our battles and challenges may be, we must not be easily swayed, dissuaded or forced to abandon our path walking with faith in God. We must entrust ourselves in God’s love and guidance, which He has always faithfully given to us all these while, from the examples that we have heard from our Scripture passages today. The Lord has done so much for us that He has not held back from even giving us His only beloved Son, much as Abraham had done earlier in offering Isaac to God. But unlike that offering of Isaac which was just a test by God for Abraham’s faith, God truly sent us His only Son, to suffer and die for us, as the Lamb of God, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice offered for the salvation of all mankind, of all creation.

Can we still not trust in God after He has done so much for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has done so much for us to the point of giving His best and the most perfect gift that He can give us, to have His own Son to carry the huge burdens of our many sins, so that by His coming into this world, He may save us all from our certain impending destruction, death and damnation. His love for us is so great that this Love even overcame the entire combined might of all the sins and the forces of evil arrayed against us. The Lord has shown us His most generous and powerful Love through His Cross, and we are hence reminded again and again to put our trust and faith in Him, and doubt Him no longer. We should not doubt what He has done for our sake, and we should continue to have full faith in Him, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all also follow the good examples of one saint whose life and works can inspire us to deepen our faith and trust in God ever further. I am quite sure that many of us have heard the name St. Thomas Aquinas, a great and holy Priest and servant of God, and also an esteemed Doctor of the Church after his passing from this world. The Universal Church celebrates his feast on this day. He was known for his great devotion to God and great theological masterpieces, particularly his magnum opus, the ‘Summa Theologiae’. As a great theologian and servant of God, St. Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of time and effort to help the people of God to know better about Him and the truth about His love and compassionate mercy towards us. St. Thomas Aquinas did a lot of great works together with his other contemporaries like St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi, who in their own ways help to bring God’s people to be ever closer to Him.

Let us all hence strive to do our best to get to know more about the Lord God, our Saviour and loving Father. Let us all return to Him once again with love and devotion, by following the zeal and the examples showed by the holy lives of the saints, particularly that of St. Thomas Aquinas in today’s Feast celebration, and let us be good role models and examples so that in all the things we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and commit ourselves wholeheartedly, to walk in the path of His grace. May the Lord continue to help and guide us through the many trials and tribulations, the challenges that we may have to face and overcome, in each and every moments of our Christian living. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 35-41

At that time, on that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

So they left the crowd, and took Him away in the boat He had been sitting in, and other boats set out with Him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat, so that it was soon filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

They woke Him up, and said, “Master, do You not care if we drown?” And rising up, Jesus rebuked the wind, and ordered the sea, “Quiet now! Be still!” The wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

But they were terrified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 69–70, 71-72, 73-75

In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old.

Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy covenant.

The oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 11 : 1-2, 8-19

Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith our ancestors were approved. It was by faith that Abraham, called by God, set out for a country that would be given to him as an inheritance; for he parted without knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as a stranger in that promised land. There he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, beneficiaries of the same promise. Indeed, he looked forward to that city of solid foundation of which God is the Architect and Builder.

By faith Sarah herself received power to become a mother, in spite of her advanced age; since she believed that He Who had made the promise would be faithful. Therefore, from an almost impotent man were born descendants as numerous as the stars of heavens, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore.

Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead and had rejoiced in it from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travellers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove that they are looking for their own country. For if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one; so God, Who prepared the city for them is not ashamed of being called their God.

By faith Abraham went to offer Isaac when God tested him. And so he who had received the promise of God offered his only son although God had told him : Isaac’s descendants will bear your name. Abraham reasoned that God is capable even of raising the dead, and he received back his son, which has a figurative meaning.

Saturday, 7 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have listened to the words of the Scriptures, reminding us of the calling for each one of us to remain firmly faithful to the path that the Lord has shown before us, for we have been shown the salvation in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all and we have also received the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom from God. Through all of these we are all called and reminded to walk in the path of God’s Light and resist the temptations of the world that will definitely become great obstacles in our path towards God’s grace and salvation. But if we persevere and remain faithful in Him, God will strengthen us and help us in our journey, and as long as we remain in His grace, we shall be empowered and kept in the path that He has shown us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. John regarding the love of God which had been manifested before all of us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all the whole world. But at the same time, we also heard from the same passage a reminder and warning from the Apostle of those who sought to twist and subvert the message of truth, those false prophets and leaders, who did not remain in God’s path. St. John told all the faithful to keep faithfully the commandments of God, all the Law and the things which they had received from God, that they should remain dedicated to the Lord and everything that He has told them to do. He reminded them that Christ is far greater than everything that those false prophets and leaders had presented to them, the world, the evil one and anything that do not lead to the Holy Presence of God.

