Saturday, 23 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, beginning with the Second Book of Chronicles, detailing what happened during the reign of king Joash of Judah, the son of king Ahaziah of Judah and his queen Athaliah. In yesterday’s reading, we heard how Athaliah seized power after her husband Ahaziah died, and she tried to eradicate the entirety of the house of David, to secure the rulership and the kingdom for herself.

But by the grace of God, one of the scions of David survived, namely Joash, saved by his own nurse, who helped to hide him away in the Temple of God under the tutelage and protection of the High Priest Jehoiada. High Priest Jehoiada was an upright man, and was a devout person, who committed himself to God, unlike the kings and rulers, and many of the people of Judah.

Jehoiada himself had a son, Zechariah, who was mentioned in today’s first reading as well. When Joash was young, it was likely that he and Zechariah would have grown up together, and were probably good friends to each other. Then, when Joash was of age, and ready to take up the rightful kingship belonging to him, Jehoiada arranged with the military leaders and the people to overthrow the usurper, Athaliah.

That was how Joash rose to power as king, and it was told that as long as the High Priest Jehoiada was alive, the king and the people followed the Lord and turned towards Him with faith, repenting from the sins of their ancestors and predecessors. However, the moment the High Priest Jehoiada passed away, the king began to turn the people back to their old, sinful ways.

That was the background of how the situation came to the condition described in the first reading passage today. The king and his people had turned to pagan idols and worshipped those idols which the High Priest Jehoiada and the righteous faithful had thrown away and put aside, and the people began to sin once again to God through their disobedience of His laws and commandments.

Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada protested against the king, to remind him of the sins he had committed, and chastised Joash for turning away from the righteous path that his father Jehoiada had guided him into. But the king would not listen to reason, and instead, he continued doing what was wicked in God’s sight, and even, in the end, killed Zechariah who kept on criticising him.

And we heard how king Joash met his end at the hands of the Arameans, as God handed him over to his enemies, for his sins and lack of repentance. That was the fate that awaited all those who have not been faithful to God and His ways, and instead succumb to the temptations of the world, as the Lord Jesus mentioned in today’s Gospel Reading passage.

In that Gospel passage, the Lord chastised all those who worry about material goods, about food and about all things of the world which they desire and want in life. They worry and think a lot about all these things every day and every moment, and they forget that all of them are merely transient and temporary. God will surely, in His own way, and through those who are around us, provide for all that we need.

But we mankind are often easily tempted, tempted by the many temptations of worldly pleasures, of power, of wealth, of fame, of influence, of worldly glory and all other things that prevent us from being truly faithful to the Lord. We fall into those temptations just as king Joash also fell into his temptations. When the High Priest Jehoiada was still alive, there was a strong authority that kept the king’s mind and actions in check, but the moment he was gone, the king became uncontrollable and fell into sin.

Especially those who were entrusted with power, authority, wealth and influence are most vulnerable to the temptations that always come our way. But that does not necessarily mean that all those with power, authority, wealth and influence are wicked and evil. Rather, it means that the greater the blessings we receive, the greater indeed is the responsibility that we have in order to keep faithfully in us, the faith we have in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to think about our own lives. Have we been faithful to the Lord all these days? Or have we instead been so preoccupied with our own busy dealings and all the tempting things, that we worry about all those things, and forget that our primary objective in life is to serve God and to do our best through our actions to glorify Him?

Let us all turn towards the Lord wholeheartedly from now on, and devote ourselves, our time, effort and attention to serve Him and to love all of His people, by being true Christians, truly faithful in all of our actions, words and deeds. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 23 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

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, 23 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 88 : 4-5, 29-30, 31-32, 33-34

I have made a Covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish his descendants forever; I build his throne for all generations.

I will keep My Covenant firm forever, and My love for him will endure. His dynasty will last forever; and his throne, as long as the heavens.

If his sons forsake My law and fail to follow My decrees, if they violate My statutes and do not keep My commandments.

I will punish their crime with the rod, and their offences, with the scourge; yet, I will not withdraw My love from him, nor will I withdraw My faithfulness.

Saturday, 23 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

2 Chronicles 24 : 17-25

After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came to pay court to the king, and the king now turned to them for advice. The Judaeans abandoned the house of YHVH, the God of their ancestors, and worshipped the Asherah poles and idols. Because of this sinful activity, God was angry with Judah and Jerusalem. He sent them prophets to bring them back to YHVH, but when the prophets spoke, they would not listen.

The Spirit of God took control of Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said, “God says this : Why are you disobeying the commandments of YHVH? You cannot prosper. You have abandoned YHVH and He will abandon you.”

They then plotted against him and, by order of the king, stoned him in the court of YHVH’s house. King Joash forgot the kindness of Jehoiada, the father of Zechariah, and killed Jehoiada’s son who cried out as he died, “Let YHVH see and do justice!” When a year had gone by, the Aramaean army made war on Joash. They reached Judah and Jerusalem, and killed all the officials among the people, sending back to the king of Damascus all that they had plundered from them.

Though the Aramaean army was small, YHVH delivered into its power an army of great size, for they had abandoned Him, the God of their ancestors. The Aramaeans wounded Joash and when they withdrew they left him a very sick man; and his officers, plotting against him to avenge the death of the son of Jehoiada the priest, murdered him in his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, though not in the tombs of the king.

