Saturday, 3 August 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings urge us to always be righteous and honest in all the things that we do, in all our dealings with others and in our relationship with the Lord our God and our neighbours, our fellow men. We are urged to always take the path of the righteous ones and avoid the path as taken by King Herod and those who try to cheat and be dishonest in all their actions.

For actions like that of King Herod shows not only dishonesty, but also giving up of oneself to the temptations of the world and the power of evil. King Herod followed his lust and desire to take the former wife of his own brother as his own. It is unlawful because it seems that the King had taken her as wife while his brother was yet still alive, and therefore committed adultery with her in the eyes of man and God.

He gave in to the temptations of the devil, the lust for human beauty and pleasures of the world, especially through his privileged position as a king at the time, surrounded by good things and other things enjoyed by the privileged class. The same was warned against the people of Israel by the Lord through Moses, that they do not let themselves be swayed by their positions and privileges so as to cheat on others on their money, their possessions or other related things.

Money, wealth, and possessions are not necessarily bad, and neither does other things that can give us happiness and pleasurable feelings. However, it is important that we do not misuse them for our own selfish purposes and intents, that we end up being controlled by these things. We have to learn to control ourselves, our desires, and our emotions. Learn to control our possessions, and do not let them control us instead.

We must always focus our attention on the Lord, and put our full trust in Him. He is the One who can give us everything that we need in our respective lives. The Lord our God is the source of our true happiness and our true joy. It is not in the world that we can find our true happiness and pleasure, not in sexual relations, human beauty, wealth, or abundance of possessions, but in the love of God, supported by our love of one another. If we do this, we obey the Lord’s commands, that is to love Him and love one another with all our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength.

If we do not love God with all our hearts and our strength, we will be more prone to the deceptions of the evil one, and eventually lead to scenarios such as the one in the Gospel, where King Herod was literally forced to behead St. John the Baptist and therefore made a great sin in the eyes of God, just because of his complete fascination in his own wife’s daughter’s beauty. Then, the same also can happen as in the scenario highlighted in the First Reading, where temptations can indeed be great for anyone to deal dishonestly with one another, and cheat on one another, particularly in monetary matters.

If we love money and possessions more than our brethren and our Lord, then we will grow to desire to possess them more and more in amount. This will lead to even greater desire, an unending cycle of desire, that will end up with us committing greater and greater sins in the eyes of the Lord. One good example would be gambling, in which many stories tell the same case, that an insatiable desire for more wealth and possessions resulting in major loss of money, and therefore, immense financial problems, which later on, tend to push people to do sinful things such as stealing, crime, or even corruption.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must stand up for the Lord, and stand up for His love, and we must dare to stand up against the temptations of wealth, material, and worldly pleasures. We have to realise and come to a full understanding, that worldly possessions are not everything for us. What we truly need is the Lord and His love, and the love of our fellow brothers and sisters, and not the love of money or the love of the world. This is what truly can fulfill our needs, especially our need for love. Money and possessions can satisfy us, but it can never satisfy us forever. We have to use it as a tool to bring love to others instead of being controlled by it.

Let us commit ourselves to our Lord and God who loves us so much that He gave us Jesus as the perfect gift, the divine love of God, given to us freely, that we may have a new hope and a new life in us, in perfect reunion with our God and Creator. He is the true love and true happiness that we should all seek in life, and put our focus on. Let us never forget His Passion and His suffering, and ultimately His death on the cross at Calvary. Let us always look at our crucified Lord with pride in our hearts. May God bless all of us, and remain with us at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 3 August 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time the news 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 this 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 disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went away to bring the news to Jesus.

Saturday, 3 August 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop; and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord our God is great, and He is mighty. He is the ruler over all creation and has authority and power over all. From generations to generations He had shown His greatness to the people of Israel and all the other children of God. He had saved Noah from the flood by His enduring love, and brought Abraham, our father in faith into the Promised Land that He promised to his descendants.

He made his descendants into great nations, and to Jacob and his sons, he made them into His chosen people of Israel. He blessed them and protected them, and He made Joseph prosperous in Egypt when his brothers thought evil things for him. He blessed His people, made them prosper and multiply in foreign lands. When they were enslaved and persecuted, He rescued them and punished their enemies, bringing them out of the land of Egypt to the Promised Land.

It is His wonders, His infinite love, and His faithfulness that the people of Israel celebrate in the feast days appointed by the Lord and told to them through Moses, in the first reading today. The people celebrated His blessing in the Promised Land and all its wealth, by thanking Him and offering the first fruits of their labour in that blessed land, as a sign of their love and dedication to Him, their Lord and God. They also commemorate the Passover, their greatest feast, because on that day in Egypt long ago, the Lord had shown His might and saved for eternity, the people of Israel from the slavery under the Egyptians and the Pharaohs.

