Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the shortness of our lives, the temporary nature of our earthly existence, and how we are reminded not to lose ourselves in the pursuit of worldly matters and pleasures, just as we have been reminded in the past few days from this Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes.

The author of this book clearly intended to remind the people of his time of the many excesses of worldly desires, their decadent lifestyle and refusal to obey the Law of God. And throughout history, we have seen how greed and attachment to desire had led to the conflicts that raged in wars and conquests, in the exploitation of the weak and the vulnerable, those who were poor and sick.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what happens when we place our own selfish desires above our faith, and when we allow all these to tempt us and sway us to indulge in all sorts of worldly and materials pursuits. And we are reminded by these readings, including from our Psalm today, ‘Make us know the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart.’

Yes, often we may end up becoming foolish in our endless and persistent desire for all that I have mentioned earlier. We spent so much time to worry about all those things, and spent much of our energy to gain for ourselves all these so that we can gain satisfaction. And our greed makes us to desire for even more and more, never fully satisfying or fulfilling our needs and desires.

In the end, with all these accumulated in our hands, what are we going to do with it, brothers and sisters in Christ? Even the greatest piles of money and wealth can be destroyed or vanished overnight, as how past financial crises had showed us. Many despaired after the Great Depression after losing all that they had, even when they were very wealthy earlier on. And no amount of food, luxury and other goods can be lasting to us.

In the end, we must realise as how Job did, that naked we had been born into this world, empty and without any possessions, and thus in the same manner we shall depart from this world, from our earthly existence. We shall not bring any of our worldly possessions, or fame or glory with us. What we shall receive in the end, is either eternal glory and true joy with God, or eternity of regret and suffering, especially if we have rejected God for the sake of our worldly pursuits.

It is indeed a great folly for us to reject true happiness and joy that can be found in the Lord alone. But if we are wondering why this is the case, that is because we are easily tempted, and we often look for quick happiness and pleasure that all these false happiness are offering us. That is why many of us fell and failed in our journey of faith, as we prioritise our own selfish desires rather than our faith in God.

Today, all of us should look upon the examples of our holy predecessors to help guide us in what we should do in order to be faithful to God. We celebrate the feast of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, renowned saints, who were physicians by trade and according to some traditions, were twin brothers. They lived through the difficult years for the Christian faith, as the Roman Empire and its administration persecuted all the Christians, and forced them to abandon their faith on the pain of death.

They were renowned for their services as physicians, caring for the needs of the sick and all the diseased. And most notably, they refused to accept any payment or returns for their services, which they offered voluntarily and with much love and great care for those whom they treated. It was told that miracles even happened as there were those who were miraculously healed by their intercession.

When the Christian faith was persecuted even more harshly under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, both of them were arrested and were tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith. But St. Cosmas and St. Damian remained faithful and chose to suffer, which according to some accounts including being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows and finally they were beheaded, dying a martyr’s death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the exemplary faith of the brothers St. Cosmas and St. Damian, generous in love and compassion, putting God and their fellow brothers and sisters above their own needs and desires. Are we able and willing to follow that example? Let us all spend some time to discern carefully on these and do what we can to be ever more faithful and be genuine in how we live up to our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith. May He bless us and strengthen us, and empower us all to live virtuously and not be swayed or shaken by the many temptations of worldly matters. Let us all dedicate ourselves ever more faithfully to the Lord from now on and always. Amen.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 9 : 43b-45

At that time, while all were amazed at everything Jesus did, He said to His disciples, “Listen, and remember what I tell you now : The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men.” But the disciples did not understand this saying; something prevented them from grasping what He meant, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Psalm)

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

Psalm 89 : 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

You sow them in their time, a dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o YHVH? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. May the sweetness of YHVH be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (First Reading)

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

Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) 11 : 9 – Qoheleth 12 : 8

Rejoice, young man, in your youth and direct well your heart when you are young; follow your desires and achieve your ambitions but recall that God will take account of all you do.