Friday, 22 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and 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 Scripture passage from the Book of Kings, in which the story of queen Athaliah of Judah was highlighted. Queen Athaliah was the wife of king Ahaziah of Judah, who was killed with the descendants of Ahab, as Elijah and Elisha had prophesied, by Jehu, the new king of Israel. And having heard that her husband was dead, Athaliah went on to seize power for herself, and eliminated all the immediate relatives of the king.

Yet what Athaliah had done was unjust and unlawful, as she was not supposed to gain the crown and rulership over Judah and Israel for herself, as she did not belong to the House of David. God had decreed that the house of David alone shall have the kingdom of Israel for theirs and their inheritance, forever and ever. But Athaliah did not hesitate to take action, and commanded a brutal massacre of all the possible threats to her rule.

It is likely that she was overcome with her ego, pride, and most importantly greed and desire for power. It does not explain otherwise why she would do such a vile action for the sake of gaining the rulership over the kingdom and worldly power. And indeed, it is such a dangerous desire, that ended up in her committing the killing of so many people, even young children.

This is related very well, then, to what we are hearing in our Gospel passage today. In that passage, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about the futility of the treasures of the world that can perish and be destroyed, and how we mankind often seek to try to gain them all for our own use. And He also told them indirectly how those things could end up corrupting us, ending up with us engulfed by sin and darkness.

Perhaps we should examine today’s readings more closely in conjunction with the lives of the three saints whose feast we celebrate today. St. Paulinus of Nola was born into a rich Roman senatorial family, with bright prospects in the future, and he was well educated and intellectual, promising a good career in life. He was appointed as governor and ruler of a province, but slowly, the attraction of the faith was growing in him. He was still a pagan in his early years.

Eventually he was baptised and grew more and more religious and devout day after day. After he and his wife lost his only child at a young age, both of them dedicated themselves to God, and eventually St. Paulinus of Nola was ordained to priesthood, and later on became the bishop of Nola. He devoted much of his energy, time and effort to serve his flock and to improve their faith. He is truly the example of what the Lord mentioned in today’s Gospel, that is to seek a greater treasure than the worldly treasures.

Now, if St. Paulinus of Nola showed us the model of Christian living faithfully to the Gospel and to the Lord’s way, then the other two saints showed yet again, how mankind’s greed and desire could have wrecked such havoc due to their relentless pursuit of worldly treasures, influence, power and all sorts of wickedness, and then, they showed us, that as Christians we should remain firmly rooted in our faith despite the temptations to do otherwise.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were the martyrs of the so-called ‘English reformation’, when king Henry VIII of England forcibly removed the Church in England from their obedience to Rome and from their part within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. For a background, king Henry VIII used to be a great defender of the faith, even defending vigorously the holy Catholic faith and the seven Sacraments from the heretics.

However, what led the king to commit such a heinous act? It was his obsession with the preservation of his dynasty and therefore legacy, and at that time, the measure of a man’s success is how much wealth and fame one could attain and amass, and most importantly, how lasting one’s family and dynasty is. King Henry VIII could not have a son from his first marriage, and he desperately wanted a son, as at that time, only a son could be seen as a successful heir, and not a daughter, although daughters were indeed allowed to inherit the kingdom.

He tried very hard to have his first marriage annulled so that he could remarry and produce a male heir to the throne of England. However, due to the complicated historical condition at the time, the Pope was unable to grant him the permission to do so. And in truth, such an action would have also scandalised the faith, as marriages could only be annulled for valid reasons, and not being able to produce a male heir was not one of those valid reasons.

But king Henry VIII persisted in his attempts, and eventually, he took the drastic and wicked action of sundering the entire Church in England from their part in the Universal Church. There were many who remained true to their faith and obedience to the Pope and the Universal Church, including St. Thomas More, who was actually king Henry’s Chancellor and St. John Fisher, the influential Bishop of Rochester and the former tutor of the king.

St. John Fisher defended the marital rights of the Queen and opposed the king, and while St. Thomas More was persuaded to give his support to the king’s cause in exchange of even greater wealth and power, he refused to do so. He would rather, with St. John Fisher and many other martyrs of the faith at that time, choose to suffer rather than to betray his faith in God and abandon the true Church.

Now, once again, we see how the actions of men who were overcome by greed and worldly temptations led to such great sufferings and tragedies for the faithful. And it also proved the Lord’s point about the futility of human and worldly material goods, as in the case of king Henry VIII, who would go on to marry a total of six times, had only one sickly son in the end, who eventually died at a young age after succeeding Henry, without any heir, ending the dynasty. But the harm had been done, and many were martyred defending their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have discussed and heard, let us all reflect on our own lives. Have our lives been filled with holiness and faith in God, or have we rather been filled with desire, greed, pride, ego, hatred and all sorts of things that often tempt us in this life? As Christians, all of us must make the conscious effort to reject those temptations, especially for false worldly treasures, and turn to the Lord with all of our hearts.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith, that we will be able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, following the examples of His holy saints, St. Paulinus of Nola, and the holy martyrs, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Amen.

Friday, 22 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

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, 22 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 131 : 11, 12, 13-14, 17-18

YHVH swore to David a promise, and He will remain true to it : “I will keep your descendants on your throne.”

“If your sons keep My Covenant and the decrees I have taught them; their sons, too, will sit forever upon your throne.”

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

From here, a Saviour shall come forth, a Son of David; here, shall shine forever, the lamp of My Anointed. In shame will I clothe His enemies, but upon His head a crown shall shine.