Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are meant to do what we can as Christians, having been given various talents and gifts, blessings and graces by the Lord. Each and every one of us are therefore expected to make good use of those gifts of the Lord and be fruitful in the grace of God, bearing the rich fruits of our actions and commitments in life, in accordance to what each one of us have been called to do as Christians. All of us are reminded today of this calling, and we should embrace the Lord’s calling wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, we heard about the matter of the gifts that God had given to His disciples, to the Apostles and the others who have given themselves to the service of God. The Lord has granted them all the gifts and the blessings, the opportunities and the abilities to do His will, and gave them each a mission to fulfil in their lives. St. Paul therefore wanted to remind the faithful in Ephesus of their calling and mission in life, on the significance of them being Christians, as followers of the Lord. The Lord has called on all of them to be the members and parts of His Church, His one united Body, made up of all the different various parts, all the different peoples of different origins and background.

The Church of God is made up of all these people and parts, each one of them with their own talents and capabilities, with their own missions and responsibilities. For example, as mentioned, the Lord called and gave the gifts and entrusted some with their responsibility as Apostles, some others as missionaries and teachers, while some others were entrusted to be evangelists and preachers, while others were called to be involved in building good and faithful Christian families, to be good fathers, mothers, children and other members of the Christian community, as parts of the same united Body of Christ, the Church.

At that time the Church and the Christian communities in the various parts of the Mediterranean and elsewhere were still in their early stages, as the Apostles and the other missionaries spread the Good News and the Christian faith to various parts of the world, proclaiming the truth of God courageously despite the many challenges that they had to face. The Lord has sent His disciples to those places, revealing His truth and salvation to all the people of all the nations. That is why, the Lord wants us all to remember how all of us have the same mission that He has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and thus, we have to make good use of the gifts and talents given to us. We can neither be idle or ignore our calling and mission.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord telling His disciples that all those people who had suffered due to the riot in Galilee and the collapse of the tower in Siloah had met their end, and while it was not due to any fault of theirs, but the Lord highlighted to them all, that unless they changed their ways and actions, then they would face the end in the same manner as those who had perished experienced. He used this example to highlight how all of our actions and works, our beliefs and faith truly matter as they all determine whether we are going to be worthy of the Lord, or whether our actions and lives will condemn us at the Day of Judgment. The choice and opportunities have been given to us, and now therefore it is up to us whether we will act on it or not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that as Christians, as members of the Church of God, all of us like that of the Apostles and the early Christians, are all the same disciples of the Lord, and we all share the same calling and mission which the Lord had given and entrusted to us through His same Church. Each one of us have been given the gifts and talents, and the various capabilities and opportunities, for us to reach out to more and more of our fellow men, and proclaim the truth of God through our own exemplary lives and actions. We do not have to perform amazing and wonderful things, as in truth, what really matters is for us to do whatever we can, in our own small little ways, to do the will of God, and to follow His path, at all times.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of one of the great recent saint, whose name and memories must be familiar to so many among us both young and old, as he was the leader of the Universal Church as the Successor of St. Peter, the Pope and Bishop of Rome. Pope St. John Paul II, also known by his birth name as Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the first Polish Pope and non-Italian Pope after close to five hundred years. Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in Poland after the First World War to a loving family, but unfortunately, he lost his family members one by one, beginning with his mother, then his elder brother and finally his father, during the harsh early years of the Second World War.

The young Karol Wojtyla suffered hardships during the war years, and during that time, he went through discreet seminary preparation as he committed himself to priesthood. He was ordained a priest, and then went through another hard period of oppression of Christians by the Communists, who were in power at that time. Christians were persecuted and oppressed, but Fr. Wojtyla cared for the needs of his flock, and this quiet obedience and commitment to the Lord eventually led to him being chosen as first the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, and then succeeding as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, and from there on, his participation as a leader of the Church continued to rise on.

After being made a Cardinal by the Pope, the then Cardinal Wojtyla continued to fight for the rights of the Christians in his homeland, in Krakow and elsewhere, and he was particularly remembered for his period of struggle against the Communist government, as he led the faithful in the effort to establish a church in the new town of Nowa Huta, which the Communist government had touted back then as a churchless town, in a seeming symbol of triumph of Communism over the Christian faith. Cardinal Wojtyla helped to lead the campaign which eventually led to the completion of the church and shrine at Nowa Huta of the now famous Black Madonna of Nowa Huta.

