Saturday, 23 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded by the words of the Scriptures to rend and discard from ourselves all the traces of sin and evil, of all wickedness and the disobedience we have against God. Today through the words of the prophet Jeremiah and the Lord Jesus Himself, all of us are called to seek what is holy and good, worthy of God and get rid from ourselves the attachments to worldly desires and sins, of all things that kept us away from God and His path. The Lord is calling us to return to Him with righteousness and true love, devotion and commitment to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah of the moment when Jeremiah embarked on his mission to preach the words of the Lord to the people of the kingdom of Judah, which he had been sent to. The people of Judah and their kings and leaders had long disobeyed the Lord and turned back into the path of sin, evil and wickedness, and for that, Jeremiah told them all that they would pay the consequences for their disobedience and sins, but yet at the same time, God still loved His people and wanted to show them His mercy, to forgive them and be reconciled with them.

The Lord called the people to change their ways of life, to abandon their false and pagan gods and idols, all those that had mislead them in the wrong path, and to leave behind their wicked deeds and all their past transgressions. He reminded them of what they ought be doing as His followers and people, to purify themselves and to follow Him once again with faith, to glorify His Name by their deeds, to honour once again the Law of God and all that God has placed in their midst to guide and help them in their journey. The prophet Jeremiah called on them all to atone for their sins and to enter once again into Covenant with God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and followers with the parable of the sower of seeds of wheat and the weeds that were sown by the enemy of the sower. Using that parable, the Lord showed how the wheat represents everything good that God had sown in us, with the sower representing God Himself. The enemy on the other hand represents the devil and all of his wicked forces bent on seeing our destruction. The weeds therefore represent the temptations of desire, greed, pride and the many sins that they had sown in us, and in trying to steer us away from the path towards salvation into the path towards damnation instead.

That is why, when the parable stated that the sower did not tell his servants to remove the weeds right away, it can be interpreted in two ways. First, it is representative of how there are both good and bad things within each one of us, and in the end, we will be judged by our good and bad deeds, and those who are found worthy shall enjoy eternal life and true happiness with God, while those who are found lacking in faith and unworthy will be consigned to an eternity of suffering and punishment, all because of their own conscious choice to reject God and to abandon His ways, just as the people of God had often done in the past.

Then another interpretation is that, the wheat represents the righteous while the weed represents those who are wicked, all of whom are living in this world, represented by the field. If we continue to disobey God and refuse to repent from our sinful ways, then we are like the weeds which will be collected in the end and thrown into the fire. Instead, all of us are reminded and called to follow the Lord, to be like the wheat, by our righteous life and actions, by our commitment and obedience to God’s will. We have that choice to make, whether we want to be faithful to God or whether we prefer to walk our own path, which likely leads us down the path of destruction.

Today, we should therefore look upon the good examples set before us by St. Bridget of Sweden, a great and holy woman, faithful servant of God whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bridget of Sweden was a renowned mystic and religious, who became a lady-in-waiting for the Queen of Sweden, while being renowned for her many charitable works and activities, in her care for the poor and the needy. After her husband’s passing, her continued desire to serve the sick and the poor inspired her to establish a religious order, which would later on be known after her as the Bridgettines. They were all committed to the care of the sick and the poor in the community.

St. Bridget was known for her pilgrimages across Christendom, partly because of the need for her to validate the foundation of her religious order. Throughout those pilgrimages, she continued to minister to the poor and the sick, even in the midst of the Black Death pandemic that was raging back then. When she was in Rome where she remained until her passing, she continued her many good works, which made her well-remembered by the people, who were touched by her generosity, love and kindness. All of us should also be similarly inspired by the faith and love that St. Bridget had shown, in following the Lord and His commandments.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our path in faith, and may He give us the strength and courage to remain firm in our conviction and commitment to serve Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the inspiration from St. Bridget of Sweden empower us all to walk ever more faithfully in God’s path and may all of us be ever more zealous and dedicated in all things, in being the wheat that is truly worthy of the Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 23 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

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

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, 23 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

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

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11

My soul yearns; pines, for the courts of YHVH. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o YHVH of hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy, the pilgrims whom You strengthen, they go from strength to strength.

One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be left at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Saturday, 23 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

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

Jeremiah 7 : 1-11

These words were spoken by YHVH to Jeremiah, “Stand at the gate of YHVH’s House and proclaim this in a loud voice : Listen to what YHVH says, all you people of Judah (who enter these gates to worship YHVH). YHVH the God of Israel says this : Amend your ways and your deeds and I will stay with you in this place. Rely not on empty words such as : ‘Look, Temple of YHVH! Temple of YHVH! This is the Temple of YHVH!’”

