Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded today through our Scripture passages of our Christian calling, that is to be filled with love and charity, as well as to be humble and not to boast of our own glory and might, but instead, focus our attention on God and do what He has commanded each and every one of us to do, in understanding His will and obeying His Law with genuine faith.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Apostle St. Paul an exhortation he made in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, for all of them not to look down on others or to be judgmental and comparative, to feel superior to others and to be biased. And by using the examples of himself and the other Apostles, by showing and reminding everyone how they had humbled themselves and laboured so hard for the sake of the people, despite being the leaders of the community, the intention of St. Paul was to remind all of us to be humble and to focus ourselves on God.

It is very easy for us to be tempted by the temptation of ego and pride, to think of ourselves as better and superior, and that others are not as good as ourselves. And this is very common temptation that we often face whenever we do our work as part of the Church, in our communities and Church ministries, and even in our interactions and activities in the general community.

By our nature, we are easily tempted to think that we cannot go wrong, and that it must have been because of another’s fault that we end up in trouble. And we also tend to point out another’s mistake first rather than recognising, less still pointing out our own mistake. And all of these were caused by the pride and ego in us, and they are among the biggest obstacles in the path of our journey of faith.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the account of how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticising the Lord’s disciples and followers before Him just because they picked on the grains of wheat in the field and eating them as they were hungry. All these happened on the day of the Sabbath, on the day which was supposed to be holy and dedicated to God, and of which there were rules and regulations related to this holy day.

The Sabbath is the holiest day in the week, and the Law of God stipulated that the day ought to be kept free from busy things in life and the usual activities, all for the intention of helping God’s people to refocus their attention on Him and spend quality time with Him, which is why the Sabbath day is also known as the Day of the Lord. It is what we also keep today in our observance of Sundays as the Days of the Lord, celebrating His resurrection and glory.

But over time, the Law was interpreted by the elders and the priests, passed down as increasingly strict sets of rules and regulations that severely restricted the activities of the people, and in time, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law embodied it, the obsession over the petty details of the Law of the Sabbath made many to forget the very reason, purpose and essence of Sabbath itself. The Law was enforced very strictly on the people, and those who did not obey fully, were looked down upon and despised like what the Pharisees did to the Lord and His disciples.

It was exactly what we have just discussed earlier, on the matter of pride and ego which misled the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Lord rebuked these people as misguided leaders and shepherds, who have indulged so much in their own sense of superiority that they had forgotten to lead the people on the right path, showing them guidance and compassion. Instead, they indulged in praise and fame they received from the people, and became haughty and arrogant.

That was why the Lord immediately reminded the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who criticised and attacked His disciples, that even the well-respected and adored king David in his time, gave his followers bread to eat when they were on the run from the authorities and were very hungry. And those bread in fact, were not just any bread, but bread reserved only for the priests to eat, and not for any one else.

The Lord wants to remind us through these, that we must not be distracted and tempted by pride, and we must not look at the Law of God, His commandments and laws at merely face value only. If we only appreciate these at face value only, then what we are doing is essentially just skimming the surface of God’s truth and will on the surface, without deep foundation and genuine understanding on what it means for us to be Christians.

If we act in ways that show prejudice on others, being judgmental and biased, being superficial in faith, then all of us need to realise that this is not what our Christian faith is about. And if we think that we are all good, righteous and more worthy than others, then we need to change our mindset and perspective. Today, we have a great role model whom we can look upon as an inspiration and example to follow in how we ought to live up a genuine Christian faith.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, also better known during her lifetime and after as the Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was a religious remembered well for her zeal and courage in reaching out to care for those who were sick and suffering, especially in the worst of conditions, as it was in Calcutta in India where many if not most of the people lived in abject poverty in slums and terrible conditions not fit for human habitation and life.

An Albanian Catholic girl, who chose to join religious life in her youth, and then thereafter came to India as part of her mission, St. Teresa of Kolkata came to know of these immense suffering endured by many of the poor in Calcutta outside her convent walls. As she came to experience more and more of these sad realities of life, she began to hear the calling to make a difference in the lives of those whom she had seen suffering so much.

