Saturday, 14 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are given the messages of encouragement through the Scriptures, that as the followers and disciples of Christ, all of us will not be forgotten or be abandoned, but instead will receive the fullness of the fruits of everlasting joy and grace that will be the lot of those who have kept their faith in God.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard the words of God through His prophet giving strength and encouragement to the people of the kingdom of Judah, as it was possible that the prophet lived during the time of the exile, when the people of God were exiled from their homeland in distant Babylonia after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

At that time, it was a time of great humiliation, as the people of God had to endure scorn and shame as a conquered people, having their kingdom, their city and the holy Temple destroyed by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. God had allowed their enemies to have power over them because the people of God had not been faithful, and they had been wayward in their lives, worshipping pagan idols and performing all sorts of acts that are wicked in the sight of God.

Therefore, God spoke through the prophet Joel, giving encouragement to His downtrodden and demoralised people, that if they would turn back to Him and to abandon their sinful ways, showing genuine regret and sorrow over their mistakes, then He would succour them and protect them, and He would bless them once again, He would be their God and they would be His people.

God is always faithful to His promises, to the Covenant which He had established with each and every one of us. To that extent, He gave us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Mediator of the New Covenant, which He sealed by His sacrifice on the cross, through the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood and the offering of His own Most Precious Body as the perfect sacrifice for our reconciliation and as the atonement for our sins.

Yet, many of us failed to recognise this love which God has for us, and we ignored the care and love He has shown for us. We chose to walk on our own path, and disobeyed His laws and commandments, just as much as how the Israelites of the past had done. They had abandoned God and sinned before Him, and therefore, because of their sins and refusal to repent, they have been rejected and condemned.

In the Gospel today, Our Lord Jesus made it very clear to us, that all those who listened to the Word of God, will be blessed by God, and God will be with them. If only that we obey the Lord wholeheartedly, God will grant us all that we need, and provide for us every single moment of our lives. But it is indeed not easy to become a faithful disciple and follower of the Lord, for at every juncture in our lives, there will be temptations, challenges, and even persecution and oppression.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that was what Pope St. Callixtus I, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, have experienced in his life. Pope St. Callixtus I lived during the time of the early Church, and became the Pope and leader of the Universal Church at a time when there were great persecutions against Christians and the Church, and when becoming a Christian or being known as Christians would equate a fate of great suffering and even martyrdom.

Pope St. Callixtus I encountered these difficulties throughout his life, having to endure exile, prison and torture from time to time, and as he led the Church as the Pope, he encountered even more troubles and challenges. Yet, he did not give up the fight, and continued to remain faithful to God despite the odds and challenges. He was faithful to God, and obeyed Him in all of His laws and commandments, showing a great example to the people of God entrusted under his care.

Although eventually Pope St. Callixtus I was martyred for his faith, yet, his examples, his courage and bravery, the devotion and faith which he had in the Lord continued to inspire many throughout the ages, who saw his examples and became believers in God. Therefore, all of us should also follow in their footsteps, walking faithfully just as our holy predecessors had done, living righteously and devoutly in God’s presence.

May the Lord through His holy saints and martyrs, their lives and dedications continue to inspire each and every one of us as Christians to live in accordance with God’s ways, and be obedient to Him in everything, despite the challenges and difficulties we are likely to face as part of our faith. May He empower us to live ever more closely related to Him in all the things we say and do. Amen.

Saturday, 14 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Saturday, 14 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in YHVH, you, who are blameless; and give praise to His holy Name.

Saturday, 14 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

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

Joel 4 : 12-21

Rise up, o people, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, nations. Bring a sickle for the harvest is ripe; come and tread, for the wine press is full, and the vats overflow; so great is their wickedness! Multitudes and more multitudes in the Valley of Verdict! The day of YHVH is near in the Valley of Verdict! The sun and the moon become dark, the stars lose their radiance.

YHVH roars from Zion and raises His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth are shaken. Indeed, YHVH is a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites. You will know that I am YHVH, your God, dwelling on Zion, My holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place; and foreigners will never pass through there again.