Drive sorrow from your heart and pain from your flesh, for youth and dark hair will not last. Be mindful of your Creator when you are young, before the time of sorrow comes when you have to say, “This gives me no pleasure,” and before the sun, moon and stars withdraw their light, before the clouds gather again after the rain.

On the day when the guardians of the house tremble, when sturdy men are bowed and those at the mill stop working because they are too few, when it grows dim for those looking through the windows, and the doors are shut and the noise of the mill grows faint, the sparrow stops chirping and the bird-song is silenced, when one fears the slopes and to walk is frightening;

Yet the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is fat and the caperberry bears fruit that serves no purpose, because man goes forward to his eternal home and mourners gather in the street, even before the silver chain is snapped or the golden globe is shattered, before the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel at the mill, before the dust returns to the earth from which it came and the spirit returns to God Who gave it.

Meaningless! Meaningless! The teacher says; all is meaningless!

Friday, 25 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard the long exhortation from the Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes highlighting to us about the fact that there is time for everything, for every purpose, and everything will indeed happen as God wills it, and not up to us to decide what will happen to us, as there are indeed many things out there beyond our control and understanding, and we should not be impatient or impulsive, acting based on our desires and fears.

Continuing with the discourse from this week from this Book of Qoheleth, we are all reminded to be ever vigilant against the temptations of worldly desires and pleasures, the lure of pride and ego, the distractions that can keep us away from being faithful to God in all things. We must not allow ourselves be swayed by all these and forget our calling in life as Christians to be faithful to God.

We tend to worry about many things in life and we seek security and consolation, happiness and satisfaction by gathering for ourselves all sorts of worldly goods, fame, influence, glory and the desire to be accepted, acknowledged and respected by others. And in our world today, we have been raised and we have lived in a society that is often inundated with all these materialistic undertones, the pursuit of self-satisfaction and the glorification of the self.

But where does this lead us? All of these will never bring us true happiness. And the more we desire for all the satisfaction of the world, the even more we desire of whatever we have attained and received. That is because by our nature, it is difficult for us to be satisfied, and by all those riches of the world, they are just temporary and impermanent, illusory and unreal. They do not give us true and lasting happiness.

Then, let us all now see what the Lord told His disciples in our Gospel passage today. We heard the Lord speaking to His disciples as He asked them who they thought He was, and all of them spoke of what the others perceived of Him, as Elijah who came down from Heaven, as that prophet was taken up into Heaven at the end of his ministry, or that He was one of the prophets of God or holy man of God.

Then, when the Lord asked them again, of who they thought He was, St. Peter proclaimed the truth courageously before all, of what he and likely the other disciples professed of Him, as the Messiah and Holy One of God, the Son of God Most High. And the Lord immediately told them not to share with anyone that truth yet, and added grimly how the Son of Man must suffer many things, rejected and having to endure many trials before He was to be glorified and raised to life.

And we all know how the Lord Jesus, although the Divine Word of God, Son of God Incarnate, chose to empty Himself, humble Himself and suffer for our sake, taking up upon Himself the burden of the Cross, so that we may be saved from destruction due to our sins. And He did so in humble and perfect obedience to His Father’s will, dedicating Himself to do what His heavenly Father has entrusted in Him, the salvation of all mankind.

Our Lord Himself showed the perfect example of obedience, of the emptying of oneself from personal glory and the desire for that glory, for fame and for the other comforts of the world. Instead, as Christians, we are all called to follow in His examples in how we ought to be humble in life, be selfless in love, and always be concerned and caring for one another, that we put the best interests of the community above that our own.

Let us all practice our faith with sincere devotion and action, and let us all follow in the loving examples of Our Lord Himself, in giving of ourselves to each other, especially to those who are most in need of our love, care and compassion. May the Lord help us to grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, and to be more loving in the way that He Himself had loved us, from the beginning, to now the present, and to eternity. Amen.

