Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of faith and believing in God, which is something that each and every one of us have to take seriously, and which we have to ponder and discern so that we know the path going forward in life as God’s faithful people, and not fall into the many traps or obstacles that threaten us in our way towards God and His salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard how the people of Israel made and renewed the ancient Covenant that their ancestors had established with God, as they all solemnly bound themselves to the Lord and committed themselves in that solemn Covenant, promising to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and Covenant wholeheartedly as they should. This happened not long after they had disobeyed and refused to believe in the Lord, making a golden calf idol to be a god over themselves, even though they had themselves seen and witnessed the wonders of the Lord, His love and might.

This is related to what we then heard from our Gospel passage today, with regards to the parable that the Lord had used to teach His disciples and the people, regarding the sowing of seeds of good wheat and the sabotage by an enemy who sowed the seeds of weeds that harm the wheat. This is used by the Lord often, in referring to farming and agriculture in His parables because many among the people were involved in that field and most of the people would have been familiar with the concepts that the Lord used to explain His ideas and teaching.

The enemy referred to the devil and all those seeking our ruin, while the sower and owner of the field is the Lord. We are the field on which the Lord had sown His good seeds, the seeds of faith, hope and love, the seeds of Christian charity, justice and righteousness. Yet, as we heard, at the same time, the devil and his forces also sowed the seeds of doubt, fear, infidelity and pride, the seeds of human greed and ambition, and the seeds of rebellion and selfishness, wickedness and evil. Through all these, the enemy wants us all to perish, by choking the good out from us, just as the weeds if left unchecked, would kill the wheat.

In agriculture and farming, the farmers always struggle to maintain the balance between the crops and the weeds, constantly making sure that the good plants thrive while the weeds are controlled, prevented from growing and thriving, and removed. Unless this is done meticulously and patiently, the wheat and all the good crops will perish or will not end up well. That is why, linking back to the first reading today, we are all reminded to put away from our hearts and minds, all the corruptions of our sins and evil ways, and turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord.

We ought to excise from our hearts, our minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings, the weeds sown by the devil. We must be vigilant lest we fall into the many temptations we find all around us. We must be careful and do whatever we can to resist the lures of evil and seek the Lord with commitment and zeal. In order to do this, we ought to look at the Lord and His faithful servants, all of our holy predecessors whose lives had been worthy and good, in their obedience to God and in their pursuit of sanctity and righteousness in all things.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a renowned holy man from Lebanon, a truly holy and pious servant of God, whose life and even stories of what happened after his passing still inspired many Christians to this very day. St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite Christian who was drawn from an early age to a life of piety and faith in the Lord, responding to God’s call and became a monk, dedicating his whole life to the Lord. As a monk and later on a solitary hermit, St. Charbel Makhlouf led a life wholly dedicated to God.

Yet, wonderful things happened when he passed away and miracles began to happen at the saint’s tomb, which led to many people, even non-Christians who came to believe in the Lord through the many miraculous things that happened at St. Charbel’s tomb. His piety and faith also inspired many others to walk in his footsteps and follow in the way of how he had lived his faith. We too should be inspired by how this saint and holy predecessor of ours had lived his life, and we should follow his examples and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord and commit ourselves to the Lord, to His Law and commandments, and walk in His path from now on wholeheartedly. Let us grow in faith, and remove from ourselves, from our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings any distractions and temptations that may tempt us away from the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all, and guide us to the right path, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 24 : 3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of YHVH and all His laws. The people replied with one voice : “Everything that YHVH has said, we shall do.”

Moses wrote down all the words of YHVH, then rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve raised stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent young men from among the sons of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks as peace offerings to YHVH.

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins; and with the other half of the blood he sprinkled the altar. He then took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, “All that YHVH said we shall do and obey.”

Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, “Here is the blood of the Covenant that YHVH has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.”

“The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, “I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

“For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

“Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God.”

“Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you. For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

“Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour’s house. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.”

