Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we are called to be faithful to the Lord and to remember everything that He had done for us all, and we are called to reject the temptations to sin and to disobey His will and commandments, as we shall certainly encounter these in our journey of life throughout. And we should also encourage one another in how we live up to our faith, that we should inspire one another to be faithful to God.

In our first reading today, we heard the exhortations and reminders made by Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy, likely during the last moments of the Exodus, as the Israelites had been spending forty years in the desert, journeying and waiting for their time to enter the land promised to them and to their ancestors. The journey should not have taken such a long time, but the Lord chastised and punished His people for their disobedience and lack of faith in Him, when they openly rebelled against Him just as He was about to lead them into the Promised Land.

During that entire period of forty years, an entire generation of those who disobeyed and disregarded the Lord perished, just as the Lord had decided, that none of those in that generation, save for the two adult faithful servants of God from the days of the Israelites in Egypt, who remained faithful to Him, namely Caleb and Joshua, would remain and enter into the Promised Land. Joshua would be the one to succeed Moses in leading the Israelites as they marched to the land promised to them.

God spoke through Moses in our first reading passage today, as He reminded His people to remain faithful to Him and not be swayed by the temptations to sin and to disobey Him. Through Moses, God reminded all of them to remain strong in faith and not to forget about the Lord Who had saved them from their slavery in Egypt, and Who had guided them and provided for them and their ancestors, throughout the Exodus and afterwards.

But unfortunately, as we can see throughout the accounts of the Old Testament, the people of Israel did not remain faithful and continued to walk in the path of sin, falling again and again into disobedience against God. The Lord has patiently guided them and called them to return to Him throughout all those years without fail, sending to them various prophets and messengers, and leaders and guides to help keep them on their path, to chastise and to remind them when they have erred and fallen into the path of sin and evil.

Then He sent to His people, to this world, the Saviour of all, His own Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour, the Master of all. Through Him, the Lord brought His salvation into our midst, revealing the truth about His love and His intentions for each and every one of us. Yet, despite having seen all that He had done, all the miracles and wonders He had performed, and despite having heard all the wisdom and truth that they had received, they failed to appreciate this truth and the love of God, and still continued to doubt the Lord and questioned Him and His truth.

Hence, we heard the Lord again rebuking His people and telling them to be faithful, and to abandon their stubbornness and wicked attitudes. The Lord called all of them to believe in Him and in the truth and the pure, genuine love that He had brought into their midst. He told them all, including His disciples, that even if their faith is small, metaphorically symbolised as the mustard seed in size, but if their faith is true, everything will be possible for them, and all things will be in their favour through God, by their faith and commitment.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord, and believe in Him in this manner? Today as we listened to these words of the Scriptures we are all called to turn towards the Lord with newfound faith and dedication, with genuine and pure love. We are all called to serve Him faithfully and to walk ever in His presence without fail. And we should seek inspiration in the examples of our holy predecessors, especially in Pope St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, whose feast days we are celebrating together today.

Pope St. Sixtus II was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult time of the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman Empire, when Christians faced series of persecutions while the rest of the Roman Empire were also undergoing upheavals and instabilities. Christians were often blamed for the troubles and issues that faced the state. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church faithfully through this difficult period, encouraging the faithful people of God to remain true to their faith despite the challenges and trials that they had to endure, and when he was arrested and martyred, Pope St. Sixtus II remained firm in his faith and exemplary in his courage to stay true to the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was an Italian priest remembered for his dedication and care towards the poor and the sick, as he made the effort to care for those who were needy and for those who were suffering from incurable diseases. St. Cajetan spent a lot of effort, in establishing hospitals and care places, and also established the Congregation of the Clerks Regular, also known as the Theatines, assembling people who were like-minded and with the same desire to serve the Lord, responding to the Lord’s call and embracing their responsibility in reaching out to their fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by these two most dedicated saints, let us all in our own lives spent as much time and effort in order to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and faithfully so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and contribute to the good works of His Church, of which we are members and parts of. Let us all have true and genuine faith in the Lord, that as our holy predecessors have shown us, if we are faithful, even the greatest obstacles and trials will not hinder us from following the Lord.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in faith, and may He encourage us and empower us to live ever more faithfully at all times, that we may dedicate our effort and time to serve Him, in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

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, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 47 and 51ab

I love You, o YHVH, my strength. YHVH is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on YHVH, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

YHVH lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones.

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Deuteronomy 6 : 4-13

Listen, Israel : YHVH, our God, is One YHVH. And you shall love YHVH, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today.

