Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us all about the need for us to trust not in our own human power, abilities, greatness or achievements, but rather, in the power and providence of God. Many of us have not trusted enough in God and prefer rather to take matter into our own hands, being concerned and worried about our daily living and focusing on all the wrong things.

In our first reading today we listened to the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and to the faithful in Corinth, that if one were to boast, it would be best for that person not to boast of his own greatness or power, but rather, of the greatness and glory of God. St. Paul himself gave an example, through his own tireless ministry and hard work among the people he did not glorify himself or his own achievements, in the many miracles he performed and in the many things he accomplished, but he continued to glorify and praise God.

Of course, St. Paul also mentioned the temptations and difficulties he faced, the temptations of pride and greed in his heart. After all, he was still just a human being, prone to being tempted by all these wicked and negative feelings, emotions and desires just as we are. But he did not let those things to become obstacles in the way of his faith. On the contrary, he remained firmly convinced and strongly dedicated in his faith in God.

He trusted the Lord rather than his own power, for in the end, none of the means of this world, be it power, money, prestige, fame, glory or whatever it is that we mankind often seek and desire in this world, could have gained him anything that is true and lasting. In our Gospel passage today, this was exactly what the Lord mentioned to His disciples, when He revealed the folly of those who worry and are concerned about their daily needs and wants, be it for things to eat or for things to wear.

And today we celebrate the feast of a few saints, whose lives have been exemplary and filled with great examples of dedication and commitment to God. They are St. Paulinus of Nola, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. All of them put their trust in God and believed firmly in the providence and the power of God rather than in their own human power and capabilities. St. Paulinus of Nola was a bishop and one of the influential leaders of the Church in the final days of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, while St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are the two saints and martyrs of the English Reformation and persecution.

St. Paulinus of Nola was remembered for his dedication to the Lord and for his renunciation of wealth and worldly glory for asceticism and simple living, having been born as a senatorial class member and a privileged noble. He was once an influential governor of the province in Northern Italy and a trusted confidant of the Roman Emperor, before an occasion when after he has been baptised as a Christian and losing his child, he chose to withdraw from the world.

Eventually he became a bishop and served the faithful in the region of Nola, dedicating himself for over twenty years to the flock he had been entrusted with, spending his money, time, energy and effort for the good of the faithful and the Church there. St. Paulinus of Nola truly showed us all what it means to be a faithful Christian, trusting completely in God and doing everything to glorify God and not himself.

And today we also then celebrate the feast of two martyr saints of the English Reformation, the famous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. St. Thomas More was the Chancellor and right-hand man to King Henry VIII, the one who unilaterally initiated the English Reformation due to his insistence to remarry another woman despite still being legally and lawfully married to his Queen, and thus separating the English Church from the Universal Church.

St. John Fisher meanwhile was one of the influential leaders of the Church in the Kingdom of England, as the Bishop of Rochester and a close confidant of King Henry VIII’s father. He was also the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and tutor to King Henry VIII. It was widely told that King Henry VIII’s highly acclaimed treatise ‘Assertio Septem Sacramentorum’ or the ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ against the heresies of Protestantism was actually written by St. John Fisher.

Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were strong opponents of the King’s efforts to remarry another woman according to his desires, and worked very hard to resolve the issue and preventing the rupture in Christendom due to the king’s continued insistence to follow his will. And when the King decided to break away the relationship and Communion with the Universal Church of Rome, the two men remained steadfast in their dedication to the true Church.

Despite the challenges, the persuasions, the coercions and pressures for them to abandon their steadfastness to their faith and to obey instead the demands of the King, amidst the promises that they would continue to enjoy the favour of the King and all sorts of good things and worldly goodness they had thus enjoyed then and more, should they abandon their opposition to the King. But they remained firm in their faith, and as such, died as holy martyrs of the faith.

Through all the examples shown by these great saints, surely all of us should be inspired to live as better Christians, more and more devoted to the Lord, and putting Him above all else in our lives. Let us all not worry about worldly things and concerns, things that are not permanent and things that cannot bring real happiness to us in the first place. Let us turn to God from now on, inspired by the good examples of His holy servants, our holy predecessors from now on. Amen.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 6 : 24-34

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate one and love the other; or he will be loyal to the first and look down on the second. You cannot, at the same time, serve God and money.”

Therefore, I tell you, not to be worried about food and drink for yourself, or about clothes for your body. Is not life more important than food; and is not the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest, and do not store food in barns; and yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more worthy than they are?”

“Can any of you add a day to your life by worrying about it? Why are you so worried about your clothes? Look at how the flowers in the fields grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field, which blooms today and is to be burnt in an oven tomorrow, how much more will He clothe you? What little faith you have!”

