Saturday, 11 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continued the discourse from the Scriptures which started yesterday, in the Gospel according to St. Luke, in which the Lord Jesus taught the people with the parable of the dishonest steward, pointing out what the dishonest steward had done in order to secure his livelihood after he was fired from his job as steward. The steward used his guile and craftiness to trick his master from his money, that there would be people who had gratitude in him and thus would take care of him.

The essence of this passage today is not for us to think that God despises the rich or those who have more possessions than others. Indeed, in the Gospel today, it was mentioned how the Pharisees loved money and sneered at what Jesus had just told and taught them. Yet, in this, we have to understand the context in which the Lord spoke to His people. Jesus did not say that money is evil or wicked, but rather, it was the Pharisees’ love for money and other forms of worldly glory that ended up becoming their downfall.

Throughout the history of mankind, we have seen how our love and desire for money, wealth, possessions and worldly things have resulted in sorrow and suffering for many people because of the actions that those who seek money, wealth, fame and worldly glory have taken, in order to secure for themselves these things. And we know that it is very difficult for us to be satisfied with what we have, as even after we get what we wanted, we will be tempted to want even more.

Thus, at the root of the problem is mankind’s inability to resist the temptations of money, worldliness and pleasures of life, which distract us from our attention and faith towards God. This is what we must address, and what we must take care of, if we are to be true disciples of the Lord, as true Christians. We must not put ourselves and our selfish desires ahead of our obligations to love, for Christians are called to love just as the Lord our God Himself has loved us.

Let us spend some time to reflect, brothers and sisters, on the love of God. God has loved each and every one of us so much, that He has bestowed on us the greatest gift of love of all, that is the perfect love shown by His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who willingly died on the cross for our sake, that through His crucifixion, suffering and death, He delivered us from the tyranny of sin and death.

If God has loved us all so much, then should we not also love Him in the same manner? He has given us all everything, even to the point of humbling Himself unto death on the cross for us. That is why as the Lord Jesus said, that the Law and the Commandments of God can be summarised into two key laws, that is, to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, strength and our whole beings. And then, because we have loved God, we must also love our brothers and sisters in the same way, for God loves all of us, without exception.

We must realise that the more we have been given by God, the humbler and more loving we should have become, and the more we should have shared our blessings with those who have less, little or none. We should follow the examples of the Apostles and the disciples of Our Lord, in the first reading today, where it was mentioned all those who have given themselves for the service of God.

Today we also celebrate the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a saint who dedicated his life to the service of God, and who was remembered for his many good deeds, care and loving concern for his people, first as a layman, and later on as the Bishop of Tours in what is now southern France. St. Martin of Tours was once a soldier in the Roman army, and according to some accounts, he was an army captain.

It was told that in one occasion, St. Martin of Tours met an elderly man who seemed to be homeless on the roadside, without clothing or cover, in the middle of a cold day. Therefore, St. Martin of Tours was moved with pity and compassion, and using his sword, cut off half of his army captain’s cloak, and use that half of the cloak to cover the old man. That same night, the Lord appeared to St. Martin of Tours in a vision, showing him that He was the old man whom St. Martin had helped.

This example is a reminder for all of us, of what the Lord Himself had said in another parable, that whatever we have done for the least among our brethren, the poor, the hungry, the destitute and the lonely, we have done it for the Lord Himself. St. Martin of Tours and the many other holy men and women of God had shown us the example of how each and every one of us as Christians should live in accordance to our faith.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and seek to devote ourselves, our time and effort more and more, to love first of all, Our God, and then to love our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are in need of our love, and those who have no one else to turn to, and those who are unloved and have been rejected by their peers. May God help us in this endeavour, and may He strengthen our resolve to live always in accordance with His ways. Amen.

Saturday, 11 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 16 : 9-15

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “And so I tell you : use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that, when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes.”

“Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones. So if you have been dishonest in handling filthy money, who would entrust you with true wealth? And if you have been dishonest with things that are not really yours, who will give you that wealth which is truly your own?”

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt. You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and sneered at Jesus. He said to them, “You do your best to be considered righteous by people. But God knows the heart, and what is highly esteemed by human beings is loathed by God.”

Saturday, 11 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 10-11

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

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

Saturday, 11 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 16 : 3-9, 16, 22-27

Greetings to Prisca and Aquilas, my helpers in Christ Jesus. To save my life, they risked theirs; I am very grateful to them, as are all the churches of the pagan nations. Greetings also to the church that meets in their house. Greetings to my dear Epaenetus, the first in the province of Asia to believe in Christ. Greet Mary, who worked so much for you.