That was how St. Teresa of Kolkata chose to embark on a new journey, venturing out from the convent and embracing instead the poor, the sick and those dying in the slums and in the streets, giving love, care and comfort to those who had no one to love them, those who had been treated as less than human beings, and showed them the face of God’s love. It was certainly not easy for her especially at the start of her new mission, and she faced plenty of obstacles and opposition, but her conviction, zeal and love for the poor and the dying helped her to overcome all those obstacles.

Many had been touched by St. Teresa of Kolkata and her tireless efforts for many decades, as she established the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation dedicated to follow in her drive and passion to help the least and the poorest, those who are suffering all around the world. To those who are not suffering in the way those poorest in Calcutta, the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity also reached out to those who had none to love and comfort them.

For all of these, St. Teresa of Kolkata was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize as well as great renown. But what she was very well-remembered for was her speech, in which she mentioned that ‘she was just an instrument, a pencil in the hands of the Lord’. St. Teresa of Kolkata remained personally humble and dedicated to her mission, and even as she struggled to overcome her many challenges, the temptations of the devil, we can see in her, a great and shining example of Christian virtue and faith, that each and every one of us can follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the inspiring virtues and examples of St. Teresa of Kolkata, being humble in our everyday life, humble before God and man alike, and place our focus constantly on God, as we live our lives joyfully in serving Him and in loving Him, in showing His love to one another, just as St. Teresa of Kolkata had done, sharing the genuine love of God to all man, especially to those who are most vulnerable, weakest and least loved by all.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, Mother Teresa, pray for us all that we too may follow in your footsteps, in loving our brothers and sisters, in showing genuine love, care and compassion, that we may live our lives as genuine Christians centred on God and not on ourselves or our selfish desires. May the Lord be with us always, and guide us in this journey of life in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through a field of grain, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the Sabbath.”

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

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

Psalm 144 : 17-18, 19-20, 21

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.

He fulfils the wish of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. For those who love Him, YHVH has compassion; but the wicked, He will destroy.

Let my mouth speak in praise of YHVH, let every creature praise His holy Name, forever and ever.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

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

1 Corinthians 4 : 6b-15

Learn by this example, not to believe yourselves superior by siding with one against the other. How, then, are you more than the others? What have you that you have not received? And if you received it, why are you proud, as if you did not receive it?

So, then, you are already rich and satisfied, and feel like kings, without us! I wish you really were kings, so that we might enjoy the kingship with you! It seems to me, that God has placed us, the Apostles, in the last place, as if condemned to death, and as spectacles for the whole world, for the Angels as well as for mortals.

We are fools for Christ, while you show forth the wisdom of Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are honoured, while we are despised. Until now we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and badly treated, while moving from place to place. We labour, working with our hands. People insult us and we bless them, they persecute us and we endure everything; they speak evil against us, and ours are works of peace. We have become like the scum of the earth, like the garbage of humankind until now.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn you, as very dear children. Because, even though you may have ten thousand guardians in the Christian life, you have only one Father; and it was I who gave you life in Christ through the Gospel.

Friday, 4 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded as Christians to have a thorough transformation in life, in how we live our lives and in how each and every one of us spend our every moments, to be focused on God at all times, to follow His will and obey His laws, as well as to love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our strength and might.

As Christians, first and foremost, there is a need for us to change our perspective in life and how we live up this life we have with faith, so that if once we have been self-centred, lacking in faith, tainted with sin and with the corruption of desires and temptations, then now we are called into a new life and existence that is no longer reminiscent of the old life we once had, the old life of disobedience, wickedness and sin.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul reminding us through his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, of the need for all of us to see ourselves as the servants of the Lord and as His stewards in carrying out whatever He has tasked us to do. We should also not judge one another but rather, be prepared with how we will all be judged by the Lord, as the one and only true Judge, for our every actions and deeds, our every sins and virtues at the time of judgment.

That is why our attention should be focused on what we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord was confronted by some people, probably the Pharisees, who questioned Him and compared His disciples to the disciples of St. John who fasted and followed the rigorous imposition of the Law of God as revealed through Moses and passed down through the Jewish leaders and elders. By doing so, those people had formed their judgment against the Lord and His disciples for not doing what was deemed to be right.

