Saturday, 2 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to embrace the new life in God and leave behind our past existence that is defiled and corrupted by sin. God has called us all into this new existence and provided us with the path to follow, so that through Him, we shall find the way to the true happiness and everlasting joy which we can find only through the Lord alone. That is why He has always tried His best to reach out to us, helping us and guiding us to find our way back to Him, and so that we will not be lost to eternity of suffering and darkness.

In our first reading today, the Lord continued to speak to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel through His prophet Amos. He told them all of the coming of good days once again through His guidance and help, that those people who would be enduring persecution and exile because of their sins and disobedience, would one day return to their homeland, their descendants and all, when all of them have returned to the Lord and been reconciled with Him. This showed that God in truth, truly loved His people, even though they had sinned against Him and been stubborn in their ways.

Prior to this, if we have paid attention to some of the earlier passages taken from the same Book of the prophet Amos earlier in the week, we will realise that God had proclaimed the destruction and the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel, all because of their wickedness and disobedience. And because of all the refusal and stubbornness of the people in continuing to walk down the path of sin, they would have to endure the bitter consequences, the humiliations and the sufferings due to them because of their wickedness. But this is not what the Lord truly desired or wanted from them.

As mentioned, the Lord loves each and every one of us, because we are all His beloved ones. However, our sins are great barriers and obstacles in the path that we are walking towards Him. And as long as we continue to remain in the state of sin, in disobedience against God, as what happened to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel of the time of Amos, we will suffer the consequences of those sins. But what we all must know and be aware about is that if we turn away from sin and willingly accept God’s forgiveness and mercy, then the path to His grace and love will be opened to us.

We have God Who is always ever generous with His mercy and kindness, and all that remains is for us to commit ourselves to Him and the path that He has shown before us. The question is then, how willing are we to follow Him and to embrace His mercy and forgiveness? If God has been so generous with His mercy, and promised even those who have rebelled against Him, the promise of redemption and true happiness, then we may wonder why is it then that so many of us are still yet in the state of sin and rebellion against God?

That is because of our pride, our ego, our stubbornness and all those things that prevented us from seeking God’s love and mercy. We hardened our hearts and minds against the Lord because we are too proud and blinded by our hubris and inability to accept the fact that we can make mistakes and that we are imperfect, corrupted by sin. We need God to help lead us out of the darkness, and it is only with God’s help alone that we can find our way towards the light and the hope that He offers us freely and generously all these while, waiting for us to take up on His offer.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to the disciples of St. John the Baptist and to His disciples, using the parable of the wine and the wineskin, and the cloth and the patch. The disciples of St. John the Baptist were questioning the Lord’s disciples on why they were not fasting in the same manner as the Pharisees and the disciples of St. John themselves. This was where the Lord told them all the parable, to highlight the fact that His way is the new way that superseded the old path that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were following, especially in the strict and excessive misapplication and misunderstanding of the Law of God.

That is yet another calling from the Lord for us to change our way of life and to embrace Him with renewed faith and commitment. Each one of us have to do our best to do God’s will and to turn our back to our sinful past, such that by our repentance and by the change in our way of life, we may truly be worthy of God, and like the Israelites in the past, we may come to share in the Lord’s glorious inheritance and promises, His grace and love once again. God is ever so merciful and forgiving, and all that remains is for us to loosen the doors of our hearts and minds, to welcome God into our midst and embrace Him wholeheartedly from now on.

May God be with us always, and may He bless each and every one of us, strengthening and guiding us in our journey throughout our lives. May He remain with us and be our Hope and the source of our inspiration, that we may always ever seek to glorify Him by our worthy lives and actions. Amen.

Saturday, 2 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 2 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 2 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 1 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on the need for all of us to have a changed attitude in life, in our actions and in how we live our lives as Christians, that we may truly follow the Lord in the way that we are expected to, in being good Christians and good disciples of the Lord. Each and every one of us are called to abandon our pride, ego and haughtiness, and instead entrust ourselves to God with humility and obedience, and with faith and commitment that we ought to show Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, regarding the words of the Lord warning the people of Israel once again, just as we have heard over the past few days, of the coming day of judgment and retribution over them. The prophet Amos was sent by God to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, so that through him those people who had shown their disobedience and wickedness against God may repent and turn away from their sinful ways. Unfortunately, those same people whom God had given many chances, like that of their ancestors continued to rebel against God and even persecuted the prophets like Amos.

