Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that each and every one of us are going to have to answer for every one of our actions and deeds, as well as our lack of action and work in life, at the end of time, when the Lord will judge each and every one of us. All of us must remember this so that we may always be careful and vigilant in how we live our lives each day, so that we do not end up walking down the wrong path, and that we may continue to be faithful to God in all things, refusing the temptations to disobey God and to sin against Him.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the words of the Lord calling on all of His people to repent from their sins, telling them to turn away from the path of wickedness and evil, as He told all of them of what they were all expected to do as His people, in doing what is right and just according to the Law and the commandments which He had bestowed to them. The people had not been faithful to those Law and commandments, and they often neglected their obligation to fulfil the precepts and expectations of the Covenant which God had made with them and their ancestors.

That is why they had fallen on the wayside in the path towards God, and by their sins they had brought upon themselves the sufferings which they then suffered. During the time of the prophet Ezekiel, many of the people of God had been forced off into exile, brought away from their homeland, had their cities, towns and homes destroyed, and had to endure the humiliation of seeing themselves under the dominion of the Babylonians. The prophet Ezekiel was sent to this exiles in Babylon, to proclaim God’s words to them and to remind them that while their folly and stubbornness had led them to such a state, but God still loved them nonetheless and wanted them to return to Him with contrite hearts.

As the prophet Ezekiel highlighted in the words of God we heard today, that each and every man are responsible for their own sins and faults. He used the example of how a righteous man might have a sinful son, and while the man will be judged well by his righteousness and good deeds, the son will have to answer for his own crimes and wickedness. That is a reminder to all the Israelites in exile, that despite the sins of their forefathers which eventually led them to be in such a terrible state, if they were to return to God and shun the path of sin, then God will forgive them and embrace them all once again by the virtue of their repentance and their good deeds.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard a short encounter between the Lord and little children, who came to Him and were stopped by the disciples. The Lord rebuked His disciples for their actions and welcomed the young children into His presence. He also mentioned how the young children should be welcomed, and how the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble like those young children. Essentially what we heard today is a reminder for all of us to imitate the young children in their faith and in how they believed in God with such sincerity and commitment, with joy and energy that others often lacked.

That is because a child’s faith and belief are still pure, unadulterated and not affected by the numerous temptations and desires that many adults and older people often have. All those things became hindrances and obstacles in the path of one’s journey towards God and can end up distracting us from the path towards God’s grace and salvation. And unless we follow the examples of those children, we are likely to end up falling into those temptations and enter into the slippery slope of sin and evil. Our pride, ego, desires and greed often become our undoing as those lead us down the path to ruin, by closing ourselves up from God and His love.

Today, all of us should be inspired to live in the manner of the saints, our holy predecessors, namely that of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus whose feasts we are celebrating this day. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were in fact rivals to the seat of the Bishop of Rome and successor to St. Peter the Apostle as the Pope. While Pope St. Pontian was legitimately elected as Pope, a segment of the Church chose to side with St. Hippolytus instead and chose him as a rival Pope or Antipope. This development had arisen after several years of divisions and disagreements within the Christian community, out of the disagreement with regards to the acceptance of new converts and the penitential rigour required of them.

While the disagreements and conflicts between the supporters of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus could often become rather strong, but eventually, they were reconciled to each other, and in the face of intense persecution against the Church and the people of God by the Roman authorities, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus both chose to leave their offices behind, so that a new Papal election could take place and reunite the divided community of the faithful. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus themselves were arrested during the persecution, exiled and eventually died as martyrs during their exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the examples and lives set by Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, we can see how each one of us as Christians should behave in our own lives, and how we should live our lives virtuously in God’s path. We must be willing to listen to God and to follow His will instead of following our own whim and desires. Like Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus who resolved their differences and did things for the good of the Church, we too are called to leave behind the taints of worldly desire and the allures of sin, and embrace wholeheartedly God and His truth, His love and grace, from now on and onwards.

