Saturday, 24 August 2019 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the principal disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord, namely that of St. Bartholomew, who was also known as Nathanael as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. In that passage we heard about the moment when the Lord called Nathanael to become one of His followers, revealing Himself on Who He truly is, the Saviour promised to the world.

The Lord called Nathanael and reassured him that He truly is the Messiah, although initially Nathanael doubted Him for having come from the humble village of Nazareth in Galilee, where no one great has been prophesied to be born, but the Lord showed him that He truly is God Who knows everything and all things, Who has brought into this world the truth with which He would save this world and all the people He loves.

And Nathanael came to believe in the Lord and followed Him wholeheartedly to the very end, becoming one of His Apostles and went through the many moments throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry and beyond, and later on throughout the evangelical and missionary ministry he embarked on in proclaiming the truth of God to the people in many faraway places, known as St. Bartholomew the Apostle.

St. Bartholomew was accredited with many missions to places as far as India, Armenia among other places, spreading the Good News of the Lord to the people in those places who have not yet heard the truth of the Lord. He persevered even through the many challenges and persecutions he had to face throughout his ministry, and even through the rejections and oppositions he endured all those years.

Eventually, it was told that he was martyred in a city in Armenia where he was hung and flayed alive after according to some Apostolic traditions, he managed to convert the king of Armenia to the Christian faith. The opponents of the faith struck out against him and persecuted him, and St. Bartholomew died as a martyr, bravely and faithfully defending his dedication to the Lord to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have now heard about the life and dedication of the Apostle St. Bartholomew, in his commitment to the Lord all the years of his life. But do we all also realise that each and every one of us are also called to walk in the path set before us by the Apostles? Just as St. Bartholomew had dedicated himself completely and trusted the Lord completely, in performing the missions which He had entrusted to him and the other Apostles, all of us are also called to do the same mission and work.

For the works of the Church and the mission God had entrusted the Church and His Apostles are truly still far from done. We are all called to walk in their footsteps and continue their work of evangelisation and ministering to the people of God. We are all called to be witnesses of our faith in everything we say and do, and we are expected to live our lives with faith, to be exemplary in our actions and our deeds, with all of our dealings and interactions with one another.

And as what we perhaps have experienced in our own lives and what the Apostles and the story of saints and martyrs have shown us, we are likely to endure challenges and oppositions, persecutions and rejections in our lives as we live our lives with faith, and often we will have to be torn because of those whom we love who cause us hurt and pain just because they disagree with our way of life filled with faith.

Are we able to endure such sufferings and challenges, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to go through those difficult times and moments and yet still remaining true to our faith in God? The Apostles have shown us, the martyrs and the many other saints of God have proved to us that it is possible for us to live a truly Christian life and persevere on despite the difficulties we may face in our respective lives.

In our first reading today, the reading from the Book of Revelations should become a great source of inspiration to us, as St. John saw in his vision the coming of the great New Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, on which was written the names of the Apostles of the Lord, on each of the twelve gates of the great city. This is a reassurance and promise from God, that all of those who have been faithful to Him and devoted themselves to Him, from the Apostles to all of us, will not be forgotten, but instead will receive the fullness of joy and true happiness, glory and satisfaction in God in due time.

Let us all be encouraged and be strengthened in faith, that from now on we will no longer be lukewarm in living our faith, but instead grow to be better in faith and in our good works and deeds, all done for the greater glory of God. May the Lord through the intercession of His Apostle, St. Bartholomew and the other Holy Apostles, saints and martyrs continue to guide us in our own respective journeys of faith in life. Amen.

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 1 : 45-51

At that time, Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets : He is Jesus, Son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked Him, “How do You know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.”

Nathanael answered, “Master, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 21 : 9b-14

And one of the seven Angels who were with the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues said to me, “Come, I am going to show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

He took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the colour of crystal-clear jasper. Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve Angels.

Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God speaking to us through the Scriptures first of all through the story of Ruth, one of the ancestors of David, the king of Israel and therefore also the ancestor of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth was actually not counted among the people of Israel, but was a Moabite, one of the people considered as pagans by the Israelite.