“Do not worry, and say : What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? or : What shall we wear? The pagans busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart, first, on the kingdom and righteousness of God; and all these things will also be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 33 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Come, listen to Me, My children; I will show you how to fear YHVH. If you desire long life; if you want to enjoy prosperity.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

2 Corinthians 12 : 1-10

It is useless to boast; but if I have to, I will go on, to some visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a certain Christian : fourteen years ago he was taken up to the third heaven. Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows. But I know that this man, whether in the body or out of the body – I do not know, God knows – was taken up to Paradise, where he heard words that cannot be told : things which humans cannot express.

Of that man I can indeed boast, but of myself I will not boast except of my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, it would not be foolish of me, for I would speak the truth. However, I better give up, lest somebody think more of me than what is seen in me, or heard from me. Lest I become proud, after so many and extraordinary revelations; I was given a thorn in my flesh, a true messenger of Satan, to slap me in the face. Three times, I prayed to the Lord, that it leave me, but He answered, “My grace is enough for you; My great strength is revealed in weakness.”

Gladly, then, will I boast of my weakness, that the strength of Christ may be mine. So I rejoice, when I suffer infirmities, humiliations, want, persecutions : all for Christ! For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about seeking the true treasures of our life. Are we able to discover this true treasure or are we going to be distracted by the other false treasures of this world that do not lead to true happiness and joy? That is what the Scripture passages today hope to remind us all as Christians in how we live our lives in this world today.

In our first reading passage taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, the Apostle recounted the many difficulties and challenges that he had had to experience throughout his missionary journeys to the many places and cities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region. He had to endure the rejection from many people, the suffering of imprisonment and torture, almost losing his life on several occasions and others.

And given a choice, he could have a very different life altogether. For the context, St. Paul himself is of a privileged background at a time when people throughout the Roman Empire were classified into many different social status and groupings, from the lowest of all, the slaves, all the way to the wealthiest and the most privileged among the Roman citizens. St. Paul was not just a highly educated and intelligent person, but he was also a Roman citizen, a rare feat accomplished by one of the Jewish people at that time.

In his early life, as a member of the Pharisees, he had wielded great influence and power as a young zealot going about hunting the early Christians and persecuting all those who believed in the Lord Jesus, and he could have enjoyed such a prestigious life, respected and honoured by the people around him, and enjoying the support and respect of those who were in power at that time to have a good and enjoyable life then.

He could have avoided all the sufferings, pains and difficulties that he had mentioned and instead enjoyed all the good things that the world had to offer, in wealth, in fame, in human glory and praise, in prestige and power, all sorts of things that we mankind often seek in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction in this world. But this was not the path that St. Paul chose to take.

St. Paul instead sought the true treasure that is far more precious and far better than those treasures of the world. For none of the treasures mentioned earlier could last forever, and they were illusory and temporary in nature at best. None of the wealth, fame, glory and praise can bring us true and everlasting happiness, and in fact, if we look throughout our history, we can see so many occasions when all these things brought more sorrow than joy.

Why is that so? That is because we mankind are hard to satisfy, and we are often never satisfied by whatever we already have. We crave for even more of those things we desire, and when our desires collide with that of another, we can cause suffering, pain and unhappiness to others, all because we want to satisfy our own selfish desires for pleasure, joy and happiness in this world.

St. Paul instead sought the true treasure of his life, that is the Lord Himself, the One Who alone can give us true happiness in life. For it is in the Lord alone that we can be made whole again, in our whole existence, the One Who will reward us with true treasures of joy and happiness by our faith in Him. And this promise of true and everlasting joy, of total freedom from the suffering caused by our sins, is what had empowered St. Paul to endure through all the difficult challenges and sufferings he had to endure for so many years.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of another saint, whose life can also be an inspiration and example for us to follow, in how he has dedicated himself to the Lord, in seeking Him as the treasure of his life. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into the noble Italian Gonzaga family and therefore was rightfully going to inherit his family’s position and fortune, title and power, only for him to shun them all by choosing the path of commitment and dedication to God.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s family tried to dissuade him from his chosen path, trying to persuade him to take a better path, or at least a path that would preserve his status and privileges as a noble. However, none of these could dissuade St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who remained firm in his decision to dedicate himself completely to God as a Jesuit. And in the midst of that pursuit, he died as a dedicated and holy servant of God due to a serious epidemic at that time.

The courage and bravery of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in rejecting the privileges and norms of his time for the sake of glorifying God is something that each and every one of us as Christians should be inspired by, in how we ourselves can live our lives faithfully, dedicating ourselves each and every day with ever more commitment and faith from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to guide us in our journey, that we too may have the courage of the saints, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Aloysius Gonzaga amongst many others. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 6 : 19-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not store up treasures for yourself here, on earth, where moth and rust destroy it; and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief come and steal it.

For where your treasures are, there, also, will your heart be. The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.