Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the Scriptures we heard the words of the Lord speaking to us about the matter of loving and serving God as part of the Covenant which He has made with each and every one of us, reminding us of the wonders of His love and caring heart, His kindness and faithfulness to us, despite our countless and endless rebellion and disobedience against Him.

In the first reading passage taken from the Book of Joshua, we heard how the people of Israel made promises before the Lord, renewing their commitment to the Covenant that God had made with them in the presence of Joshua, the appointed leader of the entire nation and with everyone as witness, at the moment when Joshua was about to depart from this earthly existence due to his old age.

Joshua was concerned that the people of Israel would fall again into the same temptations and the same pitfalls of desire, greed and all sorts of things that had caused their forefathers to fall into sin. Joshua had seen how many of the Israelites who went out of Egypt disobeyed God and His commandments, broke the Covenant which He had just made with them by making for themselves a golden calf idol as a false god over them, and for their many other wicked actions.

Thus, Joshua reminded them of God’s wonderful love for the people He cherished and whom He had chosen from among all the nations. And he also reminded them that should they be disobedient and refused to obey the will of God, or to follow His laws, then they would receive the same fate as their forefathers, as they would suffer and would receive nothing other than destruction and damnation.

But if they were faithful, they would receive the fullness of God’s providence and the fullness of His promised inheritance and glory. The people promised to obey the Lord and renewed the Covenant they had made with God. However, as time would prove, the people would end up falling again and again into temptations and abandoned God many times, only for the Lord to guide them yet again by sending His Judges to be the leaders of His people during those times.

Such indeed was God’s great love for His people, for all of us who have sinned against Him. His love for us is truly boundless and His mercy and compassion is always ever generous and good. No one can hide from His loving gaze and merciful heart. But many of us still resist His love and mercy, and refuse to listen to Him or to embrace His ways. We still attach ourselves to the many desires we have in this world, that led us astray from God.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard then the Lord Jesus Who spoke to His disciples, when they tried to prevent the people from bringing little children to Him. He rebuked them and their behaviour, saying that in fact, they had to be like those little children in their faith, and not to turn them away, instead welcoming them just as they ought to welcome their Master, Lord and Saviour.

And the Lord wanted to show us all through this that we must have true and genuine faith, like those of the little children’s. Little children has that pure faith and ability to believe in something totally, completely and wholeheartedly due to their innocence, and not being clouded, distracted or compounded by the desires and the corruptions or temptations within the heart and the mind.

Are we able to devote ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord in the manner that He has first loved us all so tenderly and graciously? Let us all turn towards the Lord with love and let us dedicate ourselves to Him with a renewed zeal and strength from now on. May the Lord continue to love us and guide us throughout this journey of life from now on. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 19 : 13-15

At that time, little children were brought to Jesus, that He might lay His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.”

Jesus laid His hands on them and went away.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to YHVH, “O YHVH, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I praise YHVH Who counsels me; even at night, my inmost self instructs me. I keep YHVH always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence, the fullness of joy, at Your right hand, happiness forever.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Joshua 24 : 14-29

Joshua said to the people of Israel, “So fear YHVH, and be sincere and faithful in serving Him. Set aside those gods your ancestors worshipped in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Serve only YHVH. But if you do not want to serve YHVH, make known this very day whom you shall serve – whether they be the gods your ancestors served in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites who formerly occupied the land in which you now live. As for me, I and my household will serve YHVH.”

The people answered, “May God not permit that we ever abandon YHVH to serve other gods! For it was He Who brought us and our ancestors out of Egypt, the house of slavery. It was He Who did those great wonders that we have seen; He protected us on the way and through all the land where we passed, driving away before us all the nations especially the Amorites who lived in this land. So we shall also serve YHVH : He is our God!”

Joshua asked the people : “Will you be able to serve YHVH? He is a holy God, a jealous God Who does not tolerate wickedness or faults. If you abandon YHVH to serve other gods, He will turn against you and just as He has done you so much good, so shall He punish you and destroy you.”

The people replied, “No, may it not be as you say. We will serve YHVH.” Joshua said, “You yourselves are witnesses that you have chosen YHVH to serve Him.” They answered, “We are witnesses.” Joshua then said, “Remove now from your midst any other gods and serve YHVH, the God of Israel, with all your heart.” The people answered : “We will serve YHVH, our God, and obey His commands.”