The Day of Atonement is also a special occasion for the Jewish people, because indeed, as much as the blessings that the Lord had given to the people, their ancestors had also rebelled and sinned against the Lord, by their disbelief and lack of faith, and by their doubt in the power and authority of the Lord, much like the people of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, which we heard today in our Gospel Reading. The Day of Atonement reminds them that they are sinful and they are nothing in the eyes of God because of their sins, and yet, in His infinite mercy and love, He embraced them and made them whole again, forgiving them from their sins.

It is not only the people of Israel who has feast days and days of celebrations in their annual calendar, my brothers and sisters, because we, the people of God, the chosen people of God, who believe in Christ, also have our feast days, not unlike that of the people of Israel of old. We commemorate Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah, who had come into the world, the Word of God made flesh, for the salvation of all mankind.

We celebrate His birth on Christmas, the day when the Lord stooped down from His divine throne in heaven, and came down to be one of us, one like us, save for sin, so that we may have a new hope for salvation and deliverance from evil and death. We celebrate His ministries in this world in our daily and weekly Sunday Masses, when we listened to the readings of the Gospels, highlighting His good works and mission in this world, the teachings He had given to His apostles and from them, to us.

We celebrate daily and weekly, His most Glorious death on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice of the divine, the death of our own Lord and God, on the cross, for our sake, that we who believe in Him will not taste death but life. We celebrate this every time we have the Mass, when the ultimate sacrifice of Christ is brought closer to us, through the Eucharist, the Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood of Christ, that Jesus Himself had given us and His disciples, that He will live in us, and we in Him.

During the time of the Holy Week and Easter, we celebrate the greatest works He had done in His mission, that is the Passover of the Lord, the Great Passover, not unlike the Jewish Passover of old. This time, however, the Lord did not just pass over the people of Israel and brought death to their Egyptian oppressors, but this time, the Lord passed over the judgment of death from those who have their faith in Him, and brought them, not just into any Promised Land, but into the eternal happiness and blessing of the Promised heaven, which Christ promised to all those who put their complete trust in Him.

That is why, brothers and sisters, we ought to take greater attention and commit ourselves more strongly and more vigorously to our Lord, by putting greater effort on our own part, to fully participate in the celebrations and feast days of our Lord, celebrating the memory of His wondrous work for our sake, celebrating the mysteries of His birth, His ministry, His suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead, for in Him lies our only hope and our salvation.

Today, we celebrate the feast of both St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was the bishop of Vercelli who lived in Italy in the late Roman Empire at the fourth century after the birth of Christ. St. Eusebius faced much difficulties during his ministry as the servant of God’s Gospel, facing many divisions in the early Church, between the various heretical factions trying to subvert the truth of the Lord’s Good News.

St. Eusebius persevered and despite the difficulties, he professed his faith and adherence to the true teachings of Christ reflected in the orthodoxy of the Church magisterium. He defended the faith against heresies and promoted reconciliation between the different factions of the faithful, and also urged people who had veered away from the true faith to return once again to their Lord and their God.

St. Peter Julian Eymard also did not have an easy time in his ministry, as he faced challenges in the increasingly secular France, at the start of the nineteenth century, just decades after the horrors of the French Revolution. Yet, he persevered and continued to do great works for the sake of the people of God, ministering to them with love. He championed the cause of the children receiving the Holy Communion at a young age, which would be approved by the Church through Pope St. Pius X in the early decade of the twentieth century.

St. Peter Julian Eymard established the order of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, members of whom are devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord Himself, and in the service of His people, leading a prayerful and contemplative life filled with joy of the Lord. St. Peter Julian Eymard continued to serve the Lord in the best way he could, and he gave glory to God, the Lord who had come down from heaven to save us from death, and give us a new hope of eternal life.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the examples of St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard, we should also glorify the Lord our God and give Him our thanks, by devoutly following His teachings and proclaiming His life, death, and resurrection, particularly to those who had yet to hear the Word of God and thus the words of salvation.

May the Lord guide us in this journey through life, that we will always persevere regardless of the difficulties, and let us always remember of the love our God has for all of us, that He even was willing to suffer and die for us all, that we may live, and not just any life, but an eternal life of bliss and happiness with Him in heavenly glory. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 2 August 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop; and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 13 : 54-58

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? How did He get all this?” And so they took offense at Him.

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

Friday, 2 August 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop; and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Psalm)

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 feastday when the 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 the Lord am your God.