Saturday, 30 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded that God’s love is enduring, everlasting and wonderful, and His steadfastness and faithfulness to His Covenant and the commitments He made to us are amazing. As we heard from St. Paul in our first reading today, as well as from the Lord in our Gospel passage today, following the Lord requires us to be open to this love, to be humble and to recognise just how blessed we have been by God all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, as he spoke to them regarding the matter of the Jewish people and their status as God’s first chosen people. At that time, the Jewish people were spread all around the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, forming various diaspora communities including that in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, which had a sizeable Jewish community. It was to these Jews and the Gentiles in Rome that St. Paul wrote to in his Epistle, as there were some among them that became believers and turned to the Christian faith.

The Jewish people were the descendants of the Israelites, and were called so because they mostly lived in Judea, the former lands of the kingdom of Judah. They were the remnants of all those who have once inhabited the land of Israel, the Promised Land, the first people that God had chosen to be His own, but which as God revealed, not to be His only people, for God extended His love and grace to all the peoples of all the nations, beginning from the Jews themselves, and then to all the nations. He sent His Son to be born among them, and to proclaim the salvation of all, Jews and Gentiles or non-Jews alike.

St. Paul therefore reiterated that he himself was a Jew, namely one of the Jewish people, a descendant of Abraham and even mentioning his tribe, the tribe of Benjamin. He did this because some of the Jews might have seen his actions in his missionary travels and works as being anti-Jewish and pro-Gentiles in nature, as he often reached out to the Gentiles and sought them, preaching in their midst and many of them became Christians. Many of the Jews became believers too, but some of the disagreements between the Jews and Gentiles might threaten the unity of the faithful.

That was why St. Paul reminded and reassured the Jewish community that they were still beloved and precious in the presence of God, as God’s chosen people. But God’s love has also been extended from them, to the other peoples of all the nations, and not exclusively belonging just to the Jewish state and race alone. This is unlike the point of view and ideology that some among the influential members of the Jewish community, such as the Pharisees and the chief priests promoted.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord also highlighted the folly of the attitude of those who saw themselves as being superior to the others they deemed to be less worthy and less important than they were. The Pharisees liked to seek the first and most important places in events, seeking fame and recognition for their own prestige and power, their own intellectual superiority and piety. It is these attitudes which prevented them from being able to embrace the Lord and His truth.

They saw themselves as the exclusive recipients of God’s promises and Covenant, as they saw the Jews as the only chosen people of God, and themselves as the only ones worthy in the community, rejecting and condemning those like the prostitutes and tax collectors, or those who had diseases and were possessed by evil spirits as sinners, ignoring that they themselves were sinners who were in need of God’s forgiveness and healing, and how in their own actions, they were no less sinners than those whom they looked down on.

The Lord has reminded all of us, through St. Paul and what he had written passionately for the faithful in Rome, that all of us are beloved and dear to Him, all His chosen people whom He has called to follow Him, where distinctions and divisions no longer matter, whether Jew or Gentile, whether rich or poor, whether strong or weak, or by any other artificial categorisations that we often divide ourselves into. God loves us all sinners and wants us to be reconciled to Him, so that we may find our way back to Him and be redeemed.

Now, the question is, are we willing to allow the Lord to lead us and guide us in our path? Are we able to be humble and to listen to Him speaking to us in our hearts, and not be prideful and stubborn unlike those who look highly upon themselves and considered themselves to be superior or more worthy than others, sowing division and discord in the community, and being elitist and exclusivist in their attitudes? This is not what we as Christians should be doing, and instead, we should be more welcoming to others, and reach out to those who are in need of help.

Let us all therefore live our lives worthily as Christians from now on, and let us commit ourselves to the Lord anew, with a new spirit and conviction, and let us all draw ever closer to Him and His presence, obeying His Law and commandments, and being good role models for one another in faith, and helping one another to stay faithful and to remain firm in our devotion to God. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 30 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 14 : 1, 7-11

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for He had noticed how they tried to take the places of honour.

