Saturday, 16 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to entrust ourselves to the Lord just in the way that Abraham, our father in faith and the ancestor of many nations have been faithful to God, in following Him and giving himself and dedicating his whole race and his entire descendants to God. Abraham was that most faithful paragon of faith that we should look up to, and we should model our faith based on how he has been and remained faithful to God.

In our first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Rome, we heard how the Apostle spoke about Abraham and the faith that he had in the Lord, the faith and commitment he had in the Lord, despite the challenges he had, and despite not knowing at the beginning how everything would turn out for him and his family. Through his faith, Abraham became the father of numerous nations, and not only that, he became the spiritual father of so many other peoples and nations that were not directly descended from him.

Abraham was one of the descendants of Adam and Noah, who dwelled in the land of Ur, in what is today Mesopotamia and Iraq. It was there then that the Lord called Abraham to follow Him to the land that He would give to him and his descendants. Abraham was a rich man with vast amounts of wealth, a family and his properties in his ancestral homeland. He had no reason to follow the Lord to an unknown land, leaving everything that was familiar to him. However, Abraham did so, and entrusted himself to the Lord.

That was how he became a most faithful servant of God, and God made a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants, promising him that he would become the father of so many nations. At that time, Abraham did not even have a son yet, and his wife was barren after many years, and they were already old back then. Yet, Abraham still believed in God and trusted in Him and the Covenant which He had made with him. As such, God bestowed on Abraham the son he had been promised with, and blessed him and his descendants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the faith of Abraham is what all of us ought to have as Christians, to be courageous in following God and to proclaim His truth, to entrust ourselves to Him wholeheartedly as we should, and dedicating our time and effort to His cause. Abraham had that faith and allowed the Lord to guide his path because he was not afraid of whatever the world could trouble him as he knew that the Lord was always by his side, and he could trust in His providence. Whatever he would lose, he would regain back in the Lord’s favour and grace.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on whether we have truly been faithful to God, and whether we have followed Him in the way that we should have done, in obeying the laws and commandments of God and in being exemplary in our every deeds and actions in the way that our father in faith Abraham had done. We are all called to think of how we can be better and more committed Christians in our way of life. And we can look upon the good examples set by our holy and dedicated predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the two saints whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Hedwig was also known as St. Hedwig of Silesia, a renowned Duchess Consort of Silesia during the High Middle Ages who was famous for her holiness and her charitable actions to her people when she was the consort of the ruler. She spent a lot of effort to help the poor and the sick, establishing hospitals and care houses for them, and together with her husband, they were remembered as very pious and caring rulers. And after she was widowed, St. Hedwig decided to enter religious life and spent the rest of her life in serving God through prayer and charity, devoting herself wholly to His cause.

Meanwhile, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was the famous mystic and visionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, remembered for her visions of the Lord’s Most Sacred Heart, whose writings and experiences came to be the inspiration behind the now very popular Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque gave herself to God, and she received many visions of the Lord’s great love for His people, in His sufferings out of love for them, and from there, as she shared her mystical visions, it became the impetus for the popular Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque were both pious and faithful in their own way, living their lives in commitment and total surrender to God. They loved the Lord as well as their neighbours, their fellow brothers and sisters, and this is what all of us are called to do as Christians. If we call ourselves as Christians and yet we have not done what our forefathers and holy predecessors had done, then are we not better than hypocrites of the past, who claimed to be faithful and yet had a mostly empty and meaningless faith?

Let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life, and let us do our very best from now on to follow the Lord ever more devoutly, and commit ourselves to His cause. May the Lord be our strength and guide, and may He empower each and every one of us to walk in His path each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 16 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 12 : 8-12

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before people, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the Angels of God. But the one who denies Me before others will be denied before the Angels of God. There will be pardon for the one who criticises the Son of Man, but there will be no pardon for the one who slanders the Holy Spirit.”

“When you are brought before the synagogues, and before governors and rulers, do not worry about how you will defend yourself, or what to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you have to say.”

Saturday, 16 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Psalm)

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

Psalm 104 : 6-7, 8-9, 42-43

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is YHVH our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His Covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the Covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

For He remembered His promise to Abraham, His servant. So He led forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with singing.

Saturday, 16 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (First Reading)

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

Romans 4 : 13, 16-18

If God promised Abraham, or rather his descendants, that the world would belong to him, this was not because of his obeying the Law, but because he was just, and a friend of God, through faith.

For that reason, faith is the way, and all is given, by grace; and the promises of Abraham are fulfilled for all his descendants, not only for his children according to the Law, but, also, for all the others, who have believed. Abraham is the father of all of us, as it is written : I will make you the father of many nations. He is our father, in the eyes of Him, Who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence, what does not yet exist, for this is the God in Whom he believed.

