Saturday, 27 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture which brought to our attention the Covenant which God has made and renewed between Himself and His people as our first reading today highlighted from the Book of Exodus, sealing the Covenant between God and man through the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrificial lambs on the Altar.

In that occasion, God renewed and reestablished the Covenant which He had made the ancestors of the people of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the holy patriarchs of Israel, and made the Covenant anew as He led them through the desert out of the slavery in Egypt, fulfilling the promise which He had made to His servants mentioned. He has blessed His people and made them plentiful and mighty.

He gave them His laws and the Ten Commandments, upon which all of His people must attach themselves to, as the symbol of their commitment to the Covenant which God has made with them. A Covenant in itself is essentially a binding agreement and promise made between two parties, in which both parties are obliged and bound to fulfil the conditions and the provisions of the Covenant.

God has always been faithful and committed to His Covenant, as He has proven yet again and again throughout the ages, from the very beginning, showing care, love and concern for His people; chiding, rebuking and punishing His people with whom He had made the Covenant with, whenever they fell away from the path of righteousness that they had been led along, and failed to fulfil their part of the Covenant.

It was unfortunately the people who have failed to commit themselves fully and wholeheartedly to the Covenant between them and God. They were distracted and easily tempted by the temptations of sin, which pulled them away from the right path shown to them by God. They ended up disobeying and rebelling against God as they followed their own path and pursued their own desires and wicked thoughts.

And this is what we are also hearing in our Gospel passage today, the meaning of the parable that the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples, on the wheat and the weeds growing in a field. In that parable, we heard of a sower who sowed good seeds of wheat in a field, and then, an enemy came quietly at night to sow the seeds of weeds that are not just undesirable but can also harm the good crops.

As the parable mentioned, we see clear symbolism in that parable meant to remind us of the Covenant which God has made with us, and the many obstacles in our lives that often become stumbling blocks in our journey towards God and His truth and salvation. The sower was none other than the Lord Himself, while the enemy referred to Satan and all the forces of evil seeking our destruction. The wheat referred to the good things that God has given to us, while the weeds referred to the corruptions of sin in our midst.

Another interpretation is that the wheat refers to all the righteous and faithful people of God while the weeds are those who have rejected God and refused to believe in Him, and instead walking down the path of sin. And yet, God, as the sower, did not want to remove those weeds before the appointed time, allowing the wheat to grow together with the weeds. And this is representing just how God is so loving and forgiving, full of compassion and mercy towards us.

How is that so? That is because despite of our disobedience, stubbornness and constant rejection of His love through sin, God is still ever patient and He extends to all of us the opportunities and chances to be forgiven from our sins and to be healed from all of our shortcomings and faults, by His own infinite grace and love. God cares for each and every one of His children, and blesses everyone, be it that they are good or bad.

But it is important that all of us seek to be forgiven from our sins, as ultimately, although God is loving and merciful, but the fact remains that sin has no place before God, and as sin corrupts us, our souls and our beings, if we remain adamant in our rejection of God and refusal to repent from those sins, then just like the weeds in the parable, in the end of time, we will be cast out into the eternal fire, to suffer for eternity because of our own decision to reject God and His generous love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able therefore to follow the Lord our God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength? Let us all devote ourselves to Him and let us all strive to do our best to be faithful to Him just as He Himself has been so faithful and so filled with love for each and every one of us. Let us all obey His laws and commandments, and live our lives from now on with the commitment and desire to be righteous and just, worthy of His eternal inheritance.

May God bless us all, and may He empower us to live ever more faithfully according to His ways from now on. May He be with us all in our journey of life and guide us towards the right path in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 27 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 27 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

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, 27 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

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, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, namely St. Joachim and St. Anne, her father and her mother respectively. They were remembered as those who were faithful and committed to obey the Lord and His laws, which they passed on to their daughter, Mary, preparing her well for the crucial role she would end up taking as the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour.

