Saturday, 12 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture that remind us all about what it means for us to be Christians, and that is to believe in the Lord, our loving God with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths, to the very best of our abilities, listening to Him and knowing His will for each and every one of us that we may always walk faithfully in His presence.

In that occasion, the Lord wanted His people to know that even though difficult moments would come in their way and that they would have to endure many sufferings and challenges for the sake of remaining true to Him and faithful in our ways, but He shall always be with us, and He will guide us through those challenging moments through to the very end. He will not abandon us or leave us in the darkness.

That is the theme of what the Lord revealed to His people through His prophet Joel, as we heard in continuation from yesterday’s first reading passage taken from an earlier part of the Book of Joel. While in that portion the Lord forewarned His people of the coming trials and times when they would suffer, now God revealed that after suffering will come the time of rejoicing and relief, as suffering and sorrow give way to true joy and happiness in God.

And this is what each and every one of us Christians must realise as it will be easy for us to go astray when we encounter suffering in life, and when we face obstacles in our journey of faith. Unless we have that trust and faith in God, it will be easy for us to sway away from God and His path, and we end up putting our trust and faith in other things that we often depend on such as money, wealth and material goods as well as other forms of pleasures and satisfaction.

What the Lord Jesus asked His disciples and the people to do in our Gospel passage today, “Hear the Word of God and keep it as well” is something that is easier said than done. Indeed, many of us can hear the word of God and find the word in our many actions throughout life, in our obedience to the laws and rules of the Church and so on. However, how many of us can confidently say that we truly have kept His word well as we should have done?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our lives we will definitely end up having to make choices in our respective lives. And we have been given the free will as well as the wisdom to make a conscious choice to choose between the path leading towards the salvation in God and the path that eventually leads down to the damnation in hell for eternity. But while many of us may focus on the end journey in sight, it is a reality that when the path and the journey is tough, we will be tempted many times to give up and turn away from God.

We must discern on this matter carefully in our hearts and minds. And we must not let the many temptations present all around us to affect us and prevent us from reaching out towards God’s salvation and grace. Let us have greater faith in God and put our trust in Him wholeheartedly. We must neither be without faith and neither should we go forward blindly without good and proper recollection and direction of our path in life.

Once again, I want us to remember that the Lord has always been by our side all these while, and just as He reassured His people in our reading passage from the Book of Joel, that good times in Him will come and if we endure those sufferings and challenges we faced with grace and faith, in the end God will bless us all with His promised inheritance. He will keep His promise in the end because He is ever faithful to the Covenant which He has made with all of us.

The path leading towards God may seem to be challenging and difficult, and the journey may seem to be arduous and painful, but we must not lose hope as in the end the rewards for our faith and dedication to God will be truly worthwhile. On the other hand, the alternative path, that is the path of worldliness and sin, championed by Satan and all those wishing for our destruction may seem to be good and easier, but we must not let ourselves to be deceived.

Let us all discern carefully our path in life and make the conscious effort to serve the Lord wholeheartedly from now on. Let us all seek Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on, and let us do our very best to love Him and to follow Him in our daily living. May God bless each and every one of us in our every good actions and endeavours for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Saturday, 12 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 12 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 12 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called through what we have just heard from the passages taken from the Sacred Scriptures, to turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and to open them to allow God to enter into our beings, that He may transform us and heal us from our many afflictions, namely the afflictions of our sins and wickedness by which we have been found wanting by God.

In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard of terrible premonitions and words of caution from God to His people, asking them to be prepared to face trials and tribulations that would for them, in the context of how the prophet Joel lived during the middle years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Therefore, the premonition spoke of the then upcoming times of upheavals and sufferings when the people of both the kingdoms would be conquered and humiliated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians many years after.

God was in fact reminding His people not to be complacent in their lives and in their faith and commitment to live holy and virtuous lives in the presence of God and men alike. At that time, the people had lapsed from their faith and fell into the many temptations surrounding them, following the evil ways of the world and resorting to the worship of the pagan gods and idols, offering sacrifices to those idols rather than offering true sacrifice to their one and only True God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then we heard from our Gospel passage of the heated exchange between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with the power of the evil prince of demons, Beelzebub in His many miracles and healing works among the people, and in the casting out of the evil spirits from those who had been possessed by those demons. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had seen all those miracles but they refused to believe.

And why is that so? That is because the devil himself and all of his wicked allies were busy at work in trying to destroy us, in tempting us to sin and to refuse God’s generous offer of love and mercy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were afraid that they would lose their much valued influence and status among the community and the people. They therefore saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat and rival to them. In truth, the pride and ego, the greed and desires in their heart blinded them.

God wanted them all to see the truth, but as long as those people allowed their ego, pride, desire, jealousy and all sorts of temptations to develop in their hearts, they will not be able to see the truth of God and accept Him wholeheartedly as they should have. When He spoke of the coming of the time of persecution through the prophet Joel, He was warning us all, His people, that if we want to be faithful to Him and walk in His path, then we must be prepared to face challenges, opposition, ridicule, humiliation and persecution as the Lord Himself had faced.