Hence, it was by their own stubborn attitudes and actions that they were to be condemned, those who refused to believe in God and chose to walk in the path of sin and darkness. God has always ever been patient in reaching out to those whom He loved, and yet, it was those same people who often rejected Him and refused to believe in Him. The Lord has been ever so generous in His love and mercy, but unless we as His people refused to be stubborn any longer and turn at last towards Him with contrite and sorrowful hearts and minds, filled with regret for our sins and the desire to embrace God and His love, then there will be no way forward for us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel of the encounter and confrontation between the Lord and the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were questioning and criticising Him regarding how He chose to approach the tax collectors and those who were belonging to their group, coming to the house of Levi, one of the tax collectors and mingling among them, and not only that but even having dinner in that same house. This was an act that according to the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law of God, would have made one unclean and unworthy.

That was because the tax collectors were seen as belonging among the worst of the Jewish community at that time. For their work in collecting taxes on behalf of the Romans and others, they were despised and hated by many among the people, and those like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also considered them as traitors to their own people and country. Back then, the Jewish people were a proud people who had then recently been independent under their own rule, until they were brought under the reign and dominion of the Romans, who imposed taxes on the Jewish people as they did to other people throughout the Empire as a sign of their reign and rule.

Hence, the tax collectors were deeply reviled and hated, and considered as the scum of the society. That was why the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law could not possibly have believed why the Lord Jesus would want to have any business with those tax collectors, less still coming into their midst and having meal with them. This was exactly where they forgot that God’s love for each and every one of us, who are sinners, is truly boundless. He could have destroyed us for our many sins and evils, but as He did in the past by sending prophets, messengers and more, one after another to help His people to return to Him, hence, He still continues to do so, again and again, with those tax collectors and others considered by many to be unclean and unworthy.

As He Himself said that He came to seek those who were in need of help, those who were without guidance and were lost, like how a shepherd went off his way to look for his lost sheep. He considers every single one of us as His beloved ones, whom He truly loves equally. The Lord wants us to know that through Him alone there is hope and salvation, and how He desires for us to find that healing and reconciliation in Him. But if we continue to be stubborn and continue to persistently close our hearts and minds to Him, then unfortunately there may be no way forward for us.

We have to be willing to allow the Lord to come and enter into our hearts and minds so that He may heal us like what the tax collectors did. They welcomed the Lord and were willing to listen to Him, unlike what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in shutting their ears, hearts and minds against Him. Certainly many among the tax collectors became believers, and one of them left everything behind to become a follower of the Lord, and who then became one of His great Apostles and as one of the Four Evangelists, known as St. Matthew the Apostle. It shows us how God can transform great sinners into great saints, but that requires commitment from the sinner’s side, to change their lives and follow the Lord faithfully.

Let us all therefore discard from ourselves all traces of pride, ego, haughtiness and selfishness, of all the thoughts we have in debasing and being judgmental to others simply because we think that we are better than they are. Each and every one of us are called to be more like Christ, in our humility and willingness to obey the will of God. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed faith and passion, to walk in His Presence with ever greater commitment from now on. May God be with us always, and may He empower us all to live faithfully ever in His path, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 1 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 1 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 118 : 2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131

Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

My soul is consumed with desire for Your ordinances at all times.

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.

Oh, how I long for Your precepts! Renew my life in Your righteousness.

I gasp in ardent yearning, for Your commandments that I love.

Friday, 1 July 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Amos 8 : 4-6, 9-12

Hear this, you, who trample on the needy, to do away with the weak of the land. You who say, “When will the new moon or the Sabbath feast be over that we may open the store and sell our grain? Let us lower the measure and raise the price; let us cheat and tamper with the scales, and even sell the refuse with the whole grain. We will buy up the poor for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.”

