Saturday, 26 October 2019 : 29th 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 through the Scripture passages we have heard, we are reminded by God to be righteous and to grow in faith and be fruitful in all of our actions. The Lord used the parable of the fig tree to highlight this to His disciples and to all of us, how each and every one of us must be living faithfully in accordance to the way of the Lord.

The Lord used the examples of a fig tree in the parable because many of the people living at the time of Jesus’ ministry were farmers, or if not, they were quite aware and knowledgeable of what a fig tree looks like, how they grow and behave in life. And figs are frequently consumed in the region, being highly prized for their sweetness and many uses in food. Therefore, figs that are not sweet or good in quality were useless.

And knowing how plants and trees work, if the fig tree produces a bad quality fig, it is likely that many more of its fruits will be of bad quality as well. But this is not necessarily true, as the fruits will have variations in its quality, although it will still reflect the quality of the parent plant. Nonetheless, from the perspective of a farmer, having a tree that does not produce fruit or produce bad fruits did not make sense.

That is why, the owner of the fig tree wanted to cut down the tree as having the tree to remain growing did not serve well the purpose of its growth, only being a burden to the farm and does not bring benefit to the owner. That is how a farmer thinks, and that is how this world is usually thinking as well, because something that is of no value should not be kept or maintained, and instead should be replaced.

But the Lord used this example because He wants us all to understand first of all that His ways are not like the ways of this world. He does not treat us like a commodity or a possession, for each and every single one of us are precious to Him and are dearly beloved, and that was how the Lord represented this in the gardener, who pleaded for the fig tree to be spared and be given a second chance to grow and bear good fruits.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us are represented by those fig trees and God is the master and the gardener both. And why is that so? That is because God is both our Judge and our loving Father. As God loves us all as mentioned, He wants us all to have a chance and to be reconciled with Him as much as possible. If we have been living our lives wickedly all these while, like those fig trees producing the bad and rotten fruits, or having no fruits at all, then He wants us to be transformed into those who can bear good fruits of faith, being righteous and just in all things.

But at the same time, we cannot and should not delay in accepting God’s generous offer of love and mercy, as many of us took for granted the love and mercy that God had been showing us all these while. If we keep on rejecting Him and continue to live in sin, the time of reckoning will eventually come to us and catch up with us, at the time that we are most unprepared for. And at that time, no matter how much regret we have, it will be meaningless and too late for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture passages point out to us how God wants us to be faithful to Him and therefore to follow Him and His path. And He is calling on us to turn to Him and to be righteous in life. St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Romans also spoke of this as he exhorted the faithful to live by the way of the Spirit and not by the way of the flesh.

This is a reminder for us to turn away from our sins and from our past disobedience against God’s will. Are we able to commit ourselves to God and to His will from now on? Are we able to make the effort to walk in His path regardless of the challenges and difficulties we may face along this journey? Let us be more faithful and bear good fruits from now on, and be ever closer to God. May God be with us always and bless us in our good endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 26 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 13 : 1-9

At that time, one day, some people told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple : Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish, as they did.”

“And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you : no. But unless you change your ways, you will perish as they did.” And Jesus continued, “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it continue to deplete the soil?’”

“The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertiliser; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it does not, you can cut it down.’”

Saturday, 26 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Saturday, 26 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Romans 8 : 1-11

This contradiction is no longer exists for those who are in Jesus Christ. For, in Jesus Christ, the Law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. The Law was without effect, because the flesh was not responding. Then God, planning to destroy sin, sent His own Son, in the likeness of those subject to the sinful human condition; by doing this, He condemned the sin, in this human condition.

Since then, the perfection intended by the Law would be fulfilled, in those not walking in the way of the flesh, but in the way of the Spirit. Those walking according to the flesh tend toward what is flesh; those led by the Spirit, to what is Spirit. Flesh tends toward death, while Spirit aims at life and peace. What the flesh seeks is against God : it does not agree, it cannot even submit to the Law of God.

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him.

But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit Who dwells within you.