“It is far better for you to amend your ways and act justly with all. Do not abuse the stranger, orphan or widow or shed innocent blood in this place or follow false gods to your own ruin. Then I will stay with you in this place, in the land I gave to your ancestors in times past and forever.”

“But you trust in deceptive and useless words. You steal, kill, take the wife of your neighbour; you swear falsely, worship Baal and follow foreign gods who are not yours. Then, after doing all these horrible things, you come and stand before Me in this Temple that bears My Name and say, ‘Now we are safe.’ Is this House on which rests My Name a den of thieves? I have seen this Myself – it is YHVH Who speaks.”

Friday, 22 July 2022 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, a prominent disciple of the Lord who was described throughout the Gospels as one of the closest woman collaborators of the Lord, who travelled together with the other disciples and who was present during the important moments especially surrounding the Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death and resurrection. St. Mary Magdalene was also known to be the one to have seen the Lord the first among the disciples after He was risen from the dead. In that way therefore, she was the one to deliver the truth of this Good News to the disciples.

Hence, that is why the Church has always treated St. Mary Magdalene as an equal to the Apostles or Isapostolos, counted among the great saints whose prominence and honour in the Church are considered equivalent to those given to the Twelve Apostles and the other Apostles. Pope Francis, our current Pope raised the celebration of St. Mary Magdalene from a Memorial rank to that of a Feast a few years ago, in order to reflect this nature, and he also referred to her by her well-known title of Apostola Apostolorum, or the ‘Apostle to the Apostles’. This is a reference to what I just mentioned earlier, that St. Mary Magdalene was the one to bring the Good News of the Resurrection to the Apostles.

Just as the other Apostles were sent forth by the Lord to spread the Good News, the Gospels of truth and love of God to all the peoples of the whole world, hence St. Mary Magdalene prefigured all of that, by her role in bringing the same revelation of truth to the disciples, to the Apostles and all those assembled and waiting in uncertainty and fear after the Lord had been condemned to death and crucified. St. Mary Magdalene was the one to whom the Lord appeared first, to bring this Good News of hope and encouragement to the Apostles, and to remind them that He was truly risen from the dead just as He Himself had predicted and revealed earlier on.

St. Mary Magdalene was indeed a truly great saint and servant of God, but if we look upon her origin and background, according to various traditions and Scriptural evidences, we can see that she was far from the ideal disciple that we may think that she must have been. St. Mary Magdalene was often conflated with another woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, or that of a prostitute and sinner, and in one of the Gospels, it was explicitly mentioned that she had seven demons or evil spirits driven out from her by the Lord, which strengthened the link between her and her less than ideal origin.

Regardless whether she was an immoral woman or prostitute in her earlier life, or whether she was just another ordinary woman out of many at the time, that was not important. What matters was that, St. Mary Magdalene chose to leave behind her past life, flawed and terrible as it might have been, and instead followed the Lord wholeheartedly as a disciple. She followed the Lord faithfully, even when the other disciples fled after He was arrested at the time of His Passion and suffering and death. She was among the ones who waited on the Lord, together with His mother Mary, as He laid dying on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of St. Mary Magdalene, her faith and dedication to God, all that she had done and the commitment she had made to the Lord should be good inspiration for all of us to follow. Her conversion and then commitment as a faithful servant of God is an inspiration and hope for each one of us, that God has called all to be His disciples, and not even the greatest sinners are excluded from the path to salvation and eternal life. What matters is for each one of us to recognise our sinful ways and to return to the Lord with contrite hearts and with the openness to embrace His way and truth.

Like St. Mary Magdalene, even many of the other greatest saints of the Church were once sinners, and some of them committed great sins previously in their respective lives. Yet, what made them to be respected and venerated greatly later on were their commitment to change their lives and in embracing the path that the Lord had shown them. They responded to God’s call and were converted to the true path of God. The Lord was with them and He brought them to the right path, and through them He did many wonderful and great deeds, because those saints allowed Him to lead them on in their lives that they became His greatest disciples and servants.

All of us have also received the same calling, and all that remains is for us to respond to God’s call. It is completely up to us how we shall respond to Him and how we are to follow the path that God has shown us. Each one of us have been given various opportunities and chances to do God’s will, and even the smallest and seemingly less significant things that we do actually have a great impact way beyond our imagination. We are all called to do our part as Christians, to be the examples and inspirations to all our brothers and sisters, that by our good examples, as St. Mary Magdalene herself had done with hers, we may bring the truth and Good News of God to more and more people out there.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may He bless us in our every good works and endeavours. St. Mary Magdalene, holy disciple and follower of the Lord, the Apostle to the Apostles, pray for us all! Amen.