On that day at Shechem, Joshua made a Covenant with the people and fixed laws and ordinances. He also wrote down everything expressed in the book of the Law of God; he chose a great stone and put it under the oak tree in the sacred place of YHVH. Then Joshua said to the people : “This stone shall be a witness to all that YHVH said to us, for it heard all these words. It shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with YHVH.”

Joshua immediately sent the people away and everyone returned to his land. After all these deeds, Joshua, son of Nun and servant of YHVH, died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the wonderful love which God has given to His people, as the leader of Israel that time, Joshua, the successor of Moses, gathered the whole nation before him and before the Lord just before he was about to pass away in old age. Joshua recounted before the people of the wonderful things that God had done for their ancestors, in His faithfulness and providence.

Most of the people of Israel at that time were those born after the whole nation had been brought into the land of Canaan and settled there, many of them have not experienced or known the wonderful love of God, His many miracles and providence which their parents and grandparents would have seen and remembered as they were brought out of their slavery in Egypt and journeyed through the desert for forty years.

That was why Joshua gathered the whole people to remind them that it was God Who had made them prosper and grow in the land they then have called their own, given to them by God Who cleared their path before them, Who provided and cared for them and their needs, and Who watched them through their every steps and ways. Based on experience and history, the people of God, the Israelites were quick to forget all that God had done for them.

We all knew how they rebelled against God and disobeyed Him, so far as to make for themselves a false idol and god, a golden calf which they claimed to be the god who had saved them from their enslavement in Egypt. They refused to follow the Lord’s commandments and ways, and they preferred to follow their own thoughts and ideas, their own prejudices and preferences, their own desires and the many temptations of the world.

And in the Gospel passage today we heard about the discussion between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the matter of marriage and divorce, as the latter wanted to test the Lord with the question asking why the Law allowed the people of Israel to do divorce with certain conditions. And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the people that God did not in fact condone such a practice and reminded them all of the sanctity that is inherent in marriage.

But it was because of God’s great love for His people, so great and wonderful that He has been so patient and so compassionate towards them, that He was willing to accommodate them and to guide them towards the right path despite all the rejections, doubts, waywardness and rebelliousness they have shown against Him. When the laws as prescribed and recorded by Moses allowed for the provision of divorce, it was not meant to be taken for granted, and yet the people took it as an excuse to live loosely without regard for holiness and sanctity in life.

God wanted to accommodate His people so as to lead them to Him and allow them to grow more faithful in each and every days of their lives. The Lord has all good intentions and desire for His people and yet, they misused His love and providence, and took for granted what He has lovingly done for their sake. God has continued to love His people regardless, caring for them patiently and revealing to them what He truly wants for them.

Now, all of us ought to reflect on our own lives therefore, on whether we have loved God as we should have, or whether we have been like the people of Israel in the ancient times, in how they constantly disobeyed the Lord and fell into temptations and sin. Have we lived our lives in the way that we should have lived, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we truly loved God wholeheartedly as the holy saints have done?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, a holy king and servant of God, the first to be crowned as the King of Hungary by the crown sent to him by the Pope. St. Stephen was remembered for his great many contributions to the Church and to his people, as he strengthened his country and ruled wisely for many years, and also establishing the strong foundations of the Church in the whole of his realm of Hungary.

St. Stephen truly loved God as shown by his great piety, his commitment to the works of God, his personal holiness and faith. And we can see how he also loved Him by loving those whom God has entrusted to be under his care, as those who were in his kingdom prospered under his just and well-managed rule, and his genuine care and generosity towards all of them, especially those who were poor, weak and needy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to emulate the examples of this holy and devoted servant of God, our holy predecessor who have shown us what it truly means for us to be Christians? Let us all not take the love of God for granted any longer, but instead, appreciating everything that He has done for us, and be thankful of the generous love, compassion and mercy which He has given for us.

May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Stephen of Hungary, grant us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on, dedicating our whole lives to His service for the greater glory of His Name. May God bless us all and our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said : Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 135 : 1, 2, 3, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His kindness endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, His kindness endures forever.