May God be with us always and may He continue to strengthen each one of us in our journey of faith in life, that we may draw ever closer to Him and become sources of inspiration ourselves to one another. May God bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) 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, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

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

Ezekiel 18 : 1-10, 13b, 30-32

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Why are you applying this proverb to the land of Israel : ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live, word of YHVH, this proverb will no longer be quoted in Israel. All life is in My hands, the life of the parent and the life of the child are Mine. The lives of both are in My hands; so, the one who sins will die.”

“Imagine a man who is righteous and practices what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines, or look towards the filthy idols of Israel, does not defile his neighbour’s wife, or have intercourse with a woman during her period; he molests no one, pays what he owes, does not steal, gives food to the hungry and clothes to the naked, demands no interest on a loan and does not lend for interest, refrains from injustice, practices true justice, man to man, follows My decrees and obeys My laws in acting loyally. Because such a man is truly righteous, he will live, word of YHVH.”

“But perhaps this man has a son, who steals and sheds blood, committing crimes which his father never did. Will such a man live? No, he will not! Because he has committed all these abominations he will die : his guilt will fall upon him. That is why I will judge you, Israel, each one according to his ways, word of YHVH. Come back, turn away from your offences, that you may not deserve punishment.”

“Free yourselves from all the offences you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, Israel? I do not want the death of anyone, word of YHVH, but that you be converted and live!”

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all presented with the words of the Lord calling on us to guard ourselves against all sorts of worldly temptations, and in particular today we are called to focus our attention on the sin of the flesh, the desire that we mankind often have for the pleasures of the body, which led us down the path of sin and wickedness as we are often tempted to seek for the worldly pleasures first and ignoring the Lord’s truth and teachings. That is also why many people had ended up being deep in the state of sin, as well as breaking up families and relationships.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people through Ezekiel regarding all that He had done for them, for all the years and ages, throughout all the generations. He had made His Covenant with them, blessed them and gave them and their ancestors much blessing and bounty, providence and help, as He rescued them, took good care of them, guided them, purified and made them clean again when they had erred and fallen into the wrong paths. He rescued them from their enemies and struck their enemies down before them, guarding and strengthening them, giving them glory and joy.

Yet, as we heard the Lord spoke, He showed His frustrations and lamentations at how those same people continued to be wayward, rejecting Him and His ways, choosing instead to forge their own path and committing whatever is wicked in the sight of God and men alike. They worshipped the pagan idols and gods, persecuted God’s prophets and messengers who had been sent to them to guide them and remind them to stay faithful to the truth of God. The people had chosen to trust in their own strength and judgment, turning deaf ear to the Lord’s call. Yet, the Lord was still ever patient and continued to reach out to them nonetheless.

That was what He told the people through Ezekiel, as He presented this truth to the people in exile in Babylon, reminding them that God still loved all of them regardless, and wanted to reach out to them, embracing them with love and forgiving them their sins. He would renew His Covenant with them, which He had always ever been faithful to, all those years, if only the people were willing to listen to Him, hearken to His call and answer Him with faith. The Lord has always been generous with His love, compassion and mercy, and in the end it is really up to those people to embrace what God had generously given and presented to them.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord speaking to the Pharisees with regards to their question whether divorce was lawful or not according to the Law and whether it should be allowed or not. The Lord then highlighted the fact that the Law of God as revealed through Moses had been modified and changed according to the preferences of the people, as even Moses himself was scandalised by the behaviour of the Israelites back then, who hardened their hearts against God and gave them some concessions so as to help them accept the Law of God better, but those concessions ended up making them even more complacent and in the end, misunderstanding the whole purpose and intention of the Law.

And as today we focus on the matter of familial relationship, marriage and also obedience to God, we are all reminded how God had always intended for us to do His will, and each one of us as the Lord highlighted in His words, had our own particular calling and vocation in life. For those who have been called to married life, that bond of marriage as the Lord had defined it, is everlasting and unbreakable, and one who sought to break that bond with the reason other than that is acceptable, such as the desire to marry another person, is essentially committing a sin against God, the sin of adultery for both parties involved.