Repeat them over and over to your children, speak to them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates.

Do not forget YHVH when He has led you into the land which He promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; for He will give you great and prosperous cities which you did not build, houses filled with everything good which you did not provide, wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

So when you have eaten and have been satisfied, do not forget YHVH Who brought you out from Egypt where you were enslaved. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him and call on His Name when you have to swear an oath.

Friday, 6 August 2021 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, remembering the moment when the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, was revealed in all of His glory and splendour before His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John. The Lord Jesus brought them up to Mount Tabor to be witnesses of His glorification, as He revealed for the first time the true nature of His existence, as One Who not just a mere Man, but also fully Divine, as the Son of God, the Divine Word Incarnate.

The Lord revealed Himself before the three disciples to show them and to make them witnesses of the truth about Himself, which He had very carefully kept hidden most of the time. Many did not know Who the Lord truly was, and many thought that He was just a Prophet or Holy Man of God. Some others like many of the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law even doubted Him and questioned His authority and authenticity, and even accused Him of colluding with demons.

By revealing Himself to His disciples, which they later then revealed to others and written in the Scriptures, in an account for all of us to know the truth, therefore, the Lord had made Himself known to all so that everyone may see the Lord’s true intentions, by His coming into this world in fulfilling the Law and the various prophecies that had been made. Hence, we heard how the Lord met with Moses and Elijah on top of Mount Tabor, which is symbolic of the Law and the Prophets, that each of them represented.

Moses and Elijah were unique in that they were truly close to God, and both ended their earthly existence in manners unknown to us, as Moses was brought up to the Mount Nebo when he was about to die, and he died with the view of the land that the Israelites was to receive, at the end of their Exodus. Meanwhile the prophet Elijah was carried up into heaven on a flaming chariot in the full view of the prophet Elisha, his successor. Both Moses and Elijah therefore, were with God and as they came to meet up with the Lord, they symbolised the fulfilment of the Law, which Moses represented, having brought the Law of God to His people, and also the prophecies of the prophets, represented by Elijah, the greatest among the prophets of God.

These highlighted the Lord’s mission as He came to make the Law perfect and to make its full intentions and meaning known to us, as He taught His people and revealed to us through His Church. He Himself had said that He came not to destroy or override the Law, but to make it perfect and completely fulfilled, while mankind had erred in their interpretations and failed to recognise and appreciate the Law and its true purpose and significance. And His coming into this world also fulfilled the many prophecies that had been made about His coming, as the Lord came to save His people. The Lord has always been faithful to His Covenant, and He showed it to perfection in Christ, His Son.

But what is even more significant is what happened after the Transfiguration, as the Lord could have chosen to stay there in His glorious moment and majesty, just as Peter, His disciple had suggested, that they ought to stay there and to make tents to accommodate them on that mountain. The Lord then kindly rebuked His disciples, as His voice was heard, reaffirming yet again that Jesus was truly the Son of God and told them to listen to His words. The Lord returned to His original self, and then descended the mountain, to go to His Passion, suffering and death, which would then soon to come, facing His opponents and willingly embracing the weight and burden of the Cross.

How is all these significant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has shown us all that we are all called to holiness through Him and with Him. Just as the Lord Jesus, Who shared in our human nature and existence has been glorified, the Transfiguration reminds us and shows us of our glorified future, our renewed and blessed existence in God, should we remain faithful to Him and His commandments, obeying His Law and listening to Him. All of us are called to holiness, to be like the saints of God, all of whom were once sinners, but who abandoned and rejected their sinful ways and the path of evil for a new life in God.

But at the same time it does not mean that we are going to have instantaneous glory and joy, as we have to expect challenges and difficulties, and even sufferings and sorrows in our journey, just as the Lord endured through His Passion, His suffering and death, before His final triumph and glory in His Resurrection. We Who share in our humanity with Christ, have therefore shared in His Cross, and His suffering and in dying to our sins, and we shall also share in His glorious Resurrection, entering a new life with God in the end, for eternity.

What we all need to do now is to commit ourselves anew to a life that is in accordance with God and follow Him wholeheartedly from now on, if we have not yet done so. Are we willing to embrace this path, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to seek Him with all of our might and strength, and strive to be exemplary in our lives, in giving our very best for the greater glory of God in all things? These are the things that we have been reminded and called to do as we enter into this celebration of the Lord’s most glorious Transfiguration, His exaltation and revelation to all of us.