Abraham believed, and hoped against all expectation, thus, becoming the father of many nations, as he had been told : See how many will be your descendants.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin 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 calling on all of us to be truly faithful to God in all things, in our actions and deeds, in our every words and interactions, so that we may be good examples for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. The Lord has taught us all and revealed to us how to be faithful to Him, and we should do our best to practice what we believe and learn to live our lives for the purpose of glorifying God and for the good of mankind, our fellow brothers and sisters.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of the faith that two prominent figures in history had in the Lord, namely that of Abraham and David. Abraham was the progenitor of the Israelites and many other nations, and he was remembered as a great friend of the Lord and as His most faithful servant, who gained the Lord’s favour and blessings by his righteousness and virtuous life. As St. Paul mentioned, Abraham was blessed and gained God’s grace by his many numerous deeds.

Meanwhile, David was the great and highly respected King of all Israel, the father of Solomon, another great King of Israel, who was looked upon as an inspiration and role model by the Israelites and their descendants as a righteous King, a good man and faithful servant of God, whose good deeds were numerous and who led Israel to an era of great prosperity. This does not mean that David was without fault, for just as with Abraham and other children of man, all were sinners, and David too had his share of faults, such as when he plotted the death of Uriah, his own captain so that he could marry Bathsheba, Uriah’s widow.

However, like Abraham, David was ultimately faithful and full of commitment to God. David was most remorseful over his sins and faults, and sought God’s mercy and forgiveness, which was given to Him after a period of repentance and penance. As we can see, both Abraham and David were great examples how all of us as Christians are expected to be, as those who have listened to God’s call, knew His will and followed Him wholeheartedly and their lives shone with God’s light and truth such that everyone who see them and know them will know that they belong to God.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord again continued to speak out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, as part of His discourse to the faithful on how to be true disciples of the Lord, not with just words and empty gestures as what many of the Pharisees had done, but with real love for God and through real actions, grounded in a living and genuine faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law observed a very strict interpretation of the Law and enforced them on others to follow and obey. However, they themselves did not stay truly faithful to what they believed in and they did it mostly for appearances.

This is why the Lord wants us all to know that becoming Christians requires us to be truly faithful in all things, that we have to spend our time and effort to follow the Lord and to be active in doing what the Lord had taught us to do in our lives. Just like Abraham and David, all of us will be judged based on our actions and how we have lived our lives, and not by an empty profession of faith, or by being hypocritical in how we carry ourselves and in our actions throughout life. We need to do what we are called to do as Christians and do not hesitate any longer in following Christ and His path.

Today, all of us should reflect and look upon the examples set by our holy predecessor, namely St. Teresa of Jesus, one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites together with St. John of the Cross. St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, was a renowned servant of God and a dedicated religious who was committed to the reform of the Carmelite Order and the Church, at a time of great upheavals, changes and difficulties facing the faithful. St. Teresa of Jesus helped to reform the Carmelites and founded the order of the Discalced Carmelites, together with the aforementioned St. John of the Cross.

St. Teresa of Jesus was remembered for her passionate efforts in changing the corrupt practices of the Church especially those that were espoused by the members of the Carmelites. She worked hard to expunge the buildup of corrupt practices and tried to restore the original intentions of the founders of the Carmelites, in purifying the order and also spread the same reform attitude to the broader Church, in tandem with the then height of the Counter Reformation efforts against the heresy of Protestantism. St. Teresa of Jesus had to go against many who opposed her, but she remained resolute and firm in her beliefs and actions.

St. Teresa of Jesus also wrote extensively and also documented her experiences and mystical visions in her numerous writings, which inspired many people who came after her, inspired by her zeal and sincere faith and love for God. For this, she was declared as one of the great Doctors of the Church after she had been acknowledged and canonised as a saint. Through her many actions, efforts and contributions, St. Teresa of Jesus showed us all what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be active in the living of our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, following in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Avila, as well as Abraham, our father in faith and David, the great King of Israel, as well as numerous other saints and holy men and women of God, let us all strive to do our best and put our wholehearted effort to seek the Lord with all of our strength. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith, and may He bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 12 : 1-7

At that time, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to His disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered; or hidden, that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops.”

“I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you Whom to fear : Fear the One Who, after killing you, is able to throw you into hell. This One you must fear. Do you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Do not be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?”

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 11

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

Rejoice in YHVH, and be glad, You who are upright; sing and shout for joy, You who are clean of heart.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 4 : 1-8

Let us consider Abraham, our father in the flesh. What has he found? If Abraham attained righteousness because of his deeds, he could be proud. But he cannot be this before God; because Scripture says : Abraham believed God, Who took it into account, and held him to be a just man.

Now, when someone does a work, salary is not given as a favour, but as a debt that is paid. Here, on the contrary, someone who has no deeds to show, but believes in Him, Who makes sinners righteous before Him : such faith is taken into account, and that person is held as righteous.

