Tuesday, 15 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Scripture passages we have heard a very important reminder for us to put our focus and attention on the Lord, our God alone. We must not be distracted by other things in life and follow the foolishness of the people of the past who worshipped and focused their attentions on the created and lesser things of this world than to focus themselves to the One Who created and is the source of all things.

In our first reading today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, St. Paul spoke up against all those who have refused to listen to the words of God and rejected the salvation which He has brought into this world through Jesus Christ, His own begotten Son. And he made this to strengthen the faith of the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles alike, amidst a community which was immersed in pagan worship and lifestyle.

St. Paul was reminding the people that for all the glamour and glories of the world, for all the displays of wealth and worldly pleasures that often accompanied pagan worship and celebrations, all of those were mere illusions and cannot be compared to the truth and glory of Christ, the one and only True God. Those people were distracted from the truth because they would not allow God to enter into their hearts and they were too full of the many temptations of worldliness.

And a parallel to this was also mentioned in the Gospel passage today, in the encounter we heard of between the Lord Jesus and a Pharisee who wondered why Jesus did not wash His hands in the prescribed manner according to the Law when the Pharisee invited Him over for a dinner. The Lord then rebuked the Pharisee for his attention to the wrong details, focusing on the external applications of the Law while failing to understand the true intent and purpose of the Law.

Essentially, the Pharisee and the pagans mentioned by St. Paul all shared the same fault, and that is they focused on the wrong focus in life. They became distracted and fell into the worship and focus on worldly things and idols, the worship of the created beings and things rather than the focus and emphasis on the Creator of all things. The Pharisee might indeed believe in God, but his preoccupation and emphasis on the petty details on the observance of the Law made him to idolise that rather than to focus on the true worship of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the Scripture passages and discussed all these things we have just talked about, we can see that we are all called to find our direction in life and to refocus our attention on God and not on other, worldly things that often distract us in life. We may think that unlike the pagans mentioned by St. Paul, we are Christians and we believe in God and His truth, that we have no idols with us and neither do we worship them.

But we must not forget that whatever it is that can distract us from God can in fact be an idol to us, just as the Pharisee’s example ought to show us. The Pharisee idolised the way that the Law ought to be observed according to the customs of the Pharisees, and in doing so, he was distracted and diverted his attention from truly loving God and from truly having genuine faith in Him. That was why he and many other Pharisees did not and he failed to have faith in the Lord Jesus in the first place.

Let us ask ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ. How many of us have forgotten about God or ignored Him when we are so preoccupied with our livelihood that we ended up spending lots and lots of time trying to advance our careers, gaining more wealth, glory, fame and all sorts of things that we often desire in life. All of these things are the ‘idols’ of our worldly life that we must be aware of and that we must be careful with lest they distract us and drag us away from the path towards God and His saving grace.

On this day, perhaps, we should look upon the example of one particular saint, a holy woman and religious remembered for her great faith and dedication to God, in how we should also live our lives from now on with faith. St. Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus was a Spanish religious sister and member of the Carmelite Order, who together with St. John of the Cross were instrumental in the reform of the Carmelite Order, eventually founding the Discalced Carmelites.

St. Teresa of Avila was concerned with the deterioration and lack of discipline and faith in the Carmelite Order she was in, and therefore together with St. John of the Cross and others, they worked hard for the purification of the intention and the original call of the Order, embracing once again what the founders of the Carmelite Order had intended, living in strict discipline of faith and reemphasising the focus and commitment towards God.

St. Teresa of Avila also wrote extensively on many aspects of the faith, which still continued to inspire many of the faithful through the ages and centuries after her time. That was why Pope Benedict XVI declared her to be one of the Doctors of the Church for her dedication and contributions. We can see the strong and genuine faith in St. Teresa of Avila, her commitment and love for God which each and every one of us should have as well. We should follow in her footsteps and walk in the path she had walked before us in faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore deepen our relationship and faith in God, committing ourselves more and more in each and every passing days, resisting the many temptations present in this world and focusing on God and Him alone. Let us all spend more time and effort in building a living and good relationship with our loving God from now on. May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila, we are brought ever closer to God. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 37-41

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to have a meal with him. So He went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not wash His hands before the dinner.