He was then elected as the successor of St. Peter as the Pope and leader of the Universal Church. As Pope St. John Paul II, he led the Church on a great campaign of renewal, in leading the Church through efforts to evangelise to many more people, to lead to the greater unity within the Church, the repair of relations between the separated brethren among the Christian Church splinters, as well as in his great and memorable role in leading to the downfall of Communism, which happened just over a decade after he took over as the Pope and leader of the Church. He travelled to many countries, more than any Popes ever before and ever since until today, and as the Apostles long before his time and ours, Pope St. John Paul II continued to carry on the mission entrusted to the Church of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II and the many other saints who are our good role models, including that of the Apostles and the other disciples themselves, and let us ask all of them to pray for us, that God may strengthen us in our missionary journey, in whatever we do as members of the same Church of God, for our current Pope, Francis, the Cardinals and the Archbishops and Bishops all throughout the Church, all the priest and deacons, and everyone in the religious orders, brothers and sisters, and of course all those among the laity, in their various capacities and workplaces, as fathers, mothers and children, as members of the living Church of God.

Let us all do our best to obey the will of God and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, resolving to follow the path that God has shown before us. May the Lord continue to guide us all and be with us always, and may He empower each and every one of us with the strength and the grace to remain faithful to Him despite the challenges and trials that we may have to face in our journey of faith through our respective lives. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

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, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Ephesians 4 : 7-16

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it is said : When He ascended to the heights, He brought captives and gave His gifts to people. He ascended, what does it mean, but, that He had also descended to the lower parts of the world? He, Himself, Who went down, then ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.

As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Then, no longer shall we be like children, tossed about by any wave, or wind or doctrine; and deceived by the cunning of people, who drag them along into error. Rather, speaking the truth, in love, we shall grow in every way, toward Him, Who is the Head, Christ. From Him, comes the growth of the whole body, to which a network of joints give order and cohesion, taking into account, and making use of, the function of each one. So, the body builds itself, in love.

Friday, 21 October 2022 : 29th 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 reminded of the need for all of us as Christians to live our lives faithfully at all times, in the path that the Lord has set before us, and in doing what He has commanded all of us to do. The Lord has called on us to do His will, to proclaim His Good News among the people of all the nations, and He has taught us what we should do as His disciples. Each one of us are now therefore called and expected to be dedicated as children of God, in living our lives most worthily as those who have been made God’s own people.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, the Apostle reminded all the faithful there of the calling for all of them to live their lives worthily of God, to be committed and true to their faith, to do the will of God as they have been expected to, and to proclaim His Good News by their lives and actions. All the Christians have been given the vocations as God’s own beloved disciples and people, to walk in the path He has shown them, in loving Him with all of their hearts and might, and in showing that same love to their fellow brothers and sisters, unconditionally just as He has loved them all unconditionally as well.

As I have mentioned in my earlier discourses this past week, the Church community in Ephesus and in many other early Christian communities back then were often divided between the Jewish converts and the converts among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people made up of various peoples like Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Syrians, Anatolians and many other people, all of whom had welcomed the Lord and accepted Him as their Lord and Master. But some of those from the Jewish community kept their past prejudices against those who belonged to the non-Jewish community. This is because they considered themselves being superior as they were directly descended from the Israelites of the past, and upheld the strict practices and customs of the Jewish people.

Some of those same Jewish converts, many of whom were likely members of the Pharisees and the scribes, even attempted to impose their excessive version of the Jewish Law and customs on all the faithful, including that of the Gentiles. As such, this would have made it very difficult for the converts from among the Gentiles to follow the Christian faith as contextually we must understand that some of the practices and customs of the Jewish people were seen by many of the Gentiles and pagans of the time as being aberration and strange, or even downright repulsive and undesirable.

Hence, St. Paul wanted the whole Church and all the faithful to realise that they should not be divided one against another by those bias and prejudices, or by any other differences that they might have between them. All of them are reminded to remain united as a whole united Body of Christ, the Church of God, with every members showing love and care for each other. There should be no more division or prejudices among them, whether they saw themselves as Jew or Greek, or any other Gentiles, or whether they were free people or slaves, or whether they were rich or poor, or whether they were males or females. All are equal before the same Lord Who loves us all.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord told all of His people and disciples that there were signs that they had seen, and they should henceforth act upon what they had seen. He was in fact referring to the signs and wonders which He Himself had done before all of the people, and yet many of them still doubted Him and refused to believe in Him. They would rather remain in their disbelief and in believing their own ways rather than to trust in the Lord, or to open their hearts and minds. They had all seen and heard whatever that the Lord had done, in all of His teachings and miracles, and yet they had failed to believe, and some even opposed the Lord and His disciples openly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as what the Apostle St. Paul spoke to the faithful in Ephesus of, what we heard today in the Gospel passage reminds us all of just how we mankind have often allowed our own selfish nature and pride to undermine us in our path and progress towards God and His salvation. And all of that had prevented us from finding the Lord, keeping us trapped within our own prideful ways and habits. As long as we continue to resist the Lord, and not following Him in the way that we should have done, then we are not truly devout and committed Christians, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves and others otherwise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, let us all realise that each and every one of us are expected and have been called to love God and also our fellow brothers and sisters with all of our strength and ability, and not only that, but we are also expected to love others without being biased or prejudiced against anyone. All of us should love one another equally regardless of our background, origin, racial status, wealth, possessions, societal status, gender or whatever other worldly divisions and prejudices we often placed ourselves in. We have to rid ourselves of these, and endeavour to keep the Church and all the faithful united together.