At that time, and as it was up to the time of Jesus, the Moabites and many of the Canaanites were often looked down by the Israelites, as the latter took great pride in themselves being the chosen people of God. They considered the other people and races and nations to be unworthy of God and that they were superior to those other races and nations. And yet, we have heard from the Book of Ruth, how Ruth loved God and dedicated herself to Him through her dedication to her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth did all these even though she was not related at all by blood to Naomi, and her husband, the son of Naomi had died without leaving any child behind. Technically and legally at that time, Ruth could have freely left her mother-in-law and return to her homeland, which even Naomi, her mother-in-law insisted her of doing. Yet, Ruth stayed with her and committed herself to God and to the people of Israel.

This is how this wonderful woman came to become the one through whom the great king of Israel would be born eventually, by the grace of God in which Ruth bore her husband, Boaz, a son Obed who was the grandfather of king David, the king of Israel. It was the love, faith and dedication of Ruth which made everything possible. She was faithful and dedicated to her newfound faith, and her examples are exactly what God wants us to emulate in our own lives.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Who was confronted by the Pharisees who wanted to test Him using the Law and the commandments of God, trying to trap Him in His words and responses. They asked what the most important Law in the commandments was, and the Lord spoke it plainly and clearly, summing up the entirety of the Law into two main facets, namely, loving God with all of our strength, might and effort, and also loving our fellow brothers and sisters around us in the same way.

The context of this passage was that at that time, the Pharisees and the Lord has plenty of disagreements with regards to the matter of obeying God and following His laws and commandments. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law believed in a very strict interpretation of the laws and rules of Moses, and they enforced this way on the rest of the people of God, causing a lot of difficulty and also misunderstanding of the true meaning of the Law.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law professed to believe in God and even took great pride in being so observant and particular in their way of following the rules and rigour of the laws of Moses, but for many of them, truly their hearts and minds were not centred on God. They did what they have done out of pride and desire for worldly recognition and power.

But for the example which we have discussed earlier, Ruth, who was a foreigner and an alien in the land of Israel, had more faith and true dedication to God than all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law, because she truly loved God with all of her heart, with all of her mind and with all of her strength, and she also loved her fellow men in the same manner. She was devoted to her aging mother-in-law who would have been left all alone to fend for herself should Ruth had decided to leave her. Instead, she took care of her mother-in-law and dutifully did all that she could to help her.

And during the time of Jesus, although not mentioned in today’s Gospel passage, yet another woman and foreigner put all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law to shame, because she had greater faith than all of them. While the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law doubted the Lord and refused to believe in His truth and message, a Syro-Phoenician woman who came to the Lord with great faith did not even mind being humiliated and had so much faith in Him that she trusted Him so much.

Today, we also celebrate yet another servant of God whose life has been similar to what we have heard about Ruth and the Syro-Phoenician woman. St. Rose of Lima was known as the first of the New World saints, meaning that she was the first saint hailing from the continent now known as the Americas. In what is today modern day Peru, St. Rose of Lima was a lay member of the Dominican Order, who was renowned for her great piety and charity for the poor and the needy in her society.

St. Rose of Lima had led a very virtuous life from her youth and she has always desired to join a religious order, dedicating her life to God, meeting opposition from her family. In the end, she joined as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, but persevered in her commitment to a life of purity and chastity dedicated solely to God. She was known for wearing a heavy silver crown with small spikes inside on her head, emulating the crown of thorns worn by the Lord at His crucifixion.

St. Rose of Lima has shown her great love and dedication for the Lord, devoting herself wholeheartedly towards Him. Are we able to do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to commit ourselves like what all those people we have mentioned today had done? We are all called to follow the Lord with faith, and in order to do so, we must truly put God at the very centre of our lives.

Let us all make God the very reason why we live, and the very focus of our every efforts and works. Let us all turn towards Him with all of our strength and from now on, let us all walk faithfully in His presence. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us all in faith. Amen.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Matthew 22 : 34-40

At that time, when the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned Him to test Him, “Teacher, which commandment of the Law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole Law and prophets are founded on these two commandments.”

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Psalm 145 : 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in YHVH their God, Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all they contain.

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Ruth 1 : 1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22

There was a famine in the land during the time of the Judges, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah departed with his wife and two sons, to sojourn in the country of Moab. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. She was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.

