Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to be faithful to God, and to believe in Him and His providence, to do His will because all of us who are faithful to Him and remain true to our commitment to Him will not be disappointed, as God knows all of our actions and dealings, and whatever we have done, our every small little actions, for the greater glory of His Name, shall be rewarded in the end.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken to His people through the prophet Joel, who was active during the years following the return of the descendants of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. To put things in context, the people of Israel had by then endured a lot of humiliations and sufferings because of their past sins, due to their stubborn refusal to follow the Lord and to believe in His words and the prophets that had been sent to them.

They had been beaten, oppressed and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Their cities and towns were destroyed, and they were forced to leave their ancestral homeland for a faraway exile in Assyria and Babylon, and seeing pagans and foreigners taking over the ownership of their lands. Their Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God was destroyed, a House which they themselves had long forgotten and abandoned for the worship of pagan gods and idols.

The Lord never forgot about His people though, and continued to love them despite of all the troubles and the betrayals they had done to Him. He loved them regardless and desired to reconcile themselves to Him, to love them once again and to extend His merciful hands to be reunited with them. He guided them and sent His prophets to them, and after many decades, gathered them back and through King Cyrus of Persia, led them back to their homeland, and allowing them to rebuild their towns and the Temple of God.

Therefore, through the prophet Joel, God wanted to remind His people to stand by His side and to remain faithful to Him so that they will no longer experience those periods of sufferings and challenges, and even if they were to suffer from difficulties and challenges, the Lord would be by their side and they would triumph together with Him, for He will come in the end to gather them all and lead them into the true joy and glory with Him, at the very end of time.

As we heard in our short Gospel passage today, we are all then reminded that in order to do this, what we all need to do is to be faithful to God and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly, by doing His will and obeying His laws and commandments. To do the will of God is the calling for us all as Christians, and we should do our very best to live a virtuous and exemplary life, to the best of our ability, so that even in the smallest things that we do, we will always remain faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us also follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors, namely St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom, as well as St. John Leonardi, faithful servants of God and saints whose feasts we are celebrating today. We should delve into their lives’ examples and be inspired with how they had led lives that were centred and focused on God, and how they had shown great faith despite the many challenges and trials they had encountered in life.

St. Denis was the Bishop of Paris during the time of the later Roman Empire, during a time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors and the state. St. Denis was sent from Rome by Pope St. Fabian, and was tasked with the evangelisation and conversion of Roman Gaul, together with several other missionaries. They encountered great challenges while having a lot of successes as well, and that time, when the Emperor Decius declared a great persecution against Christians, he and the other missionaries were arrested.

St. Denis and his companions were tortured and made to suffer for their faith in God, and they refused to give in, and finally, were led to their execution, which St. Denis suffered by beheading, together with his fellow martyrs. However, in a most miraculous and amazing occasion, St. Denis remained alive even after he was beheaded, and he picked up his head, and the head preached to the people as he walked for many kilometres, to many awed witnesses and even those who were involved in the execution. It was at the place where he stopped and finally passed into heavenly glory, that he was buried and where a great church, the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris now stands.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was an Italian priest and founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, who lived about five centuries ago. As a priest, he was remembered for his great dedication to his flock, the parishioners and the other members of the faithful whom he dedicated himself to, in the formation of young adults in the faith among other things. He also popularised the devotion of the Forty Hours and the Eucharist to the faithful, which was meant to bring them closer to God.

St. John Leonardi also worked hard to implement the many reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent, while also proposing to the Pope for the formation of a religious order that is focused on the reforms of the Church and greater discipline in faith, which eventually became a reality with the foundation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, gathering many like-minded people who seek to serve the Lord following the charism and efforts of St. John Leonardi. Through his faith and dedication, and his perseverance, in facing the challenges and opposition he had for his efforts, St. John Leonardi has shown us, just as St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom had, on how to be truly faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord and let us do our very best to follow Him, and to walk in His path, so that in everything we do, we will always glorify Him and be exemplary and inspirational in our way of life, such that many more people may come to believe in the Lord through us and our examples. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us in our journey of faith, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully from now on. Amen.

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Psalm)

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

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in YHVH, you, who are blameless; and give praise to His holy Name.

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (First Reading)

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

Joel 4 : 12-21

Rise up, o people, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, nations. Bring a sickle for the harvest is ripe; come and tread, for the wine press is full, and the vats overflow; so great is their wickedness! Multitudes and more multitudes in the Valley of Verdict! The day of YHVH is near in the Valley of Verdict! The sun and the moon become dark, the stars lose their radiance.