David congratulates, in this way, those who become righteous, by the favour of God, and not by their actions : Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven and whose offences are forgotten; blessed the one, whose sin God does not take into account!

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all listen to the word of God in the Sacred Scriptures continuing to remind us that as Christians we have to put the foundation of our faith in Christ and believe in Him wholeheartedly, and not just pay Him lip service or empty faith like that of hypocrites. We have to love the Lord above everything else and put our focus in Him, so that He is the centre of our lives and existence, and He Who has offered us freely and generously His salvation and grace, may gather us all in His presence.

In our first reading today, in the continuation of the discourse of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, we heard the courageous and passionate appeal of the Apostle in calling on all the faithful in Rome to put their trust and salvation in God, in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of the whole entire world. At that time, the community of the faithful in Rome was also composed of the members of the Jewish diaspora there, as well as some of the local Roman population who converted to the Christian faith and became believers.

And just like elsewhere in the Church, there were often tension between some of the Jewish people, who asserted that all Christians had to observe the full range of the Jewish customs and practices, as the Pharisees and the elders practiced them, including the recent converts from among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. However, St. Paul was quick in his rebuttal and his explanations on how such an attitude was not truly Christian in nature and not in accordance to what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, how He rejected the excessive practices and observances of the leaders of the Jewish people in obeying the Law of God.

Contextually, the extent of the strict observance of the Law by the Pharisees and the elders of the descendants of Israel was such that it would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people to follow the Lord and to practice their faith. Over the centuries, many adaptations, interpretations and modifications to the Law had fundamentally altered its meaning, purpose and practice so much such that it no longer truly represent what the Law of God was all about. It would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to accept the Christian faith if they were forced to follow the very strict customs and rules.

Today’s Gospel also echoed the same sentiment as we heard the continuation of the Lord’s confrontation against the Pharisees as He rebuked them for their excessive focus and obsession on enforcing a very strict way of interpreting and following the Law, as well as in practicing their faith, which they themselves were often unable to follow and do, and ended up with many merely doing it to fulfil their obligations and as a formality, or even worse, as means for them to boast about their faith and to put others down, those whom they deemed to be less worthy than they were.

This is not what a Christian should be doing, as not only that they have diverged from the true meaning and intention of the Law, but many of them had obeyed the Law and its precepts in face value only, and misunderstood what God wanted to do with us through the Law. Instead of helping to bring the people closer to God, the Law ended up being tools used to satisfy the greed and desires of some, as well as becoming the way how some discriminated against their own brothers and sisters, against those whom one hated and despised.

The Lord and His Apostle St. Paul made it clear that we must be truly faithful and centred on God in our lives and actions. We must not allow the corruption of worldly power and desires to affect us and our way of life, that we do not end up behaving like those who are hypocritical and lacking in true faith in God. We must listen to the Lord and His words, His teachings and truth, and the words of His Apostles and servants, all those whom He had sent into this world to be our guide and helper, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of them, namely Pope St. Callistus I, also known as Pope St. Callixtus I.

Pope St. Callixtus I was the Vicar of Christ and leader of the Universal Church during the time of the height of persecutions against Christians in the third century after the birth of Our Lord. At that time, there were already divisions and heresies affecting the Church, and Pope St. Callixtus I was remembered for allowing converts from among these who had lapsed from the true faith and fallen into heretical ways and teachings. He called for all of them to return to the Holy Mother Church and be repentant over their sins. Through this, many would come to realise the errors of their ways and began the path towards redemption.

However, Pope St. Callixtus I did not have it easy as there were those within the Church then who disagreed with his methods and works, and refused to admit those who have lapsed and fallen into heresy, considering that salvation can only be given once, and once people left the Church or fell into heresy, they would not be allowed to return. Nonetheless, Pope St. Callixtus I, in the spirit of what St. Paul the Apostle had written in his Epistle to the Romans, and as the Lord spoke, warning against the excesses of self-righteousness exhibited by many of the Pharisees, continued to strive for welcoming lapsed Christians right to the moment of his martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these Scripture passages today and reflect on what we have just discussed, as well as the life and efforts of Pope St. Callixtus I, all of us are reminded to look upon our own lives and discern carefully how we can lead a more Christian existence and living, in faithfully following the Lord and His truth, and in remaining true to the love that He has shown us, while avoiding the excesses of self-righteousness, ambition, ego and personal desires among others.

Let us all seek the Lord with new spirit of humility and with genuine love from now on. May the Lord be with us all and may He help us to live our lives most worthily for the Lord. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 47-54

At that time, Jesus said to the teachers of the Law, “A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them!”

“For that reason the wisdom of God also said : I will send prophets and Apostles and these people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the Sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all.”

“A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.”

As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to harass Him, asking Him endless questions, setting traps to catch Him in something He might say.