YHVH says, “On that day, I will make the sun go down at noon; and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your singing into wailing. Everyone will mourn, covered with sackcloth; and every head will be shaved. I will make them mourn, as for an only son, and bring their day to a bitter end.”

YHVH says, “Days are coming when I will send famine upon the land; not hunger for bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of YHVH. Men will stagger from sea to sea, wander to and fro, from north to east, searching for the word of YHVH; but they will not find it.”

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the works of God among us, which we often refused to heed or believe in, resulting in many of us choosing down the path of rebellion and disobedience against God, not trusting in God but instead in our own ways and choices, which we often made in contrary to His will, and not following God and His path. As a result, this led to some of us falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin, and we have to avoid that.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos detailing the conversation between Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Amos, the prophet of God. At that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had long rebelled against God and the House of David, following their own path and way of worship, ever since the first king of that northern kingdom, Jeroboam, but not the Jeroboam mentioned in today’s passage, led the people into sin by establishing a parallel centre of worship in Bethel, in opposition to the one and true God Who ought to be worshipped at that time in Jerusalem.

Amaziah complained to this other king Jeroboam, the second Jeroboam to rule over the northern kingdom just a few decades before its ultimate destruction by the Assyrians. Amaziah as the priest of Bethel, likely representing the same pagan worship as instituted by the first king Jeroboam, found Amos, his works and prophecies to be a great annoyance and interference in his domain, and Amaziah complained to the king himself for what the prophet Amos had prophesied against the king and the northern kingdom itself.

Amaziah himself tried to push Amos away and told him off by telling him to go back to his native land of Judah. Yet, to this Amos immediately countered by saying that his mission and calling, and everything he had done come from the Lord and how God called him to do His will. Amos was to be the one to proclaim a warning and judgment of the Lord on the Israelites in the northern kingdom for all of their continued rebellion against God and refusal to obey His Law and their unwillingness to listen to the words of the many prophets that had been sent to their midst.

In our Gospel passage today, similarly we heard the case of when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, some of whom criticised the Lord harshly for His words in proclaiming forgiveness of sins in the midst of Him healing a man who had been paralysed. The Lord had pity on the man and helped him, healing him from his troubles, and through that occasion, He also highlighted that as the Holy One of God, the Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, He has the authority to forgive sins and to deliver us from those sins, and to heal us from our afflictions, be it physical or spiritual in nature.

We heard how the Lord encountered tough opposition not only in what we encountered in the Gospel passage today but also in other occasions, where He and His disciples had to go up against the forces of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law arrayed against them. It was just like how at the time of the prophet Amos who had to go against the wickedness and stubbornness of the people of Israel, whose pride and arrogance in refusing to listen to God became their undoing. Their downfall was because they were not humble enough to admit that they were wrong and mistaken in their path, and unfortunately many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law fell into that same path.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings ought to highlight to us how as Christians each and every one of us are challenged to embrace God’s calling for us all to be great missionaries and witnesses of our faith in the midst of our various communities, within our families and circles of friends and acquaintances among others. Each one of us are called to be like the prophet Amos, and to be like the Lord Himself in standing up courageously for our faith in the midst of opposition and challenges that we may face in our journey of faith. However, it is not just that, as we are also called to be ever vigilant and on guard against the threat from our pride, ego, greed and desire, all of which could lead us down the wrong path to ruin.

Today, we all should follow the good examples of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, those who have defended their faith and committed themselves to the Lord in the face of suffering and persecutions. They were the ones who suffered with St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we have just celebrated yesterday. These First Martyrs of the Roman Church were those who were persecuted, arrested and killed during the years of the first Great Persecution of Christians done by the Roman Emperor Nero, during which many were afflicted and even martyred for their faith, and for their refusal to abandon the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence renew our faith and commitment in God, following the examples of our holy predecessors and that of the Lord Himself, and while also being vigilant and heeding the warning of what we should not be doing based on what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Let us all strive to be good examples and inspiration to one another through our life and actions, all throughout this life, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

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.