The parents of our blessed mother Mary taught her to be obedient to the Lord, to be righteous and just in accordance to the Law which God has revealed to His people through Moses, as we ourselves have also heard in our first reading passage today, which related to us the important Ten Commandments that God revealed to Israel at Mount Sinai, as the core and basis of the laws which He has provided for them.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable of the sower which we all should be familiar with, as spoken by the Lord Jesus to His disciples and all the people who were listening to His teachings. In that parable we heard how the sower of the seeds spread the seeds that fell onto different kinds of soils and conditions, and as a result the seeds grew differently and ended up in various conditions.

The Lord also explained how all those seeds that fell by the roadside and got eaten up by the birds, or those that fell on the rocky ground and perished, and those seeds that fell among brambles and thistles and were choked to death, were symbolic of those who have received the seeds of faith from God, and yet, failed to allow those seeds to grow and germinate in them, therefore, they bore no fruits in them.

This has to be understood in the context of how the Law of God, which God has given to His people at Mount Sinai through Moses, had been neglected and abandoned by the very same people who have received them firsthand from God, and even those who have witnessed God’s miraculous wonders and works in the first place. They did not allow God’s laws and words to take roots in them, and as such, they ended up being unfaithful.

They refused to believe because they allowed the many concerns of the world, the temptations of worldly desires and the pressures of sin cause them to fall and to get further and further away from the Lord. But what if the opposite happen then, brothers and sisters in Christ? That was exactly what happened with Mary, who not only prepared especially for the role she was to undertake as the Mother of God, but she was also brought up well in faith.

It was her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne who brought her up well in faith, instructing her in the ways of the world and to be a righteous, just and obedient person, as a servant of God. In the traditions of the Church, St. Joachim and St. Anne were truly loving and caring parents who brought up Our Lady well, showing to us what it truly means to be parents to our children, and especially as Christian parents.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through the faith and good examples shown by St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of our Blessed Mother Mary, we are all called to reflect on our own Christian lives, especially in our own Christian families, in how we live our lives together in our respective families, in our roles either as a father, or as a mother, or as a child, or as a son-in-law or as daughter-in-law, or as any other members of the family.

Christian family is a very important part of the Church, as without good and faithful Christian families, the foundations of the Church will crumble and collapse, and countless souls would have been lost to sin and to the devil’s machinations. And the devil and his allies know this perfectly well, and thus, they constantly assault our Christian families and the institution of marriage itself, wanting to destroy the fabric of our Christian faith.

Let us all remember that our families must stay together in faith and look upon the good examples set by St. Joachim and St. Anne, in their faith and dedication and in how they raised Mary up well in the faith. Let us all follow in their examples and do what we can to live up to the same kind of faith as they have. Let us all model our own Christian families after the example of Mary’s loving family from now on, praying together and striving to be united together in faith.

May the Lord continue to bless us and our families, and may He bless all parents, that they may continue to remain faithful to their calling as parents, in the responsibilities they have to one another as husband and wife and to their children. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Alternative reading

Matthew 13 : 16-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “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.”

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Alternative Psalm

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

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

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

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

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Alternative reading

Sirach 44 : 1, 10-15

Let us now glorify illustrious men, the ancestors of our people. But now consider the godly men whose good deeds have not been forgotten. Those who came after them benefitted from the rich legacy they left; their race remained faithful to the Covenant, their children followed their example.

Their family will endure forever and never will its glory be tarnished. Their bodies will be buried in peace but their memory lives through generations. People will speak of their wisdom and the assembly will celebrate their praise.

Thursday, 25 July 2019 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles of Our Lord, namely St. James the Apostle, also known as St. James the Greater, to distinguish him from another St. James, that is St. James the Lesser or St. James the Just, who was considered as one of the relatives of the Lord and the first Bishop of Jerusalem. St. James the Apostle was the brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, both of whom were the sons of Zebedee.

