Saturday, 6 August 2022 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates one of the great Feasts of the Lord, namely that of the Transfiguration of the Lord, commemorating the moment when Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Saviour of the world was unveiled in all of His unbridled glory before three of His disciples at the top of Mount Tabor, as He revealed the truth about Himself before the three disciples, of Who He truly is, and what His mission in this world was all about. And through the Transfiguration, each and every one of us as Christians are also called to reflect on our own lives, and how we have each been called to be transformed through our faith as well, in our lives.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Daniel, the revelation of truth from the ancient prophet, as he received the heavenly vision of God seated on His Throne in Heaven. Not only that, but peculiarly, the vision included the vision of One of Great Age and one Son of Man, which prefigured the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity, as Daniel saw how the One of Great Age granted power, dominion and glory to the Son of Man, Whose kingdom and dominion will not end till the end of time and beyond. In essence, Daniel had seen Christ Himself, as a premonition of all the things that would come.

In our alternative first reading from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard the account of the Transfiguration itself from St. Peter, which together with our Gospel passage today revealed to us what happened on that day at Mount Tabor. The Lord Jesus unveiled His hidden glory, power and majesty to His three disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John in order to show them a glimpse of the truth about Himself and His mission in this world. The Lord appeared to them in all of His glory, His raiments dazzling white and pure, while Moses and Elijah came to attend to Him, which in itself is a very symbolic occurrence.

For Moses and Elijah’s presence symbolised the Lord’s true nature and also His mission in this world, as Moses represented the Law of God and the commandments that He has spoken to him and passed through him to the Israelites, while Elijah represented all the prophets and messengers of God, through whom God had spoken many times, calling on all of them to repentance and to be reconciled to Him, as well as the prophecies they had delivered regarding the coming of a great Saviour, the Holy One of God Whom He had promised to all the people from the very beginning.

Therefore, Moses and Elijah represented how Christ came into this world, to be the manifestation of God’s Law and truth, His many prophecies and promises made to all of us mankind. He is the Son of Man that Daniel had seen in his heavenly vision, and He is also at the same time, the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God through Whom God had willed this world and all creation into being. He is truly the personification and perfect manifestation of the Law, through Whom God also made manifest His love for each and every one of us. Hence, the disciples who were there that day at Mount Tabor, saw the Lord Jesus as Who He truly was, not just merely a Man, but the Divine Son of God in the flesh.

That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the first significance of Transfiguration of the Lord for all of us. Through that moment of Transfiguration, the world in darkness and sin have seen the great light of God, which was seen by the Apostles, who then passed on the testimony of that truth and revelation to all of us. Through the Transfiguration we realise that God Himself has come down to dwell among us, His Son in the flesh, revealed to us in all of His glory and majesty, and through Whom all of us receive the assurance of eternal life and salvation, if we have trust and faith in Him, and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour.

Then, the other significance of the Transfiguration of the Lord is, although more subtle, that the Lord is calling us to be ‘transfigured’ ourselves together with Him. Each and every one of us, the children of man had been made pure and perfect, blameless and spotless, meant for greatness and perfect joy with the Lord, as how God intended it all to be. Yet, by our sins and disobedience which brought about those sins, we and our ancestors from the beginning of time had sundered ourselves from that love and grace of God, all that should have been ours should we remain fully faithful to Him. Instead, we sought for worldly pleasures and joys rather than to trust in God.

That is why we have often ignored God’s love and compassion towards us. And that kept us defiled and corrupted, separated from the fullness of God’s love and grace. The Lord is calling on each and every one of us to follow Him and to be faithful to Him once again, breaking free from the chains of sin and evil that shackled us and kept us away from God. That will require each one of us to embrace God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to a new life and existence in God, essentially transforming our lives from one that is sinful and worldly into lives that are worthy of God.

The Lord through His Transfiguration has shown us all what we mankind are called to be like, in our future state, to be good and perfect once again, and rid from the sins and wickedness that have once corrupted and enslaved us. The Lord has called on us to aspire to this state of life, free from the burdens of our past sins, but we do need to seek the Lord and allow Him to transform our lives, allowing Him to touch our hearts and minds and guiding us down the right path so that we may find our way to His loving presence and return to His embrace. Each one of us as Christians have been called to embrace the Transfiguration of Our Lord in anticipation of our own.

But that also requires us to embark on a journey of faith through life, which more often than not may lead us through challenges and trials, sufferings and persecutions. All those challenges may be difficult for us to endure, and we may be tempted to give up the struggle and return to our comfort zone. That was exactly what the Lord also showed us at the moment of His Transfiguration, that while He revealed the upcoming glory of His true nature, of the glory of our everlasting life with Him, but in order to achieve that, He had to go through intense sufferings and pains, as He went down Mount Tabor and told His disciples to follow Him, reinforced by the Father’s own words calling on them to obey the Son.

