Saturday, 11 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard the readings of the Scriptures beginning with the Book of the prophet Habakkuk, in which we listened to God speaking to Habakkuk about how everything will happen just as the Lord wills it, in His own time and not in our time. It is God’s will that will be done and not ours, as God alone has the power and authority over the fate of all of us, and also over time and workings of this world.

The prophet Habakkuk pointed out something that many among us also often to question in our own hearts and minds, especially when we see injustice and wicked things happening around us. We may come to wonder why the Lord seems to be doing nothing when an injustice occurs to us, and when especially the poor and the weak are oppressed, ostracised and being persecuted, while the rich and the powerful had their way as they wanted.

Some of us even come to doubt that God is really actually present in our midst, or if He is present, whether He cares for us at all, if we see these kind of injustices and wicked deeds being performed in our midst. But what the Lord told the prophet Habakkuk is a reminder to each one of us is that, when we make this kind of question and statement on the Lord’s presence and action in our lives, we are actually putting a condition and demand on what we want to have in Our God.

God works in His own time and acts according to His own will, and not subject to our demands and desires. On the other hand, as a loving God and Father to all of us, He also hears our prayers and all of our requests that we made in those prayers. He is not ignorant or unaware of them at all, but in fact, He wants to help us and provide us with as much as He could give us.

But in the end of the day, we cannot put restrain or demand on what we want God to do for us. It is simply not right for us as the creature to demand what we want from our Creator. Rather, what we must have, is trust, and with trust, comes faith in the Lord, Our God. This is what the Lord Himself told the people, and also all of us, in our Gospel passage today.

At that occasion, the Lord told the people off because of their lack of faith. They were saying that they came to His disciples with the intention of having their sick ones healed from their diseases and bodily complaints such as epilepsy and paralysis, but the disciples were not able to do so. Why is that so? That is likely because they came to the disciples expecting them to heal their sick ones, but they did not have faith.

It was not the disciples who had the power and ability to heal the sick people, but rather God working through them, performing His work and miracles, that made those who were sick to be whole again. Probably the disciples themselves did not have enough faith and doubted the Lord, as St. Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles had shown on several occasions in how he doubted the Lord’s truth and resurrection from the dead.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord Jesus used the example of a mustard seed in comparing the faith that the people had in God’s power and in His truth. Why is that so? That is because a mustard seed is a very small seed, which is very insignificant in size, but it can grow into a very large tree once grown. The Lord Jesus used this as a comparison to show how even a small amount of genuine faith that we have in Him, is sufficient, and with enough encouragement and guidance, this faith can grow greatly into one that is vibrant and exemplary.

But many of us are often lacking in faith, and we do not have trust in God. Instead, we trust in our own human abilities, powers, in our wealth and worldly possessions. We place a lot of focus on worldly achievements and prestige, that many of us end up putting God aside and sidelining Him in our pursuit for worldly achievements and glories. And that is also why we often judge things based on how successful they are in terms of worldly matters, rather than to see them from the eyes of faith.

That is why we end up being angry with God for apparently not answering our pleas or giving us what we desires and wants. That is because we are limiting God into our criteria of worldly success and achievements, and we judge things based on our perception of affluence and success. But this is not how God works, and He did what He had done, not because He wanted to please our desires and wants, but rather because it is His will to do so.

Now, let us all look at the example of St. Clare of Assisi, the saint whose feast we commemorate today. St. Clare of Assisi was remembered for her great piety and dedication to the Lord, giving her whole life to God and to the service of others through prayer and charitable works. She was particularly remembered for one miraculous occasion, when the place she was living in was under attack by the marauding forces of an army that came to invade that region.

The armies ransacked the whole place, looting and causing destruction everywhere, and they did not want to spare even the convent where St. Clare of Assisi was in. She was without any weapons or any means to defend herself, but she entrusted herself completely to the Lord, reaching out to the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and as the enemies came barging into the place St. Clare was in, she lifted up the monstrance in which the Lord’s Real Presence was contained, up high, and immediately, all the enemy forces were brought to their knees.

They were brought to a great fear of the Lord’s Presence, and immediately left the whole place and town, one of the many proofs of God’s divine providence and the protection which He gives to all those who have been faithful to Him. Now, having heard of such a wondrous story of faith, are we able to do the same in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to show the same kind of complete trust and faith as St. Clare of Assisi had done?

May the Lord continue to strengthen our faith in our hearts, and may He continue to inspire us all to live with ever more commitment to walk in His path and to do His will, in every actions and deeds we do in life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 11 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Him, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”

Saturday, 11 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 9 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

But YHVH reigns forever, having set up His throne for judgment. He will judge the nations with justice and govern the peoples in righteousness.