But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools! He Who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.”

Tuesday, 15 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 1 : 16-25

For I am not ashamed at all, of this Good News; it is God’s power, saving those who believe, first, the Jews, and then, the Greeks. This Good News shows us the saving justice of God; a justice that saves, exclusively by faith, as the Scripture says : The upright one shall live by faith.

For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness, and injustice, of those who have silenced the truth by their wicked ways. For everything that could have been known about God, was clear to them : God Himself made it plain. Because His invisible attributes – His everlasting power and divinity – are made visible to reason, by means of His works, since the creation of the world.

So they have no excuse, for they knew God, and did not glorify Him, as was fitting; nor did they give thanks to Him. On the contrary, they lost themselves in their reasoning, and darkness filled their minds. Believing themselves wise, they became foolish : they exchanged the glory of the Immortal God, for the likes of mortal human beings, birds, animals and reptiles. Because of this, God gave them up to their inner cravings; they did shameful things and dishonoured their bodies.

They exchanged God’s truth for a lie; they honoured and worshipped created things, instead of the Creator, to Whom be praise forever. Amen!

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the faith that we must have in God and we must not doubt Him any longer, no matter what. We must trust in Him and we must not allow temptations to distract us and to pull us away from Him as what happened to the Israelites of the time of the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord spoke before the people making references to both the Queen of the South as well as the prophet Jonah. And the context of this occasion was that the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked the Lord to perform miracles and signs before them that they might believe in Him and follow Him. Yet, the fact is that the Lord had done numerous miracles before their eyes before they asked Him, and they refused to believe.

In fact, plenty of times when they asked the Lord to show them something miraculous was meant to test Him and to find evidences against Him, as they continued to refuse to listen to Him and closed their hearts and minds against Him. They did not have faith in the Lord and they allowed pride and worldly greed and desires to overcome their rationale and wisdom, and as a result, they refused to believe even though they have seen and witnessed the wonders of God many times.

St. Paul in our first reading passage today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome spoke firmly and courageously of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Whom he was serving as an Apostle, and laid before the faithful in simple and straightforward terms, who the Lord Jesus truly is, the One Whom God had promised to His people as the Saviour of the whole world and by Whose hands, mankind were to be saved.

As a significant proportion of the earliest Christians were members of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the Mediterranean including in Rome, St. Paul alluded to the Lord Jesus being the One Who fulfilled the many prophecies of the prophets of God, the One promised to bring mankind into eternal life and salvation, and by the supreme act of love on the Cross of His sacrifice, Christ brought salvation into the world.

And that was the sign of Jonah as alluded by the Lord Himself in the Gospel passage today. The Lord would descend into the depths of hell until the third day of His resurrection, just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great whale. And just as Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh to remind them of their wickedness that led them to repent from their sins, the Lord Jesus came into this world to call us to repent from our sins.

Through all of these, and what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, we really need to reflect deeply on our own lives and actions thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God all these while or were our faith more of the superficial kind, or just of a formality and paying lip service to God and the Church? We need to discern what we have to do from now on in our lives as faithful Christians, that is as those who truly believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today perhaps we should also look at the inspiring examples shown by this day’s saint, namely Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the early leaders of the Church who endured much difficulties and challenges from even his youth, as it was told that he lived formerly as a slave during his early years. When he was eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter and leader of the Church, he lived through a difficult time of persecution of the Christian faithful.

There were challenges from both outside and from within the Church at the time, as disagreements in the Church leadership actually caused bitter division and election of a rival Pope, St. Hippolytus of Rome. And during those years, persecution of Christians would end up causing the arrest and eventual suffering and martyrdom of Pope St. Callixtus I and many other Christians of his time. Nonetheless, they lived their lives with great faith and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on renew our conviction and commitment to live as better Christians, to be more faithful in all things and to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters around us with ever greater love and faith. May God through the intercession of His faithful saints, especially Pope St. Callixtus I, continue to bless us in our daily lives. Amen.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.