Give thanks to YHVH of Lords, His kindness endures forever.

He led His people through the desert, His kindness endures forever.

He struck down great kings, His kindness endures forever.

And He killed mighty kings, His kindness endures forever.

He gave their land as an inheritance, His kindness endures forever.

A heritage to Israel His servant, His kindness endures forever.

And He freed us from our oppressors, His kindness endures forever.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Joshua 24 : 1-13

Joshua summoned all the tribes of Israel in Shechem, and assembled the elders, leaders, judges and secretaries. And together they presented themselves before God.

Addressing the people, Joshua said to them : “YHVH, the God of Israel, commands me to say to you : Your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River – Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor – serving other gods. But I brought Abraham your father from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan.”

“Then I gave him a son Isaac, that he might have numerous descendants. And to Isaac, I gave two sons : Esau and Jacob. Esau received the mountains of Seir as his inheritance, while Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron to punish Egypt in the way that you know, that you might leave.”

“Then I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and you came to the sea. The Egyptians pursued you with chariots and horses as far as the Red Sea. Then you cried to YHVH, and He put immense darkness between you and the Egyptians. He made the sea go back on them and they were drowned. You have witnessed all the things He did in Egypt, and then you lived in the desert for a long time.”

“Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites who were on the east of the Jordan. You fought them but it was I Who gave them into your hand; you destroyed them and you seized their lands. Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab, declared war on Israel and commanded Balaam son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to him, so Balaam blessed you and I saved you from the hands of Balak.”

“Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the landlords of Jericho fought against you : the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites declared war on you, but I gave them to you. The two Amorite kings fled from you because of the swarm of hornets that attacked them and not because of your sword and bow.”

“I gave you lands which you have not tilled, cities which you did not build but in which you now live. I gave you vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant but from which you now eat.”

Thursday, 15 August 2019 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as a whole universal Church, the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Most holy Mother of God. On this day we commemorate the moment when Mary was raised to the glory of heaven, in body and soul, by the grace of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This Solemnity of the Assumption has its parallel in our Eastern Christian brethren in the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin.

This Assumption of Mary into heaven refers therefore to the taking up of Mary, God’s own beloved mother, into heaven directly in the whole of her being, body and soul. There are those who according to the various traditions ascribed Mary having gone to ‘sleep’ and was reunited with her Son in the heavenly glory He has prepared for her, and also those who ascribed her disappearing from this world for she has been taken up body and soul into heaven.

But the key message and consideration in this great celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption is the fact that Mary has been saved from death, unlike other men and women, all of us who have to face death at the appointed time, time which we will never know, a time of God’s choosing and will, the moment when we end our worldly existence and move on into the life that is to come and give an account of our life before God.

And death, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, is the sting of sin. It means that because of sin, which is itself caused by disobedience against the will of God and against His laws and commandments, have caused us to suffer the consequence that is death, the ending of our mortal and worldly existence in this world. That is just also because life is a gift from God to us, and sin makes us to be separated from God.

Thus, because of our sins, death is a natural consequence of our disobedience against God, and hence all of us are mortal, will eventually face death in the face. However, what if someone is so virtuous and great, and so pure and immaculate so as to be worthy of God and to escape death altogether? Is that possible, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Scripture provides us with an answer, in several individuals known to have been brought up to God without going through death.

First of all from the Book of Genesis we have Enoch, one of the early descendants of Adam who was described as a very virtuous and righteous person who is a friend of God, and after spending three hundred and sixty-five years in this world, was taken up to God’s side, and no longer walked on earth among men. And then we also heard of the prophet Elijah whom God took up into heaven on a flaming chariot in the Book of Kings.

And last and greatest of all, was Mary herself, who by Apostolic tradition of the Church, passed into the realm of eternal glory in the same manner, for among all men and women, surpassing all others, save that of her Son alone, she has been prepared and made worthy to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world and the Master of all the universe in her. And that is why Mary was assumed into heaven and celebrated today in this most Solemn feast of the Assumption.

For we heard in the Scripture reading for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption that the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of Jerusalem led by king David, the king of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object and the centre focus of all the whole nation of Israel, because in the Ark of the Covenant was contained the two tablets of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron used by Moses during the Exodus and the manna, bread from heaven that God has given to His people during that time.

