Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, all of us are strengthened and reminded of the Lord reassuring all of us that He will bless us, strengthen us and restore to us the true glory and happiness that we are meant to receive, and yet failed because of our disobedience and sins. However, this also requires us to be open and to be willing to welcome the Lord into our hearts and minds, into our beings to transform us and change us.

In our first reading today, we heard about the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Amos to His people Israel, those in the northern kingdom of Israel who have been separated from their brethren in the kingdom of Judah in the south. The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Israelites and he spoke of the upcoming reckoning and judgment that the people would suffer for their rebellions and disobedience against God.

Earlier on this week, from the same prophet Amos we have heard the words of God regarding the destruction of Israel and the downfall of the false priesthood and false idol worship at Bethel which king Jeroboam of Israel had promoted to keep the Israelites under his rule from returning to the House of David’s allegiance. All of these would eventually come true as the northern kingdom of Israel would be crushed and destroyed by their enemies and the Assyrians, the people led into exile.

But then, as we heard in our first reading passage today, the Lord also told His people through the prophet Amos of His mercy and compassion towards them, that His love for them is such that He would bring them back once again into His embrace and love, and He would restore them to the good old days, when God and His people were in harmony, as were in the days of king David and king Solomon.

All of these showed us all that firstly, God is always ever loving towards us even though we have disobeyed Him, angered Him and betrayed Him for other idols, gods and forgot about Him for our own worldly pursuits and desires. But then at the same time, if we disobey Him and lead a life of sin, reckoning and judgment will also come our way, and that is to be our fate, unless we accept God’s generous love and mercy.

God has always offered His love and mercy generously to us, but are we willing and are we open to accept them? For us to receive the fullness of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, then we need to heed what the Lord told His disciples and the Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. In that passage, we heard the Lord using the parable to teach exactly this meaning, by saying in response to the Pharisees who questioned and probably even ridiculed the Lord and His disciples for them not following the fasting rules as written in the Law.

The Lord then rebutted them saying that while He was with them, they would not fast because truly, Him being present with them was a joyous time, not to be marred by the sorrowful and penitential nature of fasting. It was only when He depart from them, a premonition for His suffering, death and sacrifice on the Cross, that they would fast, in sorrow for their sins. But God would restore them as He gloriously triumphed in His Resurrection and gather them once again, strengthening them and giving them the guide in going forward.

Then, the Lord used the parable of the wine and the wineskin to highlight first of all, that the ways followed and advocated by the Pharisees were incompatible with the true path that the Lord was revealing to His people, He used the analogy of new wine that ought to be paired with new wineskin, or else the wine would destroy the old wineskin, and vice versa if old wine is kept in new wineskin. The old way of the Pharisees, their preoccupation and distraction with the minute details and appearances, were therefore incompatible with those who want to seek God with true faith.

And then, with the same parable, the Lord also wants us all to know that disobedience, wickedness, evil and sin are all incompatible with His path, and if we do not change our ways, then we will be judged by exactly our disobedience and sins, and also by our refusal to change our ways. That is why, with this parable, the Lord wants us to realise that to follow Him, and to receive the fullness of His generous love and forgiveness, all of us must change our ways, and embrace the righteousness of God.

Today, we have a great example and inspiration to follow, in the person of St. Elizabeth of Portugal as we celebrate her feast day this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a royal princess of the Kingdom of Aragon and married into the Portuguese royal family, becoming the Queen consort of Portugal. She has been noted for her great piety even from her early youth, as she regularly attended daily Mass and said the Divine Office daily.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal continued her pious practices and dedication to the Lord even after becoming queen, devoting herself to love her people and care for them, especially those who were poor and sick. For her actions, she was actually disliked by some among the nobles and the royalty who considered her actions unbecoming of a royalty, more so for a monarch and queen. Nonetheless, this did not discourage her, and in fact, her dedication and sincerity moved many others to follow her footsteps, and even her husband the king, was also convinced to leave behind a sinful life he had led up to then.

And when her husband passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal retreated to a convent and continued to care for the poor and the sick as she had always done, establishing hospitals and projects to help those who were uncared for and dying, and to give lodging to pilgrims and those who were homeless and suffering. Through all of her efforts, her great and consistent piety and devotion to God, many people were touched and converted, and all of us can indeed also follow in her footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then reflect on our own lives. Have we been living our faith genuinely all these while? Or have we instead been tempted by our various desires and all the things that distracted us from being able to give ourselves to God with all of our hearts? Let us change our way of life, that while once we might have lived in sin and committed what was unworthy of God, from now on, we commit ourselves to a new path and a new life, walking righteously with God, in the path He has shown us.