It was the same St. James and St. John who were mentioned in today’s Gospel passage, as they came together with their mother, asking the Lord Jesus for special favours and position among the disciples, seeking the place of honour by His side when His glory days were coming. The other disciples, especially the other members of the Twelve were very angry at what the two brothers had done, and only after the Lord rebuked all of them that they simmered down.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time in order to appreciate better the significance of what we have heard in the Scriptures today. At that time, the understanding and perception among the Jewish people about the coming of the Messiah or the Saviour promised by God were that the Messiah would be a mighty and conquering King, in the mould of David, His ancestor.

The people thought of the Messiah, which they thought the Lord Jesus was, as someone Who would restore the kingdom of Israel of old, reliving and recreating once again the glorious days of the kingdom of David and Solomon, when the people of God were at the pinnacle of their glory, power and majesty among the people of the world. That was why, in several occasions, the Lord in fact had to hide from the people who had wanted to make and even force Him to become their King.

It is this same understanding and perception which caused the two Apostles, St. James and St. John, to seek the Lord together with their mother, to seek glory, honour and power from the Lord, by asking Him to give them special favours over that of the rest. After all, if a King was about to rise to great power, it would have been good for whoever who stood by closest to Him, was it not?

That was where the Lord corrected their way of thinking and dispelled the false ideas that they might have in their minds when they decided to follow Him. He essentially reminded them that His kingdom and His rule were totally unlike any other in this world. Following the Lord would not be anything like following any other leaders and rulers in this world, as if they sought power, glory, honour and other forms of worldly satisfaction, they would be disappointed.

Instead, the Lord made it clear and plain that in following Him, His disciples have chosen a life of struggle and perhaps even plenty of sufferings and challenges in this world. It was what He meant when He mentioned the cup that He was about to drink, the cup of suffering that He had to endure, the suffering and pain, the burden and the heavy responsibility of the Cross. And just as He had to suffer and be rejected by the world, He revealed that His disciples likely would have to suffer in the same way too.

That was what St. James endured as he became a faithful follower of the Lord from then on, carrying out faithfully the mission which God has entrusted to him. It was told by Apostolic tradition that he went to spread the faith in lands as far as the present day Spain, where the great shrine to this saint now exists in the famous Santiago de Compostela in northern parts of Spain. St. James had to endure many challenges along his journey, and in the end, he was also among the first to be martyred.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred, when king Herod wanted to please the Jewish people, arrested St. James and beheaded him as a show to gain favour with the Jewish religious and community elites, the chief priests and the Pharisees. The other Apostles and disciples of the Lord too, eventually, would come to suffer in the way that St. James had suffered.

But all of them have moved on from what we have seen in our Gospel passage today, the preoccupation with worldly concerns and desires for things like power, fame, influence, wealth and other forms of worldly satisfaction and joy. They have accepted the Lord’s cup of suffering courageously and faithfully, living up to their faith and devoting themselves to be witnesses for His sake, and working to the best of their abilities to spread the Good News.

As mentioned in the first reading today by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, all of us have received a great treasure from Christ Himself, the true treasure of our lives that can never be lost from us, unless we ourselves reject the treasure that Christ has given to us. This most precious treasure is none other than the promise of eternal life and glory, true happiness and joy of sharing in God’s inheritance through the salvation which He has brought unto us.

It is hope in that promise, the promise of the great and true treasures of the Lord that helped the Apostles, St. James and his fellow witnesses of faith, to persevere even through the most difficult persecutions and challenges, knowing that while all the treasures of this world, the treasures of power, of human glory, of fame and of wealth can be destroyed and perish, the true treasure that is assured for us in God will never be destroyed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. James and the other holy Apostles of the Lord in their dedication to the Lord? Are we able to dedicate our time, effort and focus into the service for the greater glory of God? We have all been called to be the successors of the Apostles, following in the path that they have started, through their courageous deeds and efforts.

May the Lord continue to guide our path, and may He continue to encourage us so that we may seek to live like the Apostles, shunning the tempting desires of the pleasures and the glories of this world, and instead seek the true treasure that lies in God alone, by serving Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths from now on. May God bless us all and our good endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 25 July 2019 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 20 : 20-28

At that time, the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, You have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup; but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other then heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, Who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”