And He said, “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited; and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you, ‘Please give this person your place.’ What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat!”

“Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that you host may come and say to you, ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honour for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Saturday, 30 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 93 : 12-13a, 14-15, 17-18

Fortunate the one You correct, o YHVH, the one You teach Your Law; You give them relief from distress.

YHVH will not reject His people, nor will He forsake His heritage. Justice will return to the just; and the upright will follow, in its wake.

Had YHVH not helped me, I would have fallen into the silence of death. No sooner did I say, “My foot is slipping,” Your kindness, o YHVH, held me up.

Saturday, 30 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Romans 11 : 1-2a, 11-12, 25-29

And so I ask : Has God rejected His people? Of course not! I, myself, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected the people He knew beforehand.

Again, I ask : Did they stumble so as to fall? Of course not. Their stumbling allowed salvation to come to the pagan nations, and, this, in turn, will stir up the jealousy of Israel. If Israel’s shortcoming made the world rich, if the pagan nations grew rich with what they lost, what will happen when Israel is restored?

I want you to understand the mysterious decree of God, lest you be too confident : a part of Israel will remain hardened, until the majority of pagans have entered. Then, the whole of Israel will be saved, as Scripture says : From Zion will come the Liberator, Who will purify the descendants of Jacob from all sin. And this is the Covenant I will make with them : I will take away from them their sins.

Regarding the Gospel, the Jews are opponents, but it is for your benefit. Regarding election, they are beloved, because of their ancestors; because the call of God, and His gifts, cannot be nullified.

Friday, 29 October 2021 : 30th 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 all presented with the reality of what being a Christian is all about. To be a Christian means that we have to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and do what He has commanded us to do. We must seek the Lord and focus ourselves on Him alone, and our whole existence and our ways must reflect the fact that we belong to God, and God alone.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of St. Paul the Apostle in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome as he spoke out regarding the experiences he had as a Jewish convert to the Christian faith himself, in his ministry and works among the Jews and Gentiles all across the Mediterranean. St. Paul encountered difficulties and challenges, when there were those who refused to believe in Him and rejecting him, as well as happy and fruitful moments when the people were willing to listen to him and embrace God’s truth, from among the Jews and Gentiles alike.

What he mentioned in today’s first readings was comparing just how much more saddened and afraid he would be if he were to invoke God’s wrath and to be separated from Him as compared to how anguished he had been of having been treated badly by his own fellow Jewish countryman, many of whom treated him badly and accused him of wrongdoings in opposition to his courageous and sincere work in their midst, especially from those who were members of the Pharisees and all those who were sympathetic to their views and ideas.

Through what we have heard in St. Paul’s expression, it was clear that St. Paul wanted his own people, the Jews, or the descendants of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, to be saved and redeemed, and to follow the right path as shown by the Lord, but which was still resisted by many among them. And much of this resistance came about because of their stubborn attitude in adopting a strict interpretation of the Law, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, how the Pharisees took issue with the Lord performing His miracles and works on the Sabbath.

Many of the Pharisees held the view that the Lord Jesus was a false Messiah because He and His disciples disregarded the Law of the Sabbath or were breaking the Law, which they considered to be improper, and some among them even considered it downright blasphemous. As a result, they often opposed the Lord and tried to accuse Him of wrongdoing in various opportunities, and after His death and resurrection, since the Apostles and the other disciples continued these works, thus, the attention of the Pharisees and the Jewish authorities naturally turned towards them.

St. Paul himself was a former Pharisee who was called by the Lord, from a great persecutor of Christians turned to be one of its greatest champions and defender of the faith. That was likely why he was also saddened at the attitude of his former fellow Pharisees who continued to resist the truth of God and the works of those whom the Lord had entrusted His Church to, for their stubborn refusal to abandon or compromise their very strict interpretation of the Law, as well as their feeling of superiority against those whom they deemed to be less worthy than they were.