Let us all seek to live a virtuous life in God, and look forward to our own glorious transformation and transfiguration in time to come, that all of us, holding firmly to our faith, will receive the fullness of God’s grace and blessings. May God be with us always, and may He, our Transfigured Lord, bless us all in our every efforts and good works, in our every faithful endeavours, always. Amen.

Friday, 6 August 2021 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 9 : 2-10

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There, His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say; they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved : listen to Him!”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Friday, 6 August 2021 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 9

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.

For You are the Master of the universe, exalted far above all gods.

Friday, 6 August 2021 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Daniel 7 : 9-10, 13-14

I looked and saw the following : Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took His seat. His robe was white, as snow, His hair, white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before Him. Thousands upon thousands served Him and a countless multitude stood before Him.

Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book. I continued watching the nocturnal vision : One like a Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into His presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given Him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served Him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; His kingdom will never be destroyed.

Alternative reading

2 Peter 1 : 16-19

Indeed, what we taught you about the power, and the return of Christ Jesus our Lord, was not drawn from myths or formulated theories. We, ourselves, were eyewitnesses of His majesty, when He received glory and honour from God, the Father, when, from the magnificent glory, this most extraordinary word came upon Him : “This is My beloved Son, this is My Chosen One.”

We, ourselves, heard this voice from heaven, when we were with Him on the holy mountain. Therefore, we believe most firmly in the message of the prophets, which you should consider rightly, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the break of day, when the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

Thursday, 5 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate the great feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four great Major Basilicas of the Church, and the principal Marian shrine of the whole world. We celebrate the moment of its dedication, honouring its dedication to the Holy Mother of God, historically known as Our Lady of the Snows, and also more popularly as the Protectress of the Roman people, the guardian of the Holy City of Rome, Salus Populi Romani. Our current Pope, Pope Francis often visited the famous icon of the Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of St. Mary Major before and after his Apostolic Journeys around the world.

This great Basilica is one of the oldest churches in Rome, dating from the earliest times that churches could be openly built throughout Rome and the Roman Empire. It was built on a place donated by an elderly noble Roman family, who according to the Church history and tradition, wished to give and contribute to the Church, and prayed that they could be given a hint of what they ought to do. The Lord gave them a vision, pointing to a miracle that would happen in the midst of summer back then, when snow fell heavily on a spot, where today the great Basilica now stands.

Therefore, according to tradition, the land was donated by the family to the Church, which then built a great church building dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, as it was told that by Mary, the Mother of God’s intercession and apparition to the elderly couple, that the building and the miracle came to be. That occurrence impressed a lot of people as snow fell in the midst of high summer in August, an occurrence that was truly miraculous.

As we celebrate the memory of the Consecration and Dedication of this Basilica to the Holy Mother of God, our loving mother and intercessor, the greatest of all saints, we are first and foremost reminded of the special role that Mary has always had in our salvation and our lives. Mary is our role model, showing us what it means for us to be committed and faithful disciples of the Lord, as she lived her whole life in total obedience to the will of God.

At the same time, Mary is also our greatest ally in the struggle we encounter daily through sin and its many temptations. She has always watched over us and interceded for us, all the more important for us because she is ever the closest to the Lord, her own beloved Son, in heaven. Who can better champion for our cause other than the Mother of God herself? And this is part of the reason for the strong Marian devotion that is anchored in the popular Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded of Mary’s example of faith and dedication to God, and as rejoice in the anniversary of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. Mary Major, we are all called to remember that we are all also the living Church, consecrated and dedicated to God through baptism and the rest of the Sacraments of Initiation. We are all the Holy Temples of God’s Presence, as we have shared in His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist, His Real Presence, and the Holy Spirit sent down to us, dwelling within us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remind ourselves that we have to strive to lead a holy life, a life dedicated to God and committed to righteousness and goodness in God. Unless we commit ourselves in this manner, we will not be able to come closer to the Lord, and through sin and evil, we may even be led further and further away from Him. And if we defile the sanctity of these Temples, that are our bodies, our hearts and minds, and our souls, then the sins and the wickedness we have done will weigh heavily upon us.

Let us all therefore do whatever we can in order to seek the Lord with a new spirit and commitment, and do whatever we can to glorify Him through our daily actions and deeds, so that in everything we do, we shall always follow Him and the examples set by His mother Mary, and all the multitudes of the holy saints and martyrs, all the blesseds and holy men and women who had gone before us to the Lord, those who were judged to be worthy of God by their virtuous life.

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the resolve and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully with each and every passing moments. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 5 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

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.”