Greetings to Andronicus and Junias, my relatives and comparisons in prison; they are well known Apostles and served Christ before I did. Give greetings to Ampliatus, whom I love so much in the Lord. Greetings to Urbanus, our fellow worker, and to my dear Stachys. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send their greetings.

I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, send you greetings in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who has given me lodging and in whose house the church meets. Greetings from Erastus, treasurer of the city, and from our brother Quartus. Glory be to God! He is able to give you strength, according to the Good News I proclaim, announcing Christ Jesus.

Now is revealed the mysterious plan, kept hidden for long ages in the past. By the will of the eternal God it is brought to light, through the prophetic books, and all nations shall believe the faith proclaimed to them. Glory to God, Who alone is wise, through Christ Jesus, forever! Amen.

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God through the Scripture, in which we heard first of all, in the Gospel today when the Lord Jesus used the parable of the dishonest servant to teach His people about the need for them to be truly dedicated to God, and not be divided in their commitment and attention.

In that parable, we heard about a dishonest steward who was found out in his deeds by his master, who then went on to fire him from his employment, and gave him some time to settle his accounts before he is dismissed from service. The steward was accused of fraudulent service, meaning that he had been accused of cheating his master of his money and properties, which was a serious charge.

Therefore, the dishonest steward made his move, trying to provide for himself after he has lost his job as steward. He reached out to his master’s debtors, and as we heard in the passage, he edited those debts, giving the people who were indebted to his master lighter debts and obligation in the end. Why did the dishonest steward do these things? It is so that they in turn would be indebted to him and therefore would be willing to help shelter the dishonest steward when he was out of job.

In this, as we see how the dishonest steward used dishonesty and blatant lie to save himself, we see how those who walk in the ways of the world would double down on that path, when they were presented with the choice of following what the world prescribes and what the Lord had taught His people. That is why the Lord mentioned after this passage, that we cannot serve both God and money. We will end up loving one and despising the other.

Why is that so? That is because we mankind by our nature are easily tempted. Money by itself is not bad or evil in nature, yet, it is in how we use the money and desire to gain it that we end up falling into evil. We always desire to want more and more possessions, and more and more wealth for ourselves, as these are what is valuable in this world, which therefore bring us pleasure and good things, temptations that keep us away from God.

As Christians, all of us should not put the world and all of its allures ahead of our obligations to serve God. We should strive to obey God in all things, and learn to give our whole heart and minds to Him. In this, we should follow the examples of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Bishop of Rome who lived and reigned as the Pope and Leader of the Universal Church during the fourth century after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope St. Leo the Great lived during tough times for the Church, battered from the inside by the divisions caused by many heresies and false teachings that had brought many people into open disagreement and rebellion against the Church. And from the outside, there were great troubles, due to the chaos of the years during the downfall of the Roman Empire and its authority in the western provinces of the Empire, now parts of Western and Southern Europe.

Pope St. Leo the Great contributed a lot to help bridge the divisions and reunite the splinter factions of the Church. And through the works and writings he had done, Pope St. Leo the Great gained many souls for the Lord, when all these people came to the Lord, turning away from all the falsehoods and heresies they have been lured into. He also was influential in keeping the unity of the Church.

He led the faithful through those difficult times, and it was widely known in one occasion, how he courageously faced the king of the Huns, the infamous Attila the Hun who had wreaked havoc throughout many parts of Europe at that time. Pope St. Leo the Great went out of the city of Rome by himself to plead with the king of the Huns to spare the city of Rome and its inhabitants from destruction. The king of the Huns retreated from the city thereafter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what Pope St. Leo the Great had done in his life should become inspirations for all of us, that we should live well in accordance with our faith, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. There will indeed be obstacles and challenges, but we must realise that all of these are part and parcel of us being Christians, living in accordance with God’s ways, and may not be according to what the world expects from us.

Let us all renew our faith and recommit ourselves to God, by practicing our faith from now on through genuine actions and deeds in this life. Let us not be distracted by the temptations of power, worldly glory, fame, wealth, possessions, pleasure and many other things that can become great obstacles in our path towards God. Let us ask Pope St. Leo the Great for his intercession, that each and every one of us as Christians may live genuinely in faith, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 16 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him because of fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.'”

“The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do : I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people will welcome me into their homes.'”

“So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question, ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.'”

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness : for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.”

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3c-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 15 : 14-21

As for me, brothers and sisters, I am convinced, that you have goodwill, knowledge, and the capacity to advise each other; nevertheless, I have written boldly in some parts of this letter, to remind you of what you already know. I do this, according to the grace God has given to me, when I was sent to the pagan nations. I dedicated myself to the service of the Good News of God, as a minister of Christ Jesus, in order to present the non-Jews to God, as an agreeable offering, consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This service of God is, for me, a cause of pride, in Christ Jesus.