The Lord highlighted that there are also others called to different calling and purposes in life, such as those who are destined for a life of service to God, and many among them will remain unmarried, and instead dedicating themselves wholly to God and His people. What is important here is that, whatever it is that God has called us to do, in our various vocation and calling in life, each one of us are called to listen to God and to dedicate ourselves more to Him, and to listen to Him earnestly, not hardening our hearts and minds against Him as our predecessors had often done. We should also resist the many temptations present all around us, in the desire and pressure to seek worldly pleasures and satisfaction among other things.

Today, all of us should be inspired by the examples shown by St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was once a mother to several children and was widowed in early age due to her husband’s unfortunate early death, and she dedicated herself to God from then on through charitable works and missions, and she was inspired through an encounter with another saint, St. Francis de Sales. She eventually founded a religious congregation known as the Congregation or Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. All its members are called to live the charism and works of its founder, St. Jane Frances de Chantal who desired to care for the needy and the less fortunate in the community, and they were remembered as the sisters who spent more of their time in mission than cloistered in a monastery.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Jane Frances de Chantal and surely many other saints, holy men and women of God had shown us by their own lives, their dedication and commitment to God, we are all reminded and called to do our best in whatever capacity and opportunity we have been presented with by God, and to be exemplary and source of inspiration ourselves to our fellow brethren, in how we live our lives and in how we seek the Lord with faith, in each and every moments of our daily living. May God be with us all and may He strengthen each one of us with the resolve to live ever more courageously in His path. Amen.

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

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, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Ezekiel 16 : 1-15, 60, 63

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem its sins. You say on My behalf : Your beginning was in Canaan; there, you were born. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born, your cord was not cut; you were not bathed in water to make you clean; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you wrapped in cloth.”

“There was no one to look with pity on you; or compassionate enough, to give you any of these attentions. You were left, exposed, in the open fields; because you were looked upon with disgust, on the day you were born. But I passed by; and saw you, immersed in your blood. I said to you, in the midst of your blood, ‘Live!’”

“I made you grow, like a plant of the field. You grew up and became tall; and were becoming of marriageable age. Your breasts were formed and your hair had grown; but you were naked and exposed. I passed by later, and saw, you were at the age of love; and spread part of My garment over you, to cover your nudity. I made a Covenant with you with an oath – word of YHVH – and you were Mine.”

“Then I bathed you in water; I cleansed you of your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with embroidered cloth and put soft leather sandals on your feet. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with jewelry, putting bracelets on your arms, a necklace around your neck and a ring in your nose. I gave you earrings and a magnificent crown for your head.”

“You were adorned with gold and silver; your clothing was fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You were fed on finest flour, honey and oil; you became very beautiful and rose to be queen. Your beauty was perfect; and your renown spread through the nations, because of the splendour I had given you – word of YHVH.”

“But you relied on your beauty; you trusted in your fame; and you began to give yourself to every passerby, like a prostitute. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 16 : 59-63

For thus says YHVH : “I will treat you as you deserve; you, who despised the oath and broke the Covenant. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant. You will be mindful of your ways and be ashamed, when I take your sisters, both the elder and the younger; and give them to you as daughters, without prejudice to My Covenant with you.”

“For I will uphold My Covenant with you; and you will know that I am YHVH, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Thursday, 11 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to turn away from our sins and our wickedness, and once again face the Lord with faith. All of us should do what we can to distance ourselves from the sinful things present in our world today, and resist the temptations to commit such sins and other deplorable actions that are unbecoming and unworthy of us being Christians, God’s own beloved people and children. God also willingly extends to us His forgiveness and grace, but it is really up to us to accept His mercy and forgiveness, and commit ourselves to a new life free from evil and sin.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the Lord telling Ezekiel to do His will, in proclaiming His message to the exiles of Israel in Babylon, regarding the fate of their homeland, Judah and Jerusalem, which at that time was in the last days of their existence. Ezekiel and the other exiles were among those whom the Babylonians had brought to exile in that region in an earlier attack on Judah, and back then, the other king that the Babylonians installed on the throne of Judah was rebelling against them, and therefore, the Babylonians came to besiege Jerusalem once again.