And God’s presence came down frequently on the Ark of the Covenant as mentioned in the Book of Exodus and the subsequent books mentioning about the moments when the Israelites journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Ark of the Covenant occupied the centre place in the entire community at the centre of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as the symbolic representation of God being present in the midst of His people.

That was why the Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, from gold and most precious wood and best of earthly matters available, to be the throne of God Himself on earth among His people. And in one incident just before the Ark was brought into the city of Jerusalem, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark during its transfer was struck dead because of the misdeed. All of these served to show just how sacred and great that Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God’s Holy Presence is.

Now, then, let us all compare that old Ark of the Covenant, made by human hands using the best materials that the world can provide, and containing the old Covenant and Law of God as revealed through Moses, with the New Covenant that Christ has brought with Himself into this world, the fullness of the truth of God as He Himself revealed, the fulfilment of the Law and the prophecies of the Lord.

And Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant just as Jesus Christ her Son, our Lord is the New Covenant between us and God. That is why the Church from the time of the Apostles has held and taught the core belief that Mary has always been pure and free from the state of original sin, by the grace of God. She is called the Immaculate Conception because she alone has received the grace to be free entirely from the corruption of sin, and she remained pure throughout her life.

As mentioned earlier, God has made her to be special because she is truly the New Ark of the Covenant which far surpassed the old Ark of the Covenant. Through her, the Lord and Saviour of this world Himself came into this world, Who spent nine months in her womb. If the old Ark contained the tablets of stone of the Law and the bread of manna, then in Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, was the Law Himself, the complete fullness of the Law and the Bread of Life.

As such, Mary has to be pure and spotless, without the corruption of sin and immaculate, to be the bearer of God Himself in her. For Jesus Christ her Son is not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God, having in Him the two natures of God and Man. If the old Ark of the Covenant was so sacred, then Mary must indeed be special and sacred as well. And thus, it has implication in what we are celebrating today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

That is because at the start of today’s discourse, we mention about death being the sting of sin, meaning that it is because of sin that we have to endure and experience death. But then, Mary is immaculate and free from the taint of original sin, as the Mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. How can she then suffer the consequence for sin when she herself was free from the taint of sin throughout her life?

And how can the mother of the Saviour of the world, Who came into this world to deliver us all from the tyranny of sin and death be subjected to the same suffering and the pain of death that her own Son has conquered and triumphed against by His victory on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection from the dead? That is why, we all believe firmly and fervently that Mary truly has been granted the grace by God to pass over death itself and hence was assumed body and soul directly into heaven without experiencing death.

Today, all of us ought to look upon Mary, and see in her the perfect example of who we all as Christians should be in our own lives. Mary has been the faithful servant all her life, not just because she has been set aside by God to be pure and immaculate, free from sin, but even throughout her life, she has loved the Lord so much, and loved her Son with all of her strength, that she continued to live in a state of grace throughout to the moment of the end of her earthly presence at the Assumption.

We see in Mary a reflection of our own glorified persons, as the sure promise of the Lord to us when we are faithful to Him that He will do with us as what He has done with His mother. He has promised us all that all of us who are faithful and worthy will be with Him for eternity, to enjoy forever the true happiness and joy in His presence, and Mary is showing us the way forward to reach this state of grace with her Son.

And she is constantly helping us in reaching out to her Son, by her constant prayers and intercessions for our sake. Now that she is in the glory of heaven by the side of her Son’s Throne, Mary is truly the greatest of all saints, the one who is nearest to Our Lord and Saviour, being concerned all the time for us. For we must not forget that from His Cross, Our Lord has symbolically entrusted Mary to be our mother too through His Apostle St. John, and also vice versa, all of us as her children.

Let us all therefore pray together, brothers and sisters in Christ, and ask Mary, the glorious Mother of God assumed into heaven, to intercede for our sake always before her Son’s Throne, that we may always be persistent and courageous in living our lives with faith. Let us all also follow the examples of Mary’s obedience and faith in God, and be ever closer to her Son through her. May all of us be filled with God’s grace and be worthy of His inheritance. Amen.

Thursday, 15 August 2019 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 39-56

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour! He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed.”

“The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name! From age to age His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.”

“He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.