The devil is always out and about working to destroy us by dragging us into sin, in tempting us to walk astray on the wrong path. And we cannot face him alone or by our own strength and power. It is only through God and His providence that we can withstand and overcome the devil and all of his wicked forces of evil. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of obstacles and challenges awaiting for us in our journey of faith in life.

But we must not be disheartened, for God is truly with all of us, and He will always guide us in our path. He has guided one of His own devout servant, a holy man and leader of the Universal Church, as Pope St. John XXIII in his journey of faith in his life. Pope St. John XXIII was remembered as the ‘Good Pope’, ever dedicated to the Lord throughout his life and ministry. He is a great inspiration for each and every one of us in how we should be faithful in our own lives as well.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in a poor farmer’s family in Bergamo in northern Italy, and an opportunity in having education sponsored by his uncle eventually led to him embracing the call and vocation to priesthood, after which he served in his region of Bergamo. Having experienced the struggles of the people during the difficult years of the early twentieth century and inspired by the love which his bishop showed during those tumultuous times, the young Father Roncalli grew ever stronger in his own love and devotion to God.

He was appointed as an Archbishop and as the Papal Delegate to Bulgaria and later on to Turkey and eventually France, working as a diplomat for many years in managing the relationship both between the nations and the Holy See, and also in the relationships between the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox faithful, who were then often bitterly divided against each other. Archbishop Roncalli faced a lot of challenges and difficulties, sufferings and pains, in his ministry, in facing those who were distrustful of the Church and the faith.

Eventually, as he became the Patriarch of Venice and eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII carried on his life and mission with the fullness of faith in God, dedicating his years of life in bringing the love of God to His people. He initiated the Second Vatican Council to bring the Church together through difficult and challenging times, and also helped to broker peace among the superpowers of the world during a time of great tension in the height of the Cold War.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our own lives and think how we can serve the Lord with greater love, commitment and fidelity from now on. Let us all therefore seek to be ever more faithful, loving God each and every days of our life, putting our trust in Him just as Pope St. John XXIII had been. Let us all draw ever closer to Him from now on. Amen.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

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, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

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, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

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, 10 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God through the Scriptures speaking to us about the love which God has lavished on us all because He is indeed our loving Father and Creator, despite our constant disobedience and refusal to follow His ways, our waywardness and sins that have separated us from the fullness of His love and grace.

In the book of the prophet Malachi, part of which we have heard in our first reading today, we heard of the insolent and rude comments made by the people who were angry at God and were frustrated because they have observed His laws and commandments, and yet they still suffered all sorts of injustices, pain and sufferings in the world. And this is in the context of how the Israelites living at the time of the prophet Malachi, a few hundred years before the birth of Christ, had to endure being conquered and ruled over by many powerful nations.

And throughout those years of subjugation, they certainly cannot avoid looking back at the time of the glorious kingdom of Israel in the past, especially during the days of kings David and Solomon, from a time when the Israelites still had great dignity and being respected by the other nations. Instead, they had to endure exile and destruction under the Babylonians, ruled by the Medians and the Persians, and then under the reign of the Greek kings of Alexander the Great and his successors.

But God reassured them through Malachi that He was always with them and He would guide them through those difficult and challenging moments. God would not abandon His people to the darkness and as He Himself proclaimed through Malachi, that He would write the name of those who have been faithful to Him and they would receive the fullness of His grace and promised glorious inheritance in the end.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself spoke of God’s love for us like that of the love a father has for his children. He was comparing it to how even wicked and sinful people know how to take care of those whom they love and the Lord would therefore take care of His beloved ones in a far greater way and with much greater love and compassion for sure. God has always loved us all, all these while and it will never change.

Rather, it is our own stubbornness and refusal to see and admit this truth that had caused us to be separated from Him and to be blind to God’s ever generous love. We hardened our hearts and closed off our minds to God Who is always constantly trying to reach out to us and embrace us with love. We become distracted by the many temptations present in this world and as our attention became divided, we turned away from God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to reconnect ourselves with God and understand more just how much He cares for us, and just how much He has blessed us with all these while? God still loves us even when we have walked away from Him, betrayed and abandoned Him, always hoping that we will come back to Him and seek to be forgiven from our sins. But in order to do this, we have to first be humble and let go of the ego and pride in our hearts.

Yes, the ego and pride within us are the greatest obstacles that prevent us from being able to love God unconditionally and wholeheartedly and leading us to various temptations that distract us from the true and genuine love in the relationship we ought to have with God. Today we are called to rediscover and rejuvenate that love we have for God, and be more faithful with each and every passing moments of our lives.

May the Lord continue to be our guide through life, and may He continue to bless us and love us despite the sins and wickedness we have committed. May He guide us to discover salvation and true joy that can be found in Him alone. Amen.

Thursday, 10 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 11 : 5-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is travelling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’ Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Do not bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I cannot get up and give you anything.'”

“But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a bother to him, and he will give you all you need. And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

“If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if your child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”