Of course, I would not dare to speak of other things, but what Christ, Himself, has done, through me, my words and my works, with miracles and signs, by the power of the Holy Spirit – so, that, non-Jews may obey the faith. In this way, I have extended the Good News to all parts, from Jerusalem to Illyricum.

I have been very careful, however, and I am proud of this, not to preach in places where Christ is already known, and not to build upon foundations laid by others. Let it be as Scripture says : Those not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.

Thursday, 9 November 2017 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate with the whole Universal Church the feast of the Dedication and Consecration of the most important church in all of Christendom, and it is indeed fitting to say that this church is the heart of the entire Christian world. Why is that so? That is because on this day, about seventeen centuries ago, the great Basilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, as well as to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

This Basilica, and not the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican, is the place where the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome and the Leader of the Universal Church, has his Cathedra, or the seat of the Bishop. And where the Cathedra is, therefore lies the Cathedral. And indeed, the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Cathedral of the Pope and the Diocese of Rome, and as such, just as the Cathedrals throughout the world are the mother churches of their own respective dioceses and archdioceses, this particular Cathedral is the Mother Church of the entire world.

Thus, on the feast day of this illustrious church, known in full as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran, we rejoice together with the entire Universal Church as one united Church, for the grace of God which He had poured down onto the Church for all these years. The Cathedra of Rome in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is the seat of the Pope’s authority, which he inherited through unbroken series of succession right from St. Peter the Apostle, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome.

And as we all know, the Lord Jesus Himself established His Church in this world and entrusted it to St. Peter the Apostle, as the leader of all the Apostles and as the Vicar entrusted by God to be His chief representative on earth, and therefore, this edifice which was established seventeen centuries ago is a representation of the foundation of the entire Church in this world, which God first established on the faith of St. Peter, the Rock of the Church.

But today’s celebration is much more than just a happy celebration of the dedication and consecration of this great Archbasilica, as the Scripture passages today pointed out the true meaning of God’s churches and the houses in which He dwell in this world. The churches of God are not just the physical buildings, the beautiful chapels, or churches, or grand Basilicas or Cathedrals of the dioceses. These are indeed part of the Church, as the Houses of God, where God Himself dwells in each of them, in the Eucharist, in the Tabernacle.

For we all believe that the Lord Himself is truly present in our churches, housed in the Tabernacle, where the bread consecrated by the priests, whose authority eventually came from Christ through St. Peter and the Apostles, had become the Most Precious Body and the Real Presence of our Lord. As such, God Himself dwells in the churches, as the new Temples of God, no longer just like the Temple of Jerusalem of old.

In the past, the Lord dwelled in Jerusalem, in the Temple that king Solomon built for Him, which was destroyed by the Babylonians and then rebuilt after many years, as the Temple which existed at the time of Jesus. He was in the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, what we have today is far greater than that, for God Himself has come upon us in Jesus Christ, His Son, revealing Himself to the whole world, to all those who believe in Him and accept Him as Lord and Saviour.

And we believe this because, the Lord Himself is fully present in our churches and places of sacred worship, be it from the grandest and largest churches, Basilicas and Cathedrals, to the smallest, least and simplest of chapels which have been dedicated for the purpose of sacred worship. The dedication of a church signify the official marking and recognition given to the edifice and place, that it is now worthy of the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, and dedicated to either Our Lord Himself, or to His mother Mary, or to one or more of His many saints.

For on the altar of the church, the same sacrifice which Our Lord Jesus Christ lovingly offered for the sake of our redemption is enacted, not a recollection, nor it is a repeat, and neither a mere remembrance or memory, but instead the one and very same actual Sacrifice which occurred two millennia ago at Calvary, when Our Lord willingly accept death on the cross, condemned as a criminal, so that through that death, He might redeem many, those who believed and accepted Him, from their sins.

And in that Sacrifice, God Himself has given His own Most Precious Body and Blood, which through the priestly authority given to our priests today, have transformed the mere bread and wine into the very Real Presence of Our God. Thus that is why we consecrate and dedicate the churches to the Lord, for these must be truly holy places, of special sanctity in order for they to be worthy of being the place where God Himself dwells, His Real Presence in the new Temples, our churches.

And today, as we rejoice together remembering the day when the greatest of these physical Temples, the churches, that is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, is dedicated to God, all of us should also use this time to reflect on two very important matters that all of us will need to pay close attention to. First of all, it is regarding how we ought to behave and participate in the churches, and secondly, with regards to our alternative first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, for all of us baptised Christians that we are all the Temples of God as well.