May all of us be inspired by the good examples, faith and genuine sincerity showed by St. Elizabeth of Portugal, that we ourselves may grow in faith and be ever closer to God, and from now on, remain righteous and good in His presence. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He guide us in the path of life, and bless our every good and faithful endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

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

Psalm 84 : 9, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

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

Amos 9 : 11-15

On that day, I shall restore the fallen hut of David and wall up its breaches, and raise its ruined walls; and so built it as in days of old. They shall conquer the remnant of Edom, and the neighbouring nations, upon which My Name has been called.” Thus says YHVH, the One Who will do this.

YHVH says also, “The days are coming when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes overtake the sower. The mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills shall melt. I shall bring back the exiles of My people Israel; they will rebuild the desolate cities and dwell in them.”

“They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will have orchards and eat their fruit. I shall plant them in their own country and they shall never again be rooted up from the land which I have given them,” says YHVH your God.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus. St. Thomas was mostly remembered in the Gospels as the one disciple who have always been skeptical and doubtful about the Lord, and was kind of lukewarm in his faith and in his commitment to follow the Lord. St. Thomas has always been kind of a dissident, and the last one to believe, including in His Resurrection.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord when He spoke of His coming persecution at the hands of His enemies, and when He mentioned that He wanted to go to Judea, St. Thomas sarcastically commented before everyone, that everyone ought indeed to follow Him, and follow Him to their certain deaths. And lastly as we heard in our Gospel passage, St. Thomas would not be convinced when the other Apostles told him that the Lord has risen from the dead.

St. Thomas was only convinced when the Lord Himself suddenly appeared again before him and the other disciples, and as St. Thomas earlier on challenged that he would not believe unless he could put his finger into the wounds and the side of the Lord, to know that He was truly the same Jesus Who suffered and died on the Cross and yet inexplicably rose from the dead, thus the Lord invited St. Thomas to do exactly what he had said that he would do.

It was then that St. Thomas declared before all, ‘You are my Lord and my God’, out of love for God and probably even ashamed and embarrassed for the lack of faith he has shown all those while. St. Thomas would then go on to serve the Lord faithfully, and his faith strengthened and no longer wavering, the Apostle has shown us all what it means by true conversion of heart, a profound change from one lacking in faith and filled with doubt into one ardent and firm in the love he had for God.

St. Thomas would later be remembered for his great contributions to the Church, especially for his ministry to the community in faraway region now known as the southern coasts of the Indian subcontinent, where unto this very day, the Christian communities are often called ‘St. Thomas Christians’ and the various communities traced their faith and the roots of their communities to St. Thomas and his courageous works of evangelisation as he preached the words of God’s truth in those mission lands.

Like the other Apostles, St. Thomas would also encounter martyrdom at the end of his earthly journey. But for all that he had done, for the sake of the Lord, he had certainly done a lot more than what he had once doubted about the Lord, being willing to suffer and die for the Lord’s sake, to endure bitter sufferings and hardships for His Holy Name and for His greater glory. And through all these, all of us should also be convinced and be ready and willing to follow the Lord all the same in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas might once have doubted the Lord so much and stubbornly refused to believe in Him. But how are we then different from him? Are we not also often doubtful of the Lord, or else we also tend to forget about Him, ignore His words and truth and preferred instead to listen to the lies of the devil and follow his false leads and ways? Have we ourselves not been stubborn in refusing to follow the Lord and obey Him?

Let us all look upon ourselves and cast St. Thomas the Apostle as our model and guide, together with the many other Apostles, saints and martyrs of the Lord, the innumerable holy men and women of God. And even more importantly, let us all follow in the footsteps of these holy and dedicated people, and realise that indeed, there is no saints without a past and there is no sinners without a future. This means that all of us have sinned and erred at some point in our lives, but what matters is that we turn away from those sins, and embrace God’s love and mercy, be forgiven and reconciled to Him.

Let us all realise that each one of us are also unsteady in faith, having our own doubts and vulnerabilities, and that is exactly why we are easily tempted and pushed to turn into sin and rebellion against God. But we have to leverage on the fact that even the saints were once sinners, doubters, filled with sin and disobedience, and for some, even great sinners and wicked, and yet, in the end, they allowed God to enter into their lives and transform them for the better.

Are we willing and able to commit to this new path, brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we want to love God once again with renewed hope and strength, and do we want to dedicate ourselves to Him as the Apostles, the saints and martyrs had, particularly St. Thomas the Apostle, whose renewed faith and zeal led him to perform wonderful good works among the people of God even in distant lands?