YHVH roars from Zion and raises His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth are shaken. Indeed, YHVH is a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites. You will know that I am YHVH, your God, dwelling on Zion, My holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place; and foreigners will never pass through there again.

On that day, the mountains shall drip wine and the hills flow with milk; all the streams of Judah will run with water; and a fountain will spring from the house of YHVH, and water the valley of Shittim. On the other hand, Egypt will be devastated; and Edom will become a deserted wasteland, because they committed violence against Judah and shed innocent blood in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem through all generations. And I shall avenge their blood and not leave it unpunished, for YHVH dwells in Zion.

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th 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 Scriptures, we are called to believe in the Lord and entrust ourselves in His providence, as we ought to keep ourselves worthy and pure, free from sin and evil. All of us should remain true in our faith in God, and commit ourselves to Him and not to be easily swayed by those who sought to divide and destroy us, by sowing seeds of dissension and doubt in our midst.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Joel of the words of the Lord, which He spoke to His people Israel and according to historians, happened after the people of Israel had returned to their homeland after their exile in Babylon. What the Lord told His people at that time was a reminder of how they themselves had suffered earlier on from those who oppressed and conquered them, destroyed their cities and their homeland, bringing them into their exile.

And the Lord told His people that they ought to be prepared, steadfast and ready to face trials and challenges, as the time shall come when the forces of the evil one will be arrayed and assembled against us. All of us ought to remain steady in our faith and not be swayed by our fears and doubts that the enemy sought to spread among us that they hope to see us sundered from the love and protection of God. This is also where we then heard what happened at the time of the Lord Jesus and His confrontation with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with Beelzebul, the prince of demons.

At that time, some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had often been shadowing the Lord’s ministry, following Him wherever He went and witnessing all that He had done, the miracles and healing, the exorcisms that He performed before all the people. They had also heard His teachings and the truth which He had delivered from the Lord, and yet, instead of believing in Him as they should have done, they slandered Him and went against Him, accusing Him falsely of collusion with demons in performing His miracles and works, hoping that would discredit Him amongst the people of God.

Contextually, at that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were seen as the intellectual elites and the spiritual leaders and guides of the people, who were highly respected and even feared by many of the descendants of the Israelites, for their very strict and strong enforcement of the orthodox traditions of the Jewish cultural and religious practices, which were centred on the Law of God revealed through Moses, but with numerous excesses and flaws which led to the friction with the Lord Jesus when He came into this world bearing the true meaning and purpose of the Law of God.

As such, due to this rivalry and the jealousy which many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had against the Lord Jesus, as He gathered and brought more and more people to His side as His disciples and followers, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law grew desperate and used the false accusation to try to discredit the Lord and His works, and to turn the people against Him. However, they made such an outrageous claim that in fact blasphemed against God, by accusing His works as the work of the devil.

Essentially, what those people claimed was that a prince of demons colluded with the Lord Jesus to cast out other demons, which was nonsensical as that would have meant that the evil spirits and demons were divided against each other in their efforts to attack mankind, all of us, God’s people. While those demons, who were fallen angels and spirits might have had their differences and disagreements, there is nothing that unites them more than in their desire to see about our downfall and destruction. Hence, not only that the accusations made by the Pharisees false, but they were outright wicked and blasphemous in nature.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard through the Gospel passage today, it is indeed sad to see how mankind can be so divided against one another in such a vicious manner, when ironically the evil and wicked spirits were much more united in their efforts against us. This is where all of us need to discard our ego, pride and greed, and resist the temptations that are present all around us. The Lord has called us all to put our trust in Him, and we should unite ourselves together to Him, and overcome all the divisions and disagreements we have between us.

Let us all not be divided any longer and let us all not be distracted by the numerous efforts by the wicked and evil spirits, Satan and all those enemies of the Lord who always seek to destroy us all. Let us commit ourselves to a new existence and life in God, and as a united community of the faithful, let us all do whatever we can to glorify the Lord at all times. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each one of us to follow Him, and may He empower each one of us to walk ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 11 : 15-26

At that time, some of the people said, “Jesus drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters. When the evil spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through dry lands, looking for a resting place; and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds the house swept and everything in order. Then it goes to fetch seven other spirits, even worse than itself. They move in and settle there, so that the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 6 and 16, 8-9

The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God.

All of them saying in their heart, “Nothing will trouble me. I am secure, powerful and happy.” YHVH is King forever and the pagans have vanished from His land.

They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim. The evil one lurks in secret, like a lion in its covert, waiting to seize his prey and drag him off in a net.

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Joel 1 : 13-15 and Joel 2 : 1-2

Gird yourselves, o priests, and weep; mourn, o ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, o ministers of my God! For the house of your God is deprived of grain and drink offering.