Friday, 25 October 2019 : 29th 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 the Scripture through which we are reminded that we must do our best to resist the temptation to sin in this world because by our human nature, we are always exposed and easily tempted by sin, because as the Lord said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Therefore, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations, it is likely that we will fall again and again into sin.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of how sin truly is a very dangerous enemy that we have in us, and because of that, we must always be vigilant lest these sins mislead us further and even deeper into the trap of sin. Sin brings us into more sins because sin by nature itself is disobedience against God, and the more we disobey God, the more we are disconnected from Him and become more vulnerable against even more temptation.

But St. Paul also reminded us all that while we are easily tempted to sin because of the weakness of our flesh, but in truth, this was not how it was all supposed to be. When God created us man in the beginning, as well as all creation as described in the Book of Genesis, He intended everything to be good and perfect, unblemished and pure, and indeed He created everything to be all good.

Unfortunately, because of our desire and pride, our preference to listen to the lies of the devil rather than to obey the words of our Lord and Creator, sin entered into our hearts, into our minds and into our whole beings, corrupting us and making us filled with this sin, the original sin. And this sin made us enslaved to it, making us vulnerable even more to the temptations of Satan and his wicked forces.

And in our Gospel passage today, the Lord is reminding us all of what we need to do before it is too late for us, as He spoke of signs and wonders that led to the coming of the time of reckoning, as all of us ultimately have to give account of our own respective lives. We have to own up on all things we have done in our lives, whether we have been faithful or whether we have been disobedient and sinful in our way of life.

He reminds us all that the coming of the end of times is a certainty, while we ourselves completely do not know of the time of that precise occurrence. And in addition, all of us will also encounter death in our life sooner or later, as our earthly and mortal existence is limited and temporary. No one can lengthen their lives beyond what God has willed it. And when the time comes, we have to face the Judge of all, God Himself, and give an account of our lives.

If we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by sin and continue to sin without repentance or regret of the wicked things we have done in disobedience to God, then the outcome for us will not be good. And as long as we allow ourselves to be enslaved by sin and reject God’s rich offering of mercy and forgiveness, there will be no place for us in God. For God is all good and perfect, and the sins in us will be obstacles for us in our reconciliation with Him.

But as I have mentioned, and which all of us should be aware of is the fact that God loves us all regardless of our sins. And He is always patient and ready to welcome us back to His embrace should we be willing to accept His offer of mercy and strive to be forgiven from our sins by sincere and complete repentance. Indeed, this is not something that can just easily be done, as we all know that sin is very powerful in its allure and power, and we have ended up falling again and again into sin despite our best efforts.

Yet, we should not give up, as God Himself is by our side, guiding us and encouraging us on our struggle and journey. We must trust in Him and let Him to guide us on our journey, and not allow our desires and pride to lead us even further into sin. This is why it is important for us to deepen our relationships with God by having a healthy and regular prayer life, as well as by practicing our faith sincerely in our respective lives and capacities.

Let us all draw closer to God and strive to stay true to God’s path, dedicating our time and effort, our whole lives from now on to God’s greater glory. Let us all turn our backs towards our sinful past and allow God to forgive us our sins that we may be welcome into the kingdom of His eternal glory and receive true joy and happiness forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 25 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 12 : 54-59

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when the wind blows from the south, you say, ‘It will be hot’; and so it is. You superficial people! You understand the signs of the earth and the sky, but you do not understand the present times.”

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is fit? When you go with your accuser before the court, try to settle the case on the way, lest he drag you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the jailer, and the jail throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

Friday, 25 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 118 : 66, 68, 76, 77, 93, 94

Give me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust in Your commands.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.

Let Your mercy come, to give me life; for Your Law is my delight.

Never will I forget Your precepts; for with them, You give me life.

Save me, for I am Yours, since I seek Your statutes.

Friday, 25 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 7 : 18-25a

I know, that what is right, does not abide in me, I mean, in my flesh. I can want to do what is right, but I am unable to do it. In fact, I do not do the good I want, but the evil I hate. Therefore, if I do what I do not want to do, I am not the one striving toward evil, but sin, which is in me.

I discover, then, this reality : though I wish to do what is right, the evil within me asserts itself first. My inmost self, agrees and rejoices with the Law of God, but I notice in my body, another law, challenging the Law of the Spirit, and delivering me, as a slave to the law of sin, written in my members.