Let us all be better Christians, be more dedicated and committed from now on, focusing our attention on God and spending time and effort to serve Him in whatever capacities and opportunities we have been given. May God bless us all and guide us in our journey, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 24-29

At that time, Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with the other Eleven when Jesus came. The other disciples told Him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, the disciples were again inside the house and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into My side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe!”

Thomas said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see Me, do you not? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 2 : 19-22

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy Temple, in the Lord.

In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Thursday, 2 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of God’s love and generous compassion, His ever wonderful compassion and mercy that He extends to all of His people, to all of us who have disobeyed against Him and sinned. All of us are privileged to have the opportunity to receive this most wonderful grace from God, and we should heed His call for us to return to Him and be forgiven.

Yet, unfortunately, it is very often that we shut Him off and turned away from Him, refusing to listen to Him and His patient calls for us, despite all the efforts He had shown in trying to be reconciled with us. And the reason for this is because we are too proud or that we trust too much in our own power and capabilities, and we feel that we cannot be wrong, and in our ego and pride, we end up falling deeper and deeper into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what we heard in our first reading today, as the prophet Amos went face to face against the false priest Amaziah, the priest of Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel. That time, the northern kingdom was just recently established under the reign of king Jeroboam, who ruled over the ten tribes of Israel in rebellion from the House of David. King Jeroboam feared that the Israelites would turn from him and return to David’s descendants as they continued to go to Jerusalem to worship God, and hence, he established a rival centre of worship in Bethel and Dan in the two corners of his new kingdom.

But in doing so, Jeroboam led the people to sin against God, as he erected golden idols in those places and chose priests not from among the Levites as required by the Law, and therefore, led the people away from the true worship of God. God sent the prophet Amos to bring His words and warnings, to remind the king and the people of their sins and to return to the true way of the Lord, but the king and his people refused to listen.

And one of the priests of Bethel, named Amaziah as described in our first reading today, harassed Amos and went against him as he saw Amos as a rival and a threat to his own influence, and that was also why Amaziah went up to king Jeroboam complaining about Amos earlier before that. Amaziah wanted Amos to get out of Israel and return to the land of Judah, and perform his works in Israel and Bethel no more, although in truth, Amos was doing the work of God while Amaziah and king Jeroboam sinned against Him.

As the false priest of Bethel hardened his heart, likely driven by his ego and personal desires, he shut himself off from God, and Amos brought the word of the Lord’s warning, how the disobedience and sins committed would eventually lead to reckoning and grave repercussions. These same attitudes would unfortunately be adopted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law during the Lord Jesus’ time, as they refused to believe in Him, doubted Him and did many things in trying to put obstacles in His work.

In what we heard in our Gospel today, the Lord was met with a man suffering from paralysis, and He extended His mercy and compassion to the suffering man, healing him and saying to him, that his sins have been forgiven. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were angered by this and alleged that the Lord Jesus was a blasphemer and sinner simply because they consider that only God alone could forgive sins, and they refused to believe and to listen to the truth that Jesus Himself, is God Incarnate.

Similar to the case of the priest Amaziah, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were too engrossed by their pride and desire to maintain their prestige, status and power in the community, that they saw the Lord as their rival, and therefore tried all they could to try to undermine His works and authority. But the Lord rebuked them all, showing them that He is truly Who He has said He was, the Messiah of the world, the Son of God, and One with authority over life and death, over everything and anything.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we look upon the examples presented before us today, let us all reflect on them and look deep within our own lives. Have we also been like the priest Amaziah and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, refusing to listen to God and follow Him just because we are so full of ego and pride, and so easily tempted by our worldly desires and concerns? This is what happens if we allow ourselves to be controlled by those desires and other things that lead us away from God.

How do we then do our part to overcome these? It is by resisting the temptation of pride and desire, by being more humble and be filled with more generosity of heart and love for God and for our fellow men in our every words, actions and deeds. We have to learn to die to our ego, to our greed and personal ambitions, and instead of putting ourselves and our egoistic self in the forefront, we should put God as the centre and focus of our whole existence.

God has always been kind and merciful, compassionate and loving, and He is loving towards each and every one of us. God has been patient with us, sending help and assistance one after another to guide us down the right path. But are we willing to accept God’s help? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord’s path? Let us all therefore pray for the humility and grace to accept God’s assistance and help, His strength and encouragement.

May the Lord guide us all, and may He empower us all to be good and faithful Christians, as witnesses of His truth and Resurrection, through our daily actions and deeds, at all times. May God bless us all in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.