St. John told the people of God that they have to be vigilant and only listen to the words snd guidance of the true spirit of God, and not the false spirits and the evils that can mislead them down the wrong paths. The spirit of God shows the path towards the one true Saviour, and the path of righteousness and justice. The Spirit of God will lead the faithful towards Christ, while the false and evil spirits will lead the people towards their downfall and destruction, rejecting the salvation in Christ for false pleasures and joys of the world. Unfortunately, at that time, quite a few among the people of God were tempted away from the path of God’s grace and salvation, and fell into the wrong paths, leading down to damnation. There were indeed a lot of those parties seeking the ruination of the souls of mankind, back then and up till today.

In our Gospel today, we heard of the Lord’s works among His people after the arrest and death of St. John the Baptist, as He went from place to place, in Galilee and other places often considered then as the peripheries of the Jewish community and homeland. He visited those who had been without hope, ostracised and hated by others because of their sickness, their way of life and attitudes, healed them and restored them once again to life. The Lord gave them all the Light of His hope and showed them the path towards His grace and eternal life. He showed the face of God’s love, which became accessible and tangible for us, and the Apostles and many of the disciples who have experienced the same love of God in person, transmitted and passed down this same truth to us through the Church.

And through the Holy Spirit that the Church has been given, coming down upon us all at Pentecost, and passed down to us, through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we too have received the same knowledge and Wisdom of God’s love and most wonderful grace. God has shown us His guidance and help throughout our journey of faith in life, and as long as we remain true and faithful to Him, not being easily swayed or tempted by the persuasions and temptations of the world. We shall remain firmly on the path towards His salvation and grace as long as we keep our focus on Him and not be easily distracted by the many false leads and guidance, and resisting the allures of the lies and the false pleasures of the world that the false prophets and messengers brought upon our midst.

Not only that but we also have the inspiration and examples from the saints, our holy predecessors, men and women who had dedicated their lives to the Lord and showed us all the right way going forward. Today, we celebrate the feast of one of those great saints, namely that of St. Raymond of Penyafort or St. Raymond of Penafort. He was a priest and member of the Dominican Order noted for his great holiness and hard work in evangelisation towards those who have veered off from their righteous path, including that of the King of Aragon, James I, to whom he was a confessor of. St. Raymond disapproved of the actions of the king, who kept a mistress and concubine despite being married in the eyes of the Lord and His Church. And when the king persecuted and disagreed with him, and tried to prevent him from leaving the island he was in, he performed a great miracle as he rode on his cloak on the water to reach Barcelona, where the court of the king was at, in the company of his fellow Dominicans.

Many people witnessed that occasion, the great miracle performed by St. Raymond, and became believers. That also included the king himself, who immediately set himself on the right path, ceasing his previous scandalous and wicked attitudes, and embracing the Lord wholeheartedly from then on. St. Raymond also performed other miracles and wonders, and also committed his work in the field of philosophy and theology, and in the reforms of the Church and other institutions both religious and secular in his role as confessor to the king and in his other responsibilities. St. Raymond of Penyafort always devoted his time and effort to glorify God and spared no expense in doing whatever he could to reach out to more of the people of God, helping to lead them all to the right path towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the good examples set by St. Raymond of Penyafort, in his life and works, in all of the efforts he had done to glorify the Lord and in leading more of his fellow brethren to God’s path and salvation. Let us do our best to follow the Lord and commit ourselves to the same path as well. May the Lord continue to strengthen us in our desire to serve Him and to love Him, and may He empower us all in our journey of faith through life so that we may always remain firmly faithful to Him, guided by the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit and by our firm faith, love and devotion towards God. Amen.

Saturday, 7 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.