Alas, for me! Who will free me from this being, which is only death? Let us give thanks to God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Thursday, 24 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture readings chosen for this day, the Lord wants to remind us through His Church that the reality of us being Christians, believing in Him and following His path through our lives is one of struggle, where challenges and trials, opposition and even persecution are likely part of our journey as we proceed on with faith. We cannot escape from this reality, and we have to endure it as best as we can as faithful Christians.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans placed it very bluntly before us, the reality of how God and sin are standing on the opposite ends of each other. If God is all good and righteousness, then sin is all evil and wicked, and sin is the disobedience against God and caused by our rebellion against His will. And while sin on one side brings about corruption and death, on the other hand, God brings about purification and life.

St. Paul made his assessment and comments to the faithful and the Church in Rome in the context of how Rome being the centre and heart of the whole Roman Empire was the place where paganism and its practices of all kinds were at the most numerous and common. St. Paul spoke out against those evil practices which saw hedonistic celebrations and even human sacrifices practices in some pagan rituals, all the corrupt and wicked practices of men.

And being in Rome, those faithful people of God were constantly under difficult conditions, being exposed to the pagan practices and customs all the time, all around them. They were also required by law to treat the Roman Emperors as if they were divine and offer sacrifices to them and the pagan gods. Disobedience can mean terrible suffering and persecution, and even death and martyrdom.

But that was exactly what the Lord Himself had spoken and revealed to His disciples as we heard it ourselves in our Gospel passage today. The Lord plainly spoke of how His coming into the world would not herald an era of peace and harmony unlike what some people would think, as at that time many among the Jews thought that the Messiah would come and restore the glorious kingdom of Israel of old and bring peace to the whole land.

Instead, God revealed that His coming would instead bring about divisions and challenges for those who are faithful to Him, wherever they are and in whichever time period they belong to. And this has been proven right again and again throughout the long history of the Church, even to this present day, to varying degrees of difficulties. Some encountered great opposition, suffering and even martyrdom from those who are close to them, caused by their own friends and families.

Many of the holy martyrs of the Church had to go up against opposition from their loved ones, their own family members and friends, not counting all the others who are against them and their enemies. And this kind of persecution and rejection of our Christian truths and values still remain even to this present day where all around the world, opposition and challenges to our Christian faith, teachings and practices of the Church remain and even growing strong and intensifying.

In our world today especially there is a great rise in secularism and in apathetic and even hostile attitudes against the Faith, with more and more people succumbing to this apathy and ignorance of God’s truth and love. Many people sought satisfaction and joy in worldly things and ambitions, in the pursuit of power, glory, fame and material goods and wealth. And God’s ways are increasingly being forgotten and pushed aside in our communities.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how then do we react to all these things happening around us, all the pressures for us to conform to the general norms and ways of the society that increasingly overlooked, has forgotten and abandoned God for the pagan and ungodly idols of this world, the idol of worldly desires, the idol of human pride, the idol of wealth and fame, the idol of pleasures of the body and mind among many others?

Today all of us should look upon the examples set by one saint whose feast we celebrate today, the famous founder of the Claretians religious order, St. Anthony Mary Claret, a holy bishop and a dedicated servant of God. St. Anthony Mary Claret was a holy and pious man, dedicated in his service to his flock and the people, renowned for his good sermons that drew people from afar. He spent many hours ministering to them and spending a lot of time especially in the confessionals.

He helped to organise the works of the Church in the places he has been assigned to, and he dutifully did all that he had been entrusted to do, including being the confessor to the then Queen of Spain among many others. He wrote extensively on the matters of the faith and placed great emphasis on the growth and development of Christian education and upbringing among the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see, St. Anthony Mary Claret dedicated his life to God, stood by Him and walked down the path He has shown us all as well. He certainly did not have it easy, sacrificing countless hours to minister to the people and definitely having faced rejections and oppositions from time to time. Are we able to imitate his good examples in life and his good faith in our own lives?

Let us all stand by God and renew our faith and commitment to Him, and let us draw ever closer to Him so that we may grow ever deeper in our love for Him and dedicate ourselves to His cause from now on. Let our every words, actions and deeds bring greater glory to God, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 24 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 12 : 49-53

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what anguish I feel until it is finished! Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, in one house five will be divided : three against two, and two against three.”

“They will be divided, father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”