After living in Moab for about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion also died; and Naomi was left bereft of husband and two sons. Having heard that YHVH had come to help His people by giving them food, Naomi prepared to return home.

But Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law returns to her people and her gods. You too, must return. Go after her.” Ruth replied, “Do not ask me to leave you. For I will go where you go and stay where you stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God.”

Thus it was that Naomi returned from Moab with her Moabite daughter-in-law and arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest began.

Thursday, 22 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a full seven days after the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, celebrating the glorious queenship of the Mother of God, as the Queen of Heaven, and also as her many other titles suggest, as Queen of Angels, as Queen of All Saints, and as Queen of Peace and Queen Mother.

Mary is Queen not because of her own power or inheritance, but because of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was in her womb for nine months and was born from her, a virgin and humble woman of the small and poor village of Nazareth. Mary is Queen because her Son is King, the King of Kings and the true King of Israel, the Heir of David and Solomon, and also the King of the entire Universe by virtue of His being the Creator of the whole universe and the world.

It is very important for us to take note and to keep in mind this nature of Mary’s queenship and the great honours we always give to her because of her special place within our faith and within the Lord’s plan of salvation. We do not honour Mary because of her own greatness or power, and neither do we treat her like a divine being or a goddess, as what some would have accused us of doing because of their misunderstanding.

Instead, we honour Mary as a special person, being and a glorious Queen because we honour, adore and worship her Son, as our one and only True God and King. In many ancient traditions and kingdoms, in many nations and peoples, the mother of the king has a very important position, as the queen mother of the nation. And the queen mother does not have to be born into royalty or be descended from royalty. Her great honour comes from her son who is the king.

And the queen mother has a special position and being revered by many in the whole country, as in the Scripture, in the Book of Kings, we can see how Solomon placed his mother Bathsheba at his right hand, sitting on a throne by his side, and he often asked his mother for advice and inputs in how he ought to make decisions and reign as a king. It was truly a great honour that Solomon as king has given to his mother.

Therefore, if kings and rulers of this world have honoured their mothers as such, and if we ourselves love and honour our own mothers, how can our Lord Jesus not honour His own mother? That is why, we all believe fervently that Mary is truly honoured as the Queen Mother of Heaven, as the glorious Queen of Angels and all Saints because she truly sits at the side of her Son in heaven, beside His Throne, a special honour reserved only for her.

And just one week ago as I have mentioned earlier today, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, when we celebrate the moment Mary was assumed or taken up in the whole body and spirit up from this world into heaven. Therefore, we believe that Mary is now in heaven, glorified by her Son and reigning as Queen by His side, and becoming for us our greatest intercessor, as the greatest and most honoured among the saints.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us should really be thankful that we have Mary as someone whom we can trust and rely on, as the one through whom our prayers and thoughts can be brought to, our petitions which she will pass on to her Son. That is why so many people have strong devotion to Mary, because not only that she is truly close to her Son, but even more so because she is also our mother just as she is the mother of Our Lord and Saviour.

From the cross, Our Lord has entrusted His own mother to us as our own mother when He entrusted her to St. John the Apostle, who represents the Church symbolically. And in the same manner, just as He also entrusted St. John to Mary as her own son, therefore Our Lord has entrusted us all, His beloved people to be the beloved children of His own mother, Mary. That is why Mary has always loved us all just as she has loved her Son with all of her heart.

She has done so much in trying to bring us closer to her Son, in her numerous Apparitions, in Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima among many others, imploring all those who have seen her to spread the message of God’s truth and for the repentance of sinners. She has shown us all the love shown by a mother to her children, as she wants us all to be saved and not to be condemned and be separated from her or her Son.

Now, what are we going to do about this then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we going to appreciate what Mary has done for us, in her ceaseless intercession and prayers for our sake? We have the Queen Mother of Heaven herself by our side, and what we need to do is to keep on praying and to try our best to do what she has asked us to do, and that is to turn towards her Son, Our Lord and Saviour with faith.

O Mary, Queen of Heaven, Queen of Angels and Queen of All Saints, most glorious Queen and Mother of God, pray for us all sinners always, that we may draw ever closer to your Son, and be reconciled from all of our sins and unworthiness. We thank you for your constant love and intercession, o dear Mother most beloved. Pray for us always and guide us always to your Son. Amen.

Thursday, 22 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.