Saturday, 3 August 2019 : 17th 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 from the Sacred Scriptures we heard about the matter of obedience and listening to God, in how we should be following His ways and doing His precepts faithfully. In the first reading today we listened to the instruction of the celebration of the Jubilee year for the Israelites, done every fifty years, as the Lord Himself instructed His people through Moses. Meanwhile, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the arrest and eventually beheading of the faithful servant of God, St. John the Baptist by king Herod.

In the first reading, the Lord mentioned clearly the details about the celebration of the Jubilee year that took place every fiftieth year, after seven cycles of seven years. This allusion to the number ‘seven’ and in fact ‘seven times seven’ denotes a focus on holiness and sanctity, as the number seven in the Scripture is used to denote something that is sacred and perfect, and therefore the purpose of the Jubilee Year, if we read through the passage again in detail, is to bring mankind closer to God’s holiness.

In that passage we heard how the Lord commanded the people to keep the Jubilee Year holy and sacred, and to be a year of forgiveness and reorientation of the people’s hearts and minds to the Lord. The celebration of the Jubilee also included the restoration of fairness and justice to the people as mentioned in the reading, as those who had more land and properties would not benefit out of the lack and inadequacies in others.

Through all of these, the Scripture passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes is the reminder for each and every one of us that we should not entertain and succumb to the temptations of our desires and greed, which are part of our human existence by nature. We are all creatures of emotion, of desires, of wants and wishes, and in this world, we know that in fact, suffering and pain came about because we allow our desires and greed to control us and our actions.

For example, when a person who has greater wealth, properties and possessions succumb to his or her desire for more of those worldly things and temptations, this more often than not causes others to suffer in order to satisfy the desires of the person. The more we crave and desire for worldly glory, satisfaction and pleasures, the more we will desire for them in time to come as those worldly things cannot truly satisfy us.

We have one such example in the Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the account of the arrest and martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, who was killed by king Herod through the machinations of Herodias, his wife, who despised the saint. The context of this is that king Herod took the wife of Philip, his own brother, as his wife, which was unlawful in the sight of God as an act of blatant adultery.

And St. John the Baptist courageously spoke up against king Herod and Herodias for their sinful and open show of rebellion against God’s will and Law. Herodias hated St. John the Baptist for that and managed to get the king to arrest the saint. And on a good occasion, Herodias plotted with her own daughter to tempt the king and trick him to get rid of St. John the Baptist, as the king was reluctant to do so, out of the fear of God.

It was the king’s inability to resist the temptation of pleasure and greed, lust and sexual desires when he saw his daughter’s seductive dance, which brought about his downfall. He fell into the trap set by Herodias and made a promise and vow which he could not retract, and was therefore forced to commit a murder, of the great saint and Herald of the coming of the Messiah of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard from all of these accounts from the Scriptures, all of us ought to realise that no amount of worldly desires, possessions, be it glory, power, pleasures of the flesh and all the things present in the world, can satisfy us. In fact, our pursuit of all those things can lead us to ruin and drag us deeper and deeper into sin. King Herod himself had shown us what could happen if one succumbed to the temptation.

We are all reminded therefore to refocus our attention to God, turning to God with effort and commitment. The Lord has given us many means through which we can refocus our attention to God, and as mentioned earlier, in our first reading today, the celebration of the Jubilee Year was a way for God’s people to take a break in their hectic and often distracted life and redirect their attention back towards God. Similarly therefore, through the Church and its celebrations, we are called to refocus our attention on God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to love God all the more in our lives and turn away from the many temptations of sin, from disobedience and sin against God, from all sorts of worldly pride and desires, greed and lust. Let us all turn towards God and be ever closer and be more faithful to Him from now on. May God be with us all and bless all of our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 3 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 3 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 7-8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us; that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation, among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice; and guide the nations of the world.

The land has given its harvest; God, our God, has blessed us. May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Saturday, 3 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Leviticus 25 : 1, 8-17

YHVH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai : “When seven Sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land.”

“Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines. This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation.”

“In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. When you sell something to your neighbour or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbour and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you.”