YHVH is a rampart for the oppressed, a refuge in times of distress. Those who cherish Your Name, o YHVH, can rely on You, for You have never forsaken those who look to You.

Sing praises to YHVH, enthroned in Zion; proclaim His deeds among the nations. For He Who avenges blood remembers, He does not ignore the cry of the lowly.

Saturday, 11 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Habakkuk 1 : 12 – Habakkuk 2 : 4

But You, are You not YHVH from past ages? You, my holy God, You cannot die. You have set these people to serve Your justice and You have made them firm as a rock, to fulfil Your punishment. YHVH, Your eyes are too pure to tolerate wickedness and You cannot look on oppression. Why, then, do You look on treacherous people and watch in silence while the evildoer swallows up one better than himself?

You treat human beings like the fish in the sea, like reptiles who are nobody’s concern. This nation catches all on its hook, pulls them out with its net and piles them up in its dragnet. Pleased and delighted at their catch, they offer sacrifices to their net and burn incense to their dragnets, since these supplied them with fish in plenty and provided them with food in abundance. Will they continue, then, to constantly empty their nets, slaughtering nations without mercy?

I will stand in my watchtower and take up position on my battlements; I will see what He replies, if there is an answer to my question. Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deferred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Friday, 10 August 2018 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us that we need to do good in our lives and be generous in our giving towards one another, especially to those who are less fortunate and less privileged. And He said this pointing out at His own examples, in how He has loved us all generously with constancy even when we mankind have not been consistent in our faith and love towards Him.

In the first reading today, that is the gist of what St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth. He reminded them of the Lord Who gives each and every one of us good blessings and graces, that all of us have enough for ourselves, and are able to fend for ourselves. Now, then, surely we will come to wonder, why is it that in this world there are still sufferings and people who had not enough to survive and live, while there are others who are enjoying in great excess of wealth and all?

It is not because the Lord is unfair in His treatment to us, or that He is biased in His love for each one of us. Each and every one of us, regardless of our origins, our background, our cultural, linguistic, national differences and our appearances, physical and mental talents and abilities, and even those with disabilities, all are equally beloved by the Lord without bias and prejudice. Suffering comes about because of the abuse of freedom by God’s people, who chose to act unjustly towards one another.

And in the Gospel today, the Lord Jesus used a parable to explain this matter to the people, by comparing it with the grain of wheat that falls on the ground and die, and by that action, creating many more new life that came about from that death. This is a parable that foreshadows the moment of the Lord’s own Passion, suffering, death and resurrection, when He died on the cross in order to save all of us mankind.

That is the method by which wheat germinates into new wheat plant, such that even a single wheat grain is able to grow into a large new wheat plant that can generate many more wheat grains in turn. This signifies Christ’s willingness to die, so that by the breaking and the sharing of His Body, all of us who share in His Body and Blood may receive a share in the eternity of glory and life with God.

Today, these Scripture readings also have an additional significance as today we celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence, holy deacon and martyr of the Church. St. Lawrence was one of the pious and dedicated deacons of the Church of Rome, a position of honour and yet filled with great challenges and dangers during the time of great persecutions of the Church by the Roman Emperors, at that time the Emperor Valerian.

St. Lawrence ministered to the Church and to the faithful in the city of Rome and he had to endure harsh persecution and avoiding detection by the authorities while serving the needs of the faithful and the poor among them. Eventually, he was arrested along with several other leading members of the Church, tortured and condemned to death when he refused to recant his faith and abandon his God.

Through the blood of his martyrdom, St. Lawrence and his companions showed all of us great inspirations of faith, which inspired many other faithful to be courageous in their own faith. In fact, many more came to believe in the Lord, having been inspired by the great example of the holy martyrs. Thus the saying, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

Surely they would have also be tempted to give up their faith by the enticement of worldly guarantees and security of power, glory, wealth, possessions and material goods. Many of the martyrs were offered positions of power and worldly riches if only they would abandon their Lord and their faith, and worship the pagan gods of the Romans. Similar instances have also been recorded for many other occasions of martyrdom.

But they remained true to their faith and devoted themselves to God to the very end. God blessed them and kept them in His grace, and gave them the crown of glory promised to all those who have kept the faith and persevered to the very end. Now, all of us are called to follow their examples and strive to do our best to live our lives as good Christians, who obey the will of God and walk in the truth of God.

May the Lord continue to bless us and all of our endeavours, and may He strengthen us and empower us to live ever more faithfully, amidst the challenges and trials we may face, inspiring us to live by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, particularly that of St. Lawrence, holy deacon and martyr. May the Lord be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 10 August 2018 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 12 : 24-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.”

Friday, 10 August 2018 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in YHVH. His heart is confident; he need not fear; he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.