Friday, 25 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 9 : 18-22

At that time, one day, when Jesus was praying alone, not far from His disciples, He asked them, “What do people say about Me?” And they answered, “Some say, that You are John the Baptist; others say, that You are Elijah; and still others, that You are one of the Prophets of old, risen from the dead.”

Again Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus spoke to them, giving them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. And He added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”

Friday, 25 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 143 : 1a and 2abc, 3-4

Blessed be YHVH, my Rock, my loving God, my Fortress; my Protector snd Deliverer, my Shield; where I take refuge.

O YHVH, what are humans that You should be mindful of them, the race of Adam, that You should care for them? They are like a breath; their days pass like a shadow on earth.

Friday, 25 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) 3 : 1-11

There is a given time for everything and a time for every happening under heaven : A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting. A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones, a time for gathering stones; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing. A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for throwing away. A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.

What profit is there for a man from all his toils? Finally I considered the task God gave to the humans. He made everything fitting in its time, but He also set eternity in their hearts, although they are not able to embrace the work of God from the beginning to the end.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded that in God alone we ought to trust and put our faith, and not in any form of worldly powers, wisdom and greatness, not in any mortal man but in God, Who has revealed Himself, His love and salvation by sending unto us His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. It is futile for us to put our trust in the world and not in God, Who has created the world Himself.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes beginning with a dramatic proclamation, ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! All things are meaningless!’ And the author of this Book of Qoheleth went on to say how there are many things out there in our world, that are beyond our comprehension and understanding. And God’s ways are indeed beyond our human ability to understand fully, and that is why we need to have faith and put our trust in Him.

In our Psalm today, we heard this presented with the words ‘Return o mortals! A thousand years in Your sight are just like a passing day’, highlighting just how small we are in the greater scheme of things, how many things that are elusive to our human perception and ability to understand. And yet again in our Gospel today, we heard how king Herod, who had killed St. John the Baptist in prison, was incredulous when he heard of the exploits of the Lord Jesus, trying to perceive this seeming return of John the Baptist, as if he had returned to life again.

This is what happened to those who try to put themselves above God, or those who have sidelined Him in their indulgence in worldly matters. They could not comprehend just how small they actually were in the greater scheme of things. To Herod, born into the family of kings, used to living in riches and excesses, it must have been incomprehensible that St. John the Baptist, and later on the Lord Jesus Himself would do so much for others, even to the point of sacrificing themselves for the greater good of the people and in obedience to God’s will.

Yet, unfortunately, this is what many of us are suffering these days, many of us who put worldly matters above all else, our pride and ego, our selfish desires, the desire for self-fulfilment and satisfaction above all else. And because of these, we forget that we live for God and it is by the grace of God that we have had our blessings in life. Instead, we become self-centred and desire everything for our own benefits regardless whether others suffer by our actions.

And this is also the reason why there are so many conflicts in this world today, people set up against one another, brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters, families torn apart and conflict raged within our communities. All of these were caused by our conflicting desires, the desires for worldly power and glory, for wealth and material possessions, for lust and comforts of the flesh among others.

In the end, what is the purpose and meaning of our pursuit for all these things, brothers and sisters? No matter how rich and powerful we are, none of these riches, power and glory would be brought with us when we die and depart from our earthly existence. That is why, we are constantly being reminded that we must not indulge on all those, but instead, trust it all in God, and do what we can in our lives, to serve His greater purpose rather than our own purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we carry on living our lives daily, let us all discern what we can do and what we should do to be faithful to our identity and calling as Christians. Let us all turn wholeheartedly towards God, with a renewed faith and zeal that in everything we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of God, at all times. May the Lord bless us all and our efforts, and help us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 9 : 7-9

At that time, king Herod heard of all that Jesus and His disciples had done, and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.”

Others believed that Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded. Who is this Man, about Whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see Him.