May the Lord continue to be with us and guide us, and may He empower each and every one of us so that we may truly be good examples of our Christian faith to all the people, so that we may always proclaim the Lord, His truth and love by our every actions, words and deeds. May God be with us always and may He bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 October 2022 : 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, 21 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, 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 YHVH? 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 YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Friday, 21 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 4 : 1-6

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

Thursday, 20 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard from the Scriptures, a reminder that following Christ, His truth and salvation is not as easy as it may seem to be. There will likely be challenges and trials, and often we may have to endure opposition and difficulties along the way. But we must not lose faith or hope because as long as we remain firm in our faith and trust in the Lord, then we will always be taken care of and provided for by the Lord. There will be hardships and as history has shown us, some if not many of us even may have to endure persecutions and martyrdom for our faith, but in the end, we all will be triumphant together with God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful people of God in Ephesus, we heard the Apostle telling the people there about what he desired of them to do, and as he prayed for their sake to the Lord, asking on God to bless them and to provide for them, with strength and wisdom, with guidance and encouragement, St. Paul also reminded all the faithful to believe wholeheartedly in the Lord, to trust in the truth and faith which they had received from the Lord and His Apostles and missionaries, and he also prayed for them that they all would be blessed in all things, and that God would be glorified through their words, actions and deeds.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard through the Lord Jesus Himself, Who came to tell all of His followers that His coming did not mean that those who follow Him and believe in Him will immediately be free and spared from all hardships, trials and challenges. We must understand the context that back then, many of the people kind of expected that the Messiah or the Saviour to come to them and deliver them immediately out of their troubles, freeing them from their enemies and from the dominion of foreign rulers, and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. Hence, many of them had hoped that by following Christ, they would be free from hardships and troubles.

On the contrary, as the Lord Himself presented it to them, His coming and His truth would cause divisions even among the believers and between the believers and those who were close to them. There would be challenges and hardships that they would have to encounter, as there would definitely be those who refused to listen to the truth of God and preferred to follow their own paths, and throughout the history of the Church this had happened again and again, as the faithful especially in the early days of the Church had to contend with opposition from their own family members, relatives and friends, and many were oppressed and martyred because of that.

That is why the prayers of St. Paul for the Church and the faithful in Ephesus became even more significant as it reminds us all of those challenges and trials that we as Christians may and will have to face in our journey of faith, as we embark on this mission in life to proclaim the truth of God through our lives and works. St. Paul prayed that God would strengthen and encourage the faithful so that they all will be filled with grace and perseverance, with the wisdom and the ability to comprehend the truth of God. He prayed over them that they would not easily fall prey to temptations to bring them apart from the Lord and His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the significance of what we have heard in our Scripture readings today? It reminds us all that we have to continue to be faithful to God despite the obstacles, trials and challenges that we may face as Christians in our journey of faith, and we also need the guidance, strength, wisdom and providence from God to help us in this struggle and journey. We cannot do this alone, or else we will very soon realise that the challenges facing us are greater than what we can solve and handle on our own. God and His Church are with us in this, and we have to always remember this fact, and not give up the faith, as our predecessors had done.

This also means that all of us are reminded to give our best to serve the Lord by living our lives to the fullest as devout Christians, in loving God and in living our lives according to His Law and precepts, and also by helping and inspiring one another to remain faithful to the Lord in all things. We must remain strong in the Lord, in our conviction and desire to serve Him and to love Him, and dedicate our time and effort to remain true to our faith so that whatever happen, we may encourage each other to stay in our path of faith towards God and His salvation, and not be tempted to abandon the Lord for the other paths towards our downfall.

Let us all strive to be good and faithful, worthy and committed disciples of the Lord and be good examples and inspirations for one another. May the Lord continue to bless us all in all things and help us in our journey of faith through life. May God strengthen us and empower us to remain resilient despite the challenges, trials and struggles we may have to face in our Christian journey through life. Amen.

Thursday, 20 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.”