“When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am YHVH, your God.”

Friday, 2 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops and Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about the feasts celebrated by the people of Israel as commanded to them by the Lord Himself through Moses, His servant, who delivered the Law and the commandments, the precepts and rules of the Lord to the people. We heard in detail how there were appointed times and days in certain months for particular feasts and celebrations to be celebrated.

And then in the Gospel passage today, it seemed that we heard a different passage not quite related to our first reading passage because in the Gospel we heard of the doubt which the people who witnessed the Lord’s miracles and works in His own hometown in Nazareth. In that passage, we heard of how the people doubted the Lord despite having seen the miracles He has performed, the wisdom with which He spoke to them, simply because they thought they knew Who He was.

These two readings at a quick glance may not seem to be related and speak of two very different contents. However, in truth, the two readings remind each and every one of us in their own way, that a lot of times in our respective lives we must always put our trust in God and remember to love Him and to dedicate ourselves to Him, and not to be distracted and swayed by the many other commitments we have in life.

It is very easy for us to be distracted by the many commitments we have in life, and to be swayed by the temptations of worldly things, which cause us to forget about God and to ignore Him despite Him truly being present in our midst and within our own lives. In the first reading from the Book of Leviticus, God appointed all those feasts and celebrations of the people for a reason, not just merrymaking and celebration, but also to remind them of God and His love for them.

Otherwise it will be very easy for us to be swallowed and distracted by our worldly concerns, thoughts, as what we have witnessed in the Gospel account on the rejection of the Lord by His own people, from His very own hometown in Nazareth was because of their stubborn insistence to follow their own prejudices and biases, that was borne out of their acquaintance and knowledge of the background of Jesus and His growing years in their midst.

Those people would not allow the Lord to enter into their hearts and minds, and they closed themselves to Him, rejecting Him. That is what exactly can happen to us all as well if we allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly ideas and corruptions. That is why, similar to what the Israelites have celebrated in the past through their many festivals and celebrations throughout the year, the Church has also put in place numerous celebrations and events throughout the entire liturgical calendar, for us to refocus our attention on God.

On this day we also celebrate the feast day of two saints whose lives and examples may be a great source of inspiration to all of us as Christians, in how we should live our lives to the fullest and devote ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly as we should have. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a holy and dedicated bishop who endured through a lot of hard times and persecutions and yet remained faithful to the Lord while St. Peter Julian Eymard was a dedicated priest who founded two religious congregations and was remembered for his great piety and commitment to God.

St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a very hardworking bishop and shepherd to the flock of the faithful entrusted under his care, as he spent countless hours and time to minister to the needs of the people of God. He had to endure through a difficult persecution and challenges when he stood up for the true faith against the heresy of Arianism, which was then widespread and popular, enduring even exile for his commitment and faith in God. He continued to work hard in combatting the falsehoods of the heresies to the last moments of his life.

Meanwhile, St. Peter Julian Eymard was remembered for his strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. He helped to spread the popular Forty Hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament throughout his priesthood ministry and gathered likeminded people in establishing two religious congregations of those who dedicate themselves to the Blessed Sacrament, namely the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament for the men, and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament for the women.

Having seen the examples and the good works done by these two faithful servants of God, all of us should be inspired to live our own lives in the way that they have shown us, that is to centre ourselves on God and to focus our efforts and attention on Him. Let us all strive to be more dedicated and committed to God despite all the challenges, temptations and obstacles we may encounter on our journey of life.

May the Lord through the intercession of His faithful servants, St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard continue to guide us and grant us the strength and courage needed for us to continue to be faithful and loving towards Him, at every moments of our lives. May the Lord bless us all and our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 2 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops and Priests)

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter’s Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? Where did He get all these things?” And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is his hometown and in his own family.” And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Friday, 2 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops and Priests)

Psalm 80 : 3, 4, 5-6ab, 10-11ab

Start the music, strike the timbrel, play melodies on the harp and lyre. Sound the trumpet at the new moon, on our feast day, when the new moon is full.

This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob, a statute He wrote for Joseph when he went out of Egypt.

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I, YHVH, am your God.