Thus, first of all, let us all reflect on how we have behaved thus far in the church during the Holy Mass, during Adoration and Benediction sessions, and during any other liturgical functions, or even during any other times when we are just present in the church for prayers or silent contemplation. How many of us chatted unnecessarily during the Holy Mass, or during times when we ought to be silent, or to be participated during singing of hymns and prayers?

How many of us are distracting ourselves with the use of mobile phones, apps and all the other things that we should not be doing in the Mass? Yet, even though we know that God is truly present in the Eucharist, and stored in the Tabernacle that He is still always present even after the Mass and throughout the day, we did all sorts of things that we should not have done in the presence of God, in His House. And that is how we relate to what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today.

Jesus cast out the merchants and money changers from the Temple of God in Jerusalem, chasing them all out with a whip, turning over their tables and scattering off all their coins and transactions, cattle and animals they were selling for the sacrifices at the Temple. Why did Jesus do that? That is because, He was rightful to be very angry at what those merchants and money changers had done, and to a certain extent, the priests of the Temple as well.

Those people were cheating the people from their money, by charging them extra expensive for the services and for the purchase of animal sacrifices and other things, gaining profits in the process. And the priests and the Temple allowed such heinous acts to continue in the hallowed House of God. No wonder Jesus was angry at them all, having made the House of God, His Father, to be a den of robbers and wicked men, committing sins right before God’s presence.

In the same manner therefore, when we are in the presence of God in the church, from the grandest Basilicas and Cathedrals to the smallest and simplest of chapels, do we truly realise that He is there, and because He is truly present in all of those places, then we ought to keep the place holy through genuine reverence and prayerful silence? Sadly, there are many Christians who did not do this, and it scandalises our faith because there are many who had said that they do not believe in God, because they themselves witnessed that Christians had not done what they should.

Imagine, brothers and sisters in Christ, how are we to persuade others to believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, if they see many of us disrespecting the Lord in the Eucharist, either by receiving Him unworthily, or without due respect, or receiving Him half-heartedly as if we are no different from queueing to get our fast food meal from the many fast food chains out there. Is this how we should behave? If we do not do what we must, then not only that we have neglected our responsibilities, but we may have also turned many others from God’s salvation as well.

And secondly, and more importantly, what I want each and every one of us to realise and internalise is the fact that, each and every one of us who have validly received the Sacrament of Baptism and Initiation, have been made God’s Temple, as the Lord Himself in the completeness of His Holy Trinity has been received in us, dwelling in our very own bodies, hearts, minds, and our entire beings.

If I have mentioned how we must keep the great sanctity in the churches, chapels, Cathedrals and Basilicas and the grave consequences should we fail to do that, then we have to remember that all these, which are physical human products of building and construction, pale in comparison in the physical term, as compared to each and every one of us, mankind, who have been crafted and constructed by none other than God Himself, and we have also been made in the very image of God no less.

We are the perfect Sanctuaries and Temples of God’s Holy Presence, which have once been defiled by sin, by all the immoralities and all the wickedness we have committed. But through the waters of baptism, we have been cleansed and the Lord has entered into ourselves, dwelling in our very own being. Thus, each and every one of us, in accordance with what St. Paul also reminded us in the Epistle, ‘Do you not know that all of you are God’s Temple?’, must live a life that is righteous and free from all forms of sins.

Otherwise, God will severely punish those who desecrate the sanctity of this Holy Temple, and every sin is a corruption that desecrates the sanctity of this Holy Temple that is our body, our mind, our heart, and our whole being. In reality, it is indeed difficult for us to sustain a pure life, free from sin, as we are always tempted all the time, to sin and to disobey God. Yet, the free will and choice have been given to us by God. We are free to choose to continue to sin and do what is wicked in the sight of God, or to do what is right, and repent wholeheartedly from the sins we have committed.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, I cannot stress any less, that it is important for us all Christians to recognise that each and every one of us are sinners, and as we have sinned, we must strive to do what is right and just in the sight of God. And we are called to go to confession regularly and receive the Sacrament of Penance as often as we can, so that the taints of sin and its corruption will not continue to defile the sanctity of the Temple of God in our body, heart, mind and our whole being.

Let us all then, from now on, strive to live a true Christian life, by devoting ourselves to God, deepening our relationship with Him through prayer and charity, by loving others, our brothers and sisters who are in need, giving our time, attention, love, care, compassion and help wherever it is needed. May the Lord help each and every one of us, to keep the sanctity of the Temples of His Holy Presence, that all of us as Christians will be worthy Houses of God, where He dwells, just as He dwells in all of our chapels, churches, Basilicas and Cathedrals. Amen.

Thursday, 9 November 2017 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.