Friday, 22 July 2022 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles (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.”

Friday, 22 July 2022 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 62 : 2abc, 2d-4, 5-6, 8-9

O God, You are my God, it is You I seek; for You, my body longs and my soul thirsts.

As a dry and weary land without water. Thus have I gazed upon You in the Sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.

I will praise You as long as I live, lift up my hands and call on Your Name. As with the richest food, my soul will feast; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

For You have been my help; I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Friday, 22 July 2022 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Song of Songs 3 : 1-4a

On my bed at night I looked for the one I love, I sought him without finding him; I called him and he did not answer. I will rise and go about the city, through the streets and the squares; I will seek the love of my heart…

I sought him without finding him; the watchmen came upon me, those who patrol the city. “Have you seen the love of my heart?” As soon as I left them, I found the love of my heart.

Alternative reading

2 Corinthians 5 : 14-17

Indeed, the love of Christ holds us, and we realise, that, if He died for all, all have died. He died for all, so, that, those who live, may live no longer for themselves, but for Him, Who died, and rose again for them. And so, from now on, we do not regard anyone from a human point of view; and even if we once knew Christ personally, we should now regard Him in another way.

For that same reason, the one who is in Christ is a new creature. For him, the old things have passed away; a new world has come.

Thursday, 21 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (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 Scriptures, we heard the reminder of how much God has loved us and how much He had done for all of us, throughout all the time. God has always shown us His patient care and love, and He was always ever patient although we have often disregarded His love, disobeyed Him and being wayward and wicked in our way of life. The Lord wants us to listen to Him, hearken to His words and to follow His path that we may not end up falling into the wrong paths, and be trapped by the whims of our desires and sin.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the Lord spoke of the great and wonderful things which He had done for them, and all the love He had shown them throughout the ages, and yet at the same time, of how those same people had rejected Him and refused His love, in worshipping pagan idols and gods, offering sacrifices to them and by doing what were wicked in the eyes of the Lord. They had not been faithful to God and disregarded His reminders and calls, persecuting the prophets who had been sent to them in order to remind them to be faithful to God and to be reconciled with Him.

Today we are then presented with the words of the Lord speaking to the disciples regarding the matter why He always preferred to speak in parables, as the disciples were wondering why He did so. The Lord told all of them that He revealed the secrets and truths of the kingdom of Heaven to them, while those who have not committed themselves to Him and refused to believe in Him would not understand or appreciate those words of truth that He has spoken to them. The ones who were willing to listen to the Lord would receive the revelation and the truth, by their faith and the guidance, the wisdom and the Holy Spirit that the Lord would grant them.

All these are therefore reminders for us, that we should not harden our hearts and minds against the Lord, especially viewing how in the past, many of our predecessors had faltered and fallen off unto the path of sin precisely because they shut themselves off from the Lord, were proud and haughty, and unwilling to listen to the Lord calling in their hearts and minds, for them to seek His truth and to repent from their wayward paths. They often trusted in their own abilities, intellects and strengths rather than to trust in God and in His providence, all of which had been given freely by God to guide all people to Himself.

As such, that is why many had fallen in the past in the path towards redemption in God. That is why we are reminded that we ourselves should not fall into that same path and traps, of temptations and worldly attachments that can easily lead us astray in our journey towards the Lord. That is why we are called to live our lives from now on with greater and more genuine faith, dedicating ourselves to the service of God and glorifying Him by our lives and actions. And today, we should reflect upon the great examples and inspiration that had been shown by one of our predecessors, namely that of St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a renowned priest and member of the Capuchin Franciscans, who throughout his life had dedicated himself to God and to the people he was ministering to, actively establishing monasteries and communities of the faithful, working hard to reach out to the people of God, and through his many works, helping to restore the lack of spiritual life and connection with God that many people back then often experienced. Through his many works and writings, he exposed the errors of the heretical and wayward teachings of many preachers who fell out of the Church and led to the splintering of the many factions during the ‘reformation’ period.

The commitment and hard work of St. Lawrence of Brindisi reminds us of the kind of faith and love that each and every one of us as Christians should have for the Lord. He has given his time, life and efforts to serve and glorify the Lord, regardless of the challenges and hardships that he had to encounter. Are we also capable of this kind of faith and dedication, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to entrust ourselves wholly in the Lord and be truly faithful and committed to Him? And are we willing to listen to Him and to welcome Him and His truth and love into our hearts? These are important questions that we should be reflecting on this day.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey, and may He continue to strengthen each one of us so that we may always walk faithfully in His presence, inspired by the examples of His saints, of St. Lawrence of Brindisi and that of innumerable other holy men and women, saints of God. Amen.

Thursday, 21 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”