This is where what we heard in our first reading passage today mattered, that we should not be judgmental in our attitude, and instead, first look into ourselves and our actions first before criticising others, or else we end up becoming hypocrites. And the Lord also used the two parables of the wineskin and wine, as well as the parable of the old and new cloth and patch, to illustrate this to all of us.

In that parable, we heard how the wineskin must be properly matched to the wine to be stored inside it, that old wine ought to be kept in old wineskin while new wine ought to be stored in new wineskin. Conversely, a torn new cloth ought to be patched with new cloth piece as well, and not with an old patch of cloth. What is the significance and meaning behind these two parables, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is a reminder that we need to have an attitude and life that is compatible with our Christian faith, our belief in God.

Unless we genuinely practice our faith in the way that we have believed it, and fill our lives with actions that are in accordance with God’s way, and no longer living according to our old ways of sin, just like the new wine that is compatible with the new wineskin, we will end up being destroyed if we use the ‘old’ way of life and our past sins to live our new faith in God. That is why the Lord used that parable to show, how being His disciples means that we all need to listen to Him, follow Him and do as He has commanded us to do.

Are we willing and able to do it though? It is not easy for us to change the way we live our lives as the tendency is such that we prefer the comfort of life over hardships, to satisfy ourselves and our desires over caring for the needs of others. But this is what being Christians is all about, brothers and sisters in Christ. To be Christians means that we firmly believe in the Lord, embrace His way, His teachings and truth, and the reality is that, often, we may have to endure challenges and trials as we journey along in faith.

But we must not be afraid, because if we are faithful and remain firm in our faith, then the Lord will judge us to be worthy of His eternal kingdom and glory, and He will gather us all in, while those who reject Him, will be by their own decision, be cast out into the eternal darkness and suffering. The choice is on our hands, brothers and sisters in Christ, to choose whether we want to follow the Lord faithfully, or whether we want to continue walking down the path of darkness and sin.

May the Lord help us in our journey, strengthen us in our resolve and empower us all to live faithfully in His presence at all times. May He bless our good endeavours and works, and may He be with us always, especially through our most difficult moments in life. May God bless us, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 4 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 5 : 33-39

At that time, some people asked Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and say long prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why is it, that Your disciples eat and drink?”

Then Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them. But later, the Bridegroom will be taken from them; and they will fast in those days.”

Jesus also told them this parable : “No one tears a piece from a new coat to put it on an old one; otherwise the new coat will be torn, and the piece taken from the new coat will not match the old coat. No one puts new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and be spilt, and the skins will be destroyed as well.”

“But new wine must be put into fresh skins. Yet, no one who has tasted old wine is eager to drink new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

Friday, 4 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 5-6, 27-28, 39-40

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and live on it. Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in Him and let Him act. Then will Your revenge come, beautiful as the dawn, and the justification of your cause, bright as the noonday sun.

Do good and shun evil, so that you will live secure forever. For YHVH loves justice and right, and never forsakes His faithful ones. The wicked, instead, will perish, and their bread will be cut off.

The Lord is the Salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. The Lord helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them for they sought shelter in Him.

Friday, 4 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 4 : 1-5

Let everyone then see us as the servants of Christ and stewards of the secret works of God. Being stewards, faithfulness shall be demanded of us; but I do not mind if you or any human court judges me. I do not even judge myself; my conscience indeed does not accuse me of anything, but that is not enough for me to be set right with God : the Lord is the One Who judges me.

Therefore, do not judge before the time, until the coming of the Lord. He will bring to light whatever was hidden in darkness and will disclose the secret intentions of the hearts. Then each one will receive praise from God.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today, we heard about the call for all of us as Christians to be dedicated to God and to put our trust in Him for everything we do in life, to listen to Him and to follow Him wholeheartedly. We should not allow ourselves to be tempted and swayed by human ambition, pride and desires, but instead, allow ourselves to be led and guided by God.

In our first reading today, the Lord reminds us through His Apostle St. Paul, that for all the great wisdom, intellect, power and ability we have in the world, all of these are nothing and insignificant in the presence of God, and if we are to boast, as St. Paul said, let us all boast of the Lord and not of ourselves and our own abilities. And St. Paul mentioned in that same passage, his own name, that of Apollos as well as Cephas, the Aramaic name for St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all the faithful.