On that day, the mountains shall drip wine and the hills flow with milk; all the streams of Judah will run with water; and a fountain will spring from the house of YHVH, and water the valley of Shittim. On the other hand, Egypt will be devastated; and Edom will become a deserted wasteland, because they committed violence against Judah and shed innocent blood in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem through all generations. And I shall avenge their blood and not leave it unpunished, for YHVH dwells in Zion.

Friday, 13 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded that as Christians all of us are called to serve the Lord with our devotion and piety, with commitment to obey and follow the laws and commandments in our every actions and deeds. Otherwise, if we do not, we shall fall into the trap of sin and wickedness, and we will end up being condemned by God.

As the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today, that all those who are not with Him, are against Him, and all those who have walked away from Him and rejected Him, will be lost from Him and be condemned. That is because He is the One and only One focus which we should have in our lives, as the centre of our lives and the pinnacle of our human existence.

And through what we have heard in the Gospel today, the threat of evil spirits and possession by those spirits are truly very real. The devil is our great enemy, and he and his fellow fallen angels are out there, ready to strike against us mankind, and corrupt us into our downfall. And the devil and his allies find it the easiest for them to strike at those who are weak and defenceless, those whose spiritual defence are lacking.

Those who do not believe in God, doubted Him and worked against Him are those who are under the greatest risk of falling into the temptations of the devil, and the evil spirits came to possess them. And as the Lord mentioned, those who do not keep themselves vigilant against the attacks by the devil are at risk, because the devil shall bring forth even more evil spirits to strike at them, and they become even worse.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, appropriately, on this day we celebrate a very special occasion, that is the hundredth anniversary of the Last Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who had appeared to the three children at Fatima, Jacinta, Francesco and Lucia, every thirteenth day of the month beginning on the thirteenth of May 1917 and lasted until this day, a hundred years ago.

On this day, Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the children for the last time, and she performed a great sign which was seen by many, when the sun seemed to dance around the sky, in a dazzling show of God’s miraculous wonders, known also as the Miracle of the Dancing Sun. And in that occasion, Our Lady of Fatima also mentioned how many sinners were still in need of God’s forgiveness, and that they needed to atone for their sins.

She said, “Let them offend the Lord no more, for He is already much offended.” This is a stark reminder of what we have just heard in the Gospel passage today, that those who do not obey the Lord and stand against Him will be rejected by God, because of their sins and disobedience. We may think that God is a loving and benevolent God, and that much is true, however, we often forget that, while God does not despise us the sinners, but He despises all the sins which we commit in our lives.

Through His mother, God has frequently called upon us mankind to return to Him, to repent and turn away from all of our sins and wickedness, to be forgiven and to be reconciled with Him, so that we will not suffer the fate of the devil and all those who rejected God, that is hell and eternal damnation. That is not what God wants for us, and it is not why He had created us, for He wants each and every one of us to be with Him, to be united with Him perfectly in love.

And how do we do this? It is by deepening our relationship with God, spending time with Him and putting Him as the priority in our lives. For many of us, God has been relegated to the second, third and even to the last place, and we have placed many of our worldly matters and concerns ahead of our love for God. That is why we allow the devil to come into our bodies, corrupting our minds and hearts.

Let us therefore strengthen our relationship with God through prayer and devotion, by allowing God to enter into our hearts and dwell within us, so that we may be strengthened in faith, and therefore, we may draw closer to God. Let us all ask also for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, that she may always pray for us, and intercede for our sake, at all times, that all of us sinners may come to reconciliation with God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the loving care and intercession of His Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Fatima, we may find the best and most direct path to Him, and be worthy to receive the eternal glory and life He promised to all of us His faithful ones. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 13 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 11 : 15-26

At that time, some of the people said, “Jesus drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters. When the evil spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through dry lands, looking for a resting place; and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds the house swept and everything in order. Then it goes to fetch seven other spirits, even worse than itself. They move in and settle there, so that the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Friday, 13 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 6 and 16, 8-9

The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God.

All of them saying in their heart, “Nothing will trouble me. I am secure, powerful and happy.” YHVH is King forever and the pagans have vanished from His land.

They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim. The evil one lurks in secret, like a lion in its covert, waiting to seize his prey and drag him off in a net.