Proclaim a fast, call an assembly. Summon the elders, and all who live in the land, into the house of your God, and cry out to YHVH, “What a dreadful day – the day of YHVH, that draws near, and comes as ruin, from the Almighty!”

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all dwellers in the land tremble, for the day of YHVH is coming. Yes, the day is fast approaching – a day of gloom and darkness, a day of clouds and blackness. A vast and mighty army comes, like dawn spreading over the mountain : such as has never occurred before, nor will happen again in the future.

Thursday, 7 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a highlight of this month of October, which is also the Month of the Holy Rosary, a time when we are all encouraged to pray the rosary daily and to rediscover that love and relationship we have for God through Mary, His loving Mother and our beloved mother too. Mary has always interceded and prayed for us on our behalf, and her thoughts are always ever focused on us, her wayward children still living in this dark and sinful world.

Today, we mark the occasion of the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, a great and decisive battle, a triumphant victory for the forces of Christendom and the champions of the Lord in the struggle against the forces of heathens of the Ottoman Empire and its allies, who sought the domination of the world and the subjugation of Christians and the Christian kingdoms and states of that time. At that time, Christendom was beset not only with these external pressures but also with many internal divisions, having suffered from the effects of the reformation that led to many leaving the Church and many in rebellion against the true faith.

Therefore, at that time, the Church, the faithful and the entire Christendom itself were under great threat of destruction, and that would have happened if not for the great intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, by the actions of the Pope then, Pope St. Pius V, who exhorted all of Christendom to stand together and asked all the faithful to pray the Rosary as he gathered together forces from the various kingdoms and realms, establishing a great Holy Alliance aimed at standing up against the great Turkish invasion forces.

At the same time, the Church also geared up her efforts in combating the heresies and divisions by the conclusion of the Ecumenical Council of Trent and its many sweeping reforms through which many excesses and previous errors of the Church were eradicated, and the teachings of the Church were reaffirmed and reinforced. Missionaries and teachers of the faith, led by the courageous Jesuits were sent to the forefront where many of those who have lapsed from the true faith were to be encouraged and welcomed to return to the Holy Mother Church, and many more still were sent to evangelise in far away nations and places.

And then, the forces of Christendom were gathered together, numerous mighty ships, sailors and soldiers, all gathered against an even larger armada of the Ottomans bent on destruction of Christendom. With the guidance and intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, as Christendom was united in the prayer of the rosary as encouraged by the Pope, the forces of the Holy Alliance met the enemy at the Bay of Lepanto in a great battle that is still remembered to this very day, as a major turning point in the history of the world.

During the battle, many eyewitnesses saw a great vision of heavenly forces led by Our Lady, with a rosary in her hand, which terrified the forces of the enemies of the Lord, and many of the sailors and slaves on the ships, who were enslaved Christians forced by the wicked Ottomans, turned against their masters and slavers, seeking freedom and turned the whole tide against the enemy, resulting in a great overwhelming victory for the forces of Christendom. The forces of the enemies of the Lord were scattered, and the faithful were saved from the destruction planned against them.

Through this great victory, the whole Christendom rejoiced and celebrated, as church bells tolled and rang all around, commemorating the great triumph which God had led His people into. The Pope proclaimed the day of this great victory initially as the celebration of Our Lady of Victory, before eventually it was changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary as we all celebrate it today. We remember the great intercession by which Our Lady of the Rosary had helped the faithful being attacked by the forces of the enemies of the Lord and His Church.

As we heard in the story of the Battle of Lepanto, and undoubtedly many other examples present in our world and in our own lives, the Lord often delivered the faithful through the intercession of His loving mother, who always directed her gaze upon us, her children in this world, and through the Holy Rosary that we dedicated to her, we united ourselves in prayer through Mary to her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. So, we ought to ask ourselves if we have spent at least some good quality time in prayer to God and also asking His blessed mother to pray for us, by devoting ourselves through the rosary.

The rosary devotion has been given to us by our own blessed mother Mary, as a way for us to draw closer to the Lord through her, as a way for us to deepen our relationship with God through prayer, by removing from us the distractions and the temptations of our daily living, and instead focusing ourselves on the Lord and His mother, through which we may grow ever deeper in spirituality and in commitment to God, and through the rosary, we may grow ever better as Christians, and also even inspire others to follow in our good examples.

Let us all therefore entrust ourselves to our beloved mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, so that we may grow ever deeper in our love for God through His mother. May the Lord, our loving God and Saviour deliver us from those who seek our destruction, and may He strengthen and encourage us all always, to strive and persevere through the challenges of our lives, at all times. Our Lady of the Rosary, our most loving mother, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, 7 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (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.