He went down the mountain and from there onwards, He would go on to His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross before He rose in glory at His Resurrection, and proved that all that He had revealed and foretold at His Transfiguration were all true. Are we willing and able to make the commitment to follow the Lord too, brothers and sisters in Christ, and even to suffer for His sake? Let us all commit ourselves to follow the path of our Transfigured Lord, Who has revealed before us the sure path to His salvation and grace. Let us all turn towards Him with hope and dedication, and do whatever we can to glorify Him by our lives, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 6 August 2022 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 28b-36

At that time, six days after Jesus predicted His own death, He took with Him Peter and James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. Jesus’ appearance was changed before them : His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became bright as light. Just then Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.

Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. If You wish, I will make three tents : one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter was still speaking, when a bright cloud covered them with its shadow, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, the Beloved, My Chosen One. Listen to Him.”

On hearing the voice, the disciples fell to the ground, full of fear. But Jesus came, touched them and said, “Stand up, do not be afraid.” When they raised their eyes, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus. And as they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had just seen, until the Son of Man be raised from the dead.

Saturday, 6 August 2022 : 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.

Saturday, 6 August 2022 : 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.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 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 celebrate as the Universal Church, the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also more commonly known in Italian as Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and the greatest of all the Marian churches and basilicas dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God. This great celebration of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major should serve as a moment for us all to recall the role of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, in the history of our salvation. Through her, we have received the Saviour of the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The story of the Basilica began over seventeen centuries ago, at the time when persecutions against the Christian faith were just ended thanks to the Edict of Milan by Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius, marking the end of the era of persecutions and the beginning of era of rapid growth of the Christian faith. It was then that the first great Basilicas of Rome were built, including that of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, the Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral of the Pope, and then finally this great Basilica of St. Mary Major dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

This Basilica was built from the miraculous occasion known as the Miracle of the Snows, in which snow fell on the height of summer in early August, on this date which became the time of its dedication all those centuries ago. The history went as follows, because a devout and elderly Christian noble couple wanted to donate and offer their properties to the Church back then and offered them to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, but they did not know what to do and where to offer it, they asked her to help them to find a way to properly make their offerings in her honour.

As the sign of her help, snow fell atop the Esquiline hill on the fifth day of August, at the height of the Roman summer as mentioned earlier. That became the site where this great Basilica dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God was built, and over the subsequent centuries, many people came to this great House of God, seeking the Lord and also asking for the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary on their behalf. In the Basilica there also exists the very popular icon of Salus Populi Romani, an icon of the Blessed Mother of God as the Protectress of the Roman people and the city of Rome, to which our current Pope Francis always paid a visit before and after each one of his Apostolic Journeys.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and celebrate in memory of the Dedication of this great Marian Basilica, let us all focus on the role of Mary in the story of our salvation. Mary as the Mother of God has always been full of love, nurturing care and attention to her Son Jesus, and in the same way, as each and every one of us have been entrusted by the Lord to His own mother, that she may also be our mother, hence naturally she also shows us the same love and attention, the same caring nature of a mother for her children. For all these years, Mary has always shown her care for us, appearing from time to time to her children, to remind all of us to be faithful to her Son and to turn away from our sins.

Mary has shown us what it means to be a true, genuine and virtuous Christian, and she showed us the most direct way to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Through her and by following her examples in faith and life, all of us can and will get ever closer to God and His salvation. On this day as we rejoice and celebrate in the memory of the Dedication of a great House of God dedicated to the Mother of God, all of us are called to put ourselves under the protection of our beloved Mother as well, constantly asking for her intercessions and prayers on our behalf, for us sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and healing.

Today, our world and societies need to grow deeper in faith, as many of us Christians had become lapsed and lukewarm in how we live our faith. We no longer commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and we become ignorant and closed against God’s calling in our lives. And even when His Mother Mary called on us, we often closed off our hearts and minds as well. We spent much more time, effort, focus and attention in trying to seek other pleasures and satisfactions in life, our many desires and pursuits rather than to follow the Lord our God faithfully as we should have done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all remind ourselves and each other that we are all God’s children, and His mother is also our mother. All of us should follow the examples that our Lord Himself and His blessed Mother have shown us, and refrain ourselves from continuing to live in the state of sin and disobedience against God. The Lord and His mother Mary have called us all to leave behind our past wickedness and sins, and come once again into the loving embrace and His saving grace, and through Mary’s help we truly can make this a reality.

May the Lord our God continue to love us and bless us each day, and may through the intercessions of His mother Mary, we may all be strengthened and encouraged to live our lives with ever greater faith from now on. Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us your children, we who are sinners and unworthy, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 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 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

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.”

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Psalm)

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

Deuteronomy 32 : 35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Learn this now – that I alone am He; there is no god besides Me. It is I Who give both death and life; it is I Who wound and heal as well and out of My hand no one can deliver.

When I sharpen My glittering sword and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will deal out vengeance upon My foes and retribution upon those who hate Me.

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

Judith 13 : 18bcde, 19

My daughter, may the Most High God bless you more than all women on earth. And blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has led you to behead the leader of our enemies.

Never will people forget the confidence you have shown; they will always remember the power of God.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (First Reading)

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

Nahum 2 : 1, 3 and Nahum 3 : 1-3, 6-7

See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings Good News, one who proclaims peace. Judah, celebrate your feasts and carry out your vows. For the wicked have been destroyed, they will not attack you any more. YHVH will now restore Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’s splendour. For they had been plundered, laid waste as a ravaged vineyard.

Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty, o city of unending plunder! But what! Crack of whips, rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs! See the frenzied chargers, the flashing swords and glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded, the dead and dying – we trip over corpses!

I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make of you a shameful show, so that all who look on you will turn their backs in disgust and say : Nineveh – a city of lust – is in ruins. Who will mourn for her? Where can we find one to comfort her?

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

Revelations 21 : 1-5a

Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

A loud voice came from the throne, “Here is the dwelling of God among mortals : He will pitch His tent among them, and they will be His people; He will be God-with-them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was, has passed away.”

The One seated on the throne said, “See, I make all things new.”

Thursday, 4 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Universal Church rejoices and celebrates together the occasion of the Feast of St. John Vianney, the renowned patron of all saints, whose life and dedication to God became a great source of inspiration for many Christian faithful of the past two centuries. The dedication and zeal with which St. John Vianney carried out his mission and works should also inspire each and every one of us as Christians in our own way of living as well. St. John Vianney’s life is an epitome of true Christian discipleship and virtue, an example for all of us.

St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and experienced the hardships of the years of persecution of the Church, especially for the priests and ministers of the Church during the French Revolution era. He saw and experienced how priests braved the hardships and risked themselves and their lives as they continued to minister to the faithful people of God, often in hiding from the revolutionaries and all those who were hostile to the Church. That experience inspired St. John Vianney who was therefore inspired to follow their path and he aspired to be a priest later on in his life.

St. John Vianney was not exactly a model seminarian in his seminary days, with regards to his academic achievements. Not only that part of his studies were disrupted by the wars which happened at that time, but he was considered as a slow learner and did not pass his Latin exams, and was hence almost failed in his seminary studies and therefore almost did not become a priest at all. Yet, eventually he managed to pull through, completed his seminary preparations and was finally ordained as a priest, given the assignment to be the parish priest of a small town of Ars, from which his famous nickname, the Cure (parish priest) of Ars would originate from.

St. John Vianney had a difficult start in that town and parish of Ars, precisely because the Revolution and wars, which lasted over two decades had caused the people to lose their faith and became indignant and lukewarm, with some even being outright hostile against the Church and the clergymen. Nonetheless, those things and obstacles did not deter St. John Vianney from his commitment to his missions and works, as he continued to labour day after day, spending a lot of time with the parishioners and the townspeople, slowly getting them to open their hearts and minds once again to the Lord.

St. John Vianney was remembered for his great love and care for the flock entrusted to him, and he spent patiently a lot of hours and time reaching out to them and caring for their needs. He spent many hours in the confessional box, reputedly spending about sixteen hours each day to listen patiently to the people who came to him to confess their sins. As a great confessor and caring priest, soon a long line formed of people who came even from afar, seeking to find him and to confess their sins to him, while others came to him seeking for help and advice. News also spread that miracles had happened through St. John Vianney’s works, and evil spirits particularly feared him.

St. John Vianney continued to inspire many generations of priests and laity alike for years, decades and centuries after his passing, right to this very day, because he truly embodied what a priest is called to do, as the shepherds modelled after the Lord Himself, as the Good Shepherd. As our shepherds, priests have been called to give themselves to the service of the Lord and His people, and to help reach out to those who have been lost and wayward, separated from God, so that they might find their way back to the Lord. That is also why the Church and our world today has the great need for many holy, good priests like that of St. John Vianney.

As the Scripture passages today mentioned to us, there has been many opportunities present in our world today for more mission and work of the Church. The Lord has called more people to be His servants and followers, to become His workers and labourers, in the field of this world. Unfortunately, while the opportunities are aplenty, but those who listened and responded to the call of the Lord are often few, and likely in the coming future to be even lower. In the past few decades, the vocations to the priesthood had been on the decline, and while there had been rejuvenations and growth in some areas, the ever expanding works and scope of the Church’s missions mean that there is never enough hands on deck to do the works of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on top of that, we do not just need any priests, as we surely have known how scandals involving priests and members of the Church in the past decades and more had led to the alienation and disillusionment among not just the members of the Church and the faithful, but also the misunderstanding and the loss of trust from those outside the Church. As we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, those who are wicked shall have to account for their sins and wickedness, while those who are righteous shall be rewarded for their faith and righteousness. Our priests in particular are under constant attacks and surrounded by many challenges and temptations in the midst of their ministries and works.

Hence, the calling and the mission of priests are really not an easy one, as they are expected to do even more than what we have been expected to do as the Christian laypeople and laity. There is a great need all over the world for more holy and devout priests, in the manner that St. John Vianney and many other holy priests of the past had done and there is a need for more of those holy priests who placed their flock and the needs of their flock ahead of their own needs. That is why today we should pray for all of our priests and ask for the intercession of St. John Vianney, that all of our priests may continue to serve the Lord and His people wholeheartedly, full of faith and love.

May the Lord continue to guide us all, and especially our priests, that all of them and all of us may commit ourselves ever more to the good works and missions of the Church, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 4 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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 of St. John Vianney)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.