The Lord revealed all that those in Judah and Jerusalem would experience, all because of their disobedience, wickedness and sins. The people of Judah had depended on themselves and on worldly powers, on pagan idols and gods rather than on the Lord their God. All these despite whatever God had done for them and their ancestors for a very long time, in taking good care of them and their needs, in protecting them and providing for them. The Lord has been very patient in showing His people His love and kindness, but the people often refused to listen to Him, rejected Him and His offer of kindness and mercy, His compassion and patience in loving them.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the parable that the Lord spoke to His disciples regarding the servant who was forgiven from his debts and then refusing to forgive another fellow servant the debt that this fellow servant had owned him. The Lord used this parable to highlight first of all, the nature of the Lord’s kindness and mercy, His generosity and love, in His willingness to forgive us all our sins and wickedness, in His desire to reach out to us and to find the way for us to return to Him. The Lord used this parable to also highlight to us the need for us to forgive one another our sins and mistakes to each other, just as God Himself has forgiven us ours.

Related to what we have heard in our first reading today, the Lord has forgiven His people time and time again, as He continued to reach out to them ceaselessly, sending out messengers, servants and prophets to help guide His people on their way back towards Him. He patiently waited on them, hoping that they would repent from their many sins and wickedness, and He called on all of them to turn back towards Him with faith. Although their sins were many and uncountable, but when the people willingly and genuinely wanted to be reconciled with Him, their prayers and petitions would be heard, just as in the parable the master forgave the massive debt of the ungrateful servant.

However, more often than not the people of God had not appreciated or understood the depth of God’s love and mercy for them. The Lord had always been faithful to the Covenant which He had made and established with His people and their descendants, but the people were ungrateful like that of the ungrateful servant in the parable. The ungrateful servant did not follow his master’s example, and chose to persecute one of his fellow servants who owed him a debt much smaller than what he himself had owed his master, much as the people of God chose to walk their own path and lived in wicked ways after the Lord had repeatedly forgiven them their sins.

Today, all of us are therefore called to turn back towards the Lord and reorientate ourselves and our lives once again towards Him. And each and every one of us can do well to follow the example of our holy predecessors that we may better know how we should walk in our path of life, that we do not end up falling down the wrong paths that those people in the past had done. Today in particular, we celebrate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, one of the early members of the Franciscan religious movement, as a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans. St. Clare was the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic order founded upon the Franciscan charism and way of life.

St. Clare devoted herself to God from an early age, dedicating herself to pious works and charitable actions from her youth. She was born from a rich and noble family, but she endeavoured to leave everything behind to follow the Lord after encountering St. Francis of Assisi and listening to his sermons. St. Clare left everything behind and her family, and despite her father’s attempt to force her to return home, St. Clare persisted and remained firm in her conviction, and eventually continued with her calling and religious life, establishing the Order of Poor Ladies as mentioned and led her community with great dedication and faith.

It was also told that in one occasion, during the time when tumultuous conflicts caused war and much devastation to ravage throughout the land, in what is now the Italian peninsula, an invading army of the Holy Roman Emperor came to the town and the monastery that St. Clare was living in, and ransacked the town before heading to the monastery itself to do the same as well. According to the same tradition, St. Clare defended the monastery, praying before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and holding up the monstrance containing the Real Presence of the Lord when the soldiers came into the monastery, when a great blinding light terrified the soldiers so much that they immediately retreated and left the town in haste.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the story of St. Clare’s examples and life we can clearly see how God was always with those who are faithful to Him, and how each one of us should live our lives in the manner that St. Clare had done, in being committed to God in all things we say and do. Each and every one of us should do whatever we can to glorify God by our lives and to remain faithful to Him, and to the Covenant which He had generously made with us all. May God be with us always and may He empower us to live ever more devoutly in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 11 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 21 – Matthew 19 : 1

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.”

“The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he has paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished these sayings, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.