This was because contextually, in the communities of the Christian faithful, there had been intense divisions at the time, especially within the Church in Corinth, to which St. Paul addressed this Epistle, in which segments of the community began to side with certain factions proclaiming that they were for St. Paul, and others were for Apollos, while yet others were proclaiming for Cephas, St. Peter.

St. Paul was the famous preacher and evangeliser who travelled extensively all across the Mediterranean region, establishing the communities of the faithful in many places and was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles for his efforts and commitment, while Apollos was a charismatic Jewish convert to the Christian faith, who gained large following due to his charism, and St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the appointed Vicar of Christ. These figures became the rallying points around which the segments of the Christian faithful coalesced around. All of these factions and divisions among the faithful led to the fracturing of the Church unity and the confusions it caused in the Christian community.

St. Paul therefore asked all the faithful to avoid dwelling in human desires, the desires and ambition for power, and to avoid using human and worldly wisdom and understanding to live their faith in God. Instead, all the faithful should trust in God, put their faith and listen to Him. It is just like what we all heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the account of the calling of the first Apostles, the fishermen of the lake of Galilee, namely, St. Peter and his brother St. Andrew, as well as the two sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John.

At that time, St. Peter and others were fishing in the lake without result even after much efforts overnight. But the Lord told them all to put out into the deep waters, and as soon as they followed His instructions, they gained so much fish that the whole boat could not take the great weight of the fishes caught. St. Peter then immediately recognised that Jesus was no mere ordinary Man, but a great and Holy One of God and trembled before Him, knowing that he was unworthy and a sinner.

Then the Lord called on all of them to follow Him, and which they did, abandoning their boats, following Him to be the ‘fishers of men’. Through this, they would gather for the Lord, the ‘fishes’ representing mankind, to the Church, represented by the boat, and therefore into salvation and eternal life in God. This is the mission which God has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and which He also entrusted to all of us in His Great Commission, ‘Go forth and make disciples of all the nations!’

Through all of these God is calling on each and every one of us to be centred and focused on Him, and Him alone, not to trust in our own strength and power, but rather, doing our works through our strength and power drawing from God and His strength. And by drawing on strength from Him, then we are called to go out and ‘put into the deep waters’ which means that we need to get out of our comfort zone and go forth, be genuine and good Christians, to inspire and call others to be good Christians on their own accord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we look forward into how we are to live our lives as good and dedicated Christians, and also rejecting the temptations of human desires and worldly glories, let us all look at our holy predecessor, Pope St. Gregory the Great, the saint and holy Pope whose feast we are celebrating today with great joy, in memory of the great contributions and efforts he had made for the greater glory of God and His Church.

Pope St. Gregory the Great reigned as Pope at a time when the Church was encountering difficulties from both the religious spectre as well as from the secular world, as at that time, not only that secular authorities were falling apart as the remnants of the authority and power of the Roman Emperors ruling from Constantinople began to fall apart and Rome came under threat from foreign invaders, but the discipline in the Church and among the members of the clergy had grown lax.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, an experienced administrator for his days before being a priest and monk, and Pope, did a lot of effort to reform the Church and the administration of both the faithful community as well as the secular governance over the region of Rome and beyond. He improved the livelihood of the people and the governance, improved various aspects of Church life and also the discipline in the Church and among the members of the faithful.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was also remembered for his efforts in spreading the Gospel message and convert more and more souls to the Lord. He sent missionaries to Germany and also England, most famously in sending the missionary St. Augustine of Canterbury to be the first Bishop of Canterbury and therefore laying the strong foundation of the Church in England, as well as in other parts of Christendom.

Of course, we also remember his efforts for what would come to be known by his name, as the Gregorian Chant, in his efforts in standardising Church music and improving its quality, which in time, would come to be a vast multitude of hymns and chants that bring great glory to God and bring even more people ever closer to God by the sacredness of the wonderful hymns and chants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the faith and commitment of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in our faith and life that each and every one of us may become ever more faithful in everything we do, that we may put God at the centre of our life and existence. Let us follow his example and dedicate ourselves to the greater glory of God and His Church. May the Lord help us and be with us, and guide us through this journey of faith through life. Amen.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 1-11

At that time, one day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat, and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.