Thursday, 22 July 2021 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the closest followers of the Lord Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. St. Mary Magdalene was mentioned several times in the Gospels, as one of the most fervent disciple of the Lord. She was according to some traditions, the repentant woman and adulterer, or prostitute who had turned towards the Lord and became His disciple. In the same tradition, the Lord also exorcised seven demons or evil spirits from her.

St. Mary Magdalene was honoured by the Church because she has indeed shown faith and dedication as one of the Lord’s closest followers, who have followed Him throughout His ministry, and dedicated herself to Him and His cause, staying by His side even throughout His Passion, His suffering and death, being there with Mary, the Mother of God, by the foot of the Cross. And she was also there when the Lord first made His appearance again after He has risen from the dead.

For this reason, St. Mary Magdalene has often been considered the Equal of the Apostles, since the very beginning of the Church, and she is also known as the Apostle to the Apostles, being the one who brought the Good News of the Lord’s Resurrection to the assembled Apostles on the day of His glorious Resurrection. It was St. Mary Magdalene who joyfully broke the news of the Lord’s return to the disciples who were fearful and afraid after having lost their Lord and Master, and it was St. Mary Magdalene who once again inflamed their hearts with hope.

St. Mary Magdalene was just an ordinary woman, and according to some tradition, even was an unworthy woman in the eyes of people like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as if she was a prostitute as some tradition mentioned, then she was truly a filthy and unclean person that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law considered as less than human beings, as sinners that were condemned to damnation and destruction because of their vices and sinful actions. This attitude and prejudice remained even though those prostitutes and others like the tax collectors and people who suffered from diseases and demonic possession could repent and turn away from their sinful ways.

But the example of St. Mary Magdalene showed all of us that there is no end for sinners, and there is bright future even for those who have been great sinners, no matter how unworthy they are before the Lord and man alike. St. Mary Magdalene and her conversion to the faith and her commitment to the Lord showed us that God called and chose all of His people even from among those deemed as the most unworthy, that they might turn towards the light and inspire others to follow their examples as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we are also called to follow in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, to be converts to the true faith and to redirect ourselves and our focus on the Lord. Though we are sinners and we may have been unworthy, but God through His love has always ever been so generous in His kindness and patience, in reaching out to us and calling on us to repent from our sins. In God alone we can find healing and redemption from our sins, and the story of St. Mary Magdalene is a proof and assurance for us, that even great sinners can become great saints.

What truly matters is our focus and internal disposition towards the Lord. We are all called to respond to His call to holiness and to abandon our past, sinful lives, as St. Mary Magdalene had done, and then respond to the call to be part of the Church’s mission, that is to testify for our faith and to be the bearers of God’s truth and Good News to all of His people, as St. Mary Magdalene herself had done when she brought forth the news of the Lord’s resurrection and broke the wonderful news to them, despite many of them at that time not believing in her words.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, following her piety and faith, her humility to follow the Lord and casting aside our past sinfulness. Just as she humbled herself in one occasion, to wipe the Lord’s feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, let us all tearfully and sorrowfully also seek the Lord, full of regret and sorrow over our sins and waywardness. Let us all turn away from all those that are evil, and face the Lord once again with true and genuine love, and be the source of inspiration in faith for one another.

May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us that we may courageously follow Him with greater zeal and dedication, in each and every moments of our lives, and that we should persevere with faith, no matter what challenges, trials and temptations we may encounter. Let us all sinners be sinners no more, throwing away the shackles of our sins by the Lord’s grace and forgiveness, and be fully reconciled and reunited with Him. May God bless us all and His Church, all of His faithful ones, all the same, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 22 July 2021 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 1-2, 11-18

Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two Angels in white, sitting where the Body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognise Him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”

She thought it was the gardener and answered Him, “Lord, if You have taken Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will go and remove Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to Him, “Rabboni!” – which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them : I am ascending to My Father, Who is your Father, to My God, Who is your God.”

So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what He said to me.”