The Lord Himself in our Gospel passage today pointed out the folly of their arguments, as He showed that mankind cannot blindly follow the Law or interpret it in their own way without truly understanding the meaning and the purpose of the Law. God had intended the Law to be the guide and help for man to find their way to Himself, and yet, His people had instead become too fixated and focused on the applications and the practices of the Law which led to many of them obeying the Law for the sake of obeying it, or even making use of it to benefit themselves out of pride, ambition and desire.

This is why, today, through all that we have heard and discussed, we are all reminded that as Christians we have to do our best to keep ourselves away from the many temptations to follow our desires and the pleasures of worldliness, to be righteous and just, as the Lord our Master, our Father and Creator has been righteous and just. We are all called to put our trust and faith in Him, and persevere against the trials and challenges of worldly desires and the temptations of the devil and his fellow wicked forces. May God bless us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us to follow Him with all of our might and strength. Amen.

Friday, 29 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 14 : 1-6

At that time, on one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched.

In front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy; so Jesus asked the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

But no one answered. Jesus then took the man, healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “If your lamb or your ox falls into a well on a Sabbath day, who among you does not hurry to pull it out?” And they could not answer.

Friday, 29 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Friday, 29 October 2021 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 9 : 1-5

I tell you, sincerely, in Christ, and my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit, that I am not lying : I have great sadness and constant anguish for the Jews. I would even desire, that, I myself, suffer the curse of being cut off from Christ, instead of my brethren : I mean, my own people, my kin.

They are Israelites, whom God adopted, and on them, rests His glory. Theirs, are the Covenants, the Law, the worship and the promises of God. They are descendants of the patriarchs, and from their race, Christ was born, He, Who, as God, is above all distinctions. Blessed be He forever and ever. Amen!

Thursday, 28 October 2021 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two great saints of God, who are two of the great Apostles, members of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Simon and St. Jude, who refers to St. Simon the Zealot as well as St. Jude Thaddeus, the latter not to be confused with the traitor Judas Iscariot. Both of them followed the Lord throughout His ministry, dedicating themselves to His cause and in the end, shedding their blood and giving their lives to the glory of God.

St. Simon the Apostle was as mentioned, a zealot or a religious fanatic who was converted and called to follow the Lord Jesus. As a zealot, previously he was involved in the revolutionary efforts from the fanatical members of the Jewish community who were fighting against the oppressors of the Jewish state in Judea and Galilee, namely the Romans and their client rulers, the Herodians and their supporters. The zealots were known for carrying out attacks against the government establishments and for their guerrilla efforts.

And it was from the ranks of those zealots that the words of the Lord Jesus came to touch St. Simon, who was convinced to follow Him and to give himself to the cause of the Lord instead of the misguided efforts of the zealots. Initially, perhaps St. Simon also thought, like many other Jewish people and zealots did, that the Lord Jesus was the long awaited Messiah Who was expected to lead the Israelites, the people of God, against their enemies, and lead them to freedom, crushing the Romans and all their oppressors.

St. Simon however, remained firmly faithful and committed to the Lord, even after many of the other disciples left Him, and when the Lord was betrayed and made to suffer, persecuted and forced to bear His Cross, and finally died a most humiliating and painful death on that same Cross, this former zealot turned disciple of the Lord remained, and continued to serve Him, receiving the Holy Spirit together with the other Apostles and disciples, and went on to do His works, evangelising and travelling to many places to proclaim the truth of God.

Meanwhile, St. Jude Thaddeus, also known as St. Judas Thaddeus, sometimes associated with one of the relatives of the Lord, also known as Jude, was also one of the close followers of the Lord, who followed Him throughout His ministry, and then dedicated himself to the works and the missions entrusted to him by the Lord. And while, like St. Simon, little was known about St. Jude in the early days of his role as an Apostle and follower of Christ, what Church traditions and history held was that both of them went to faraway places, evangelising to the people who have not yet heard about the Lord and His salvation.

It was told that St. Simon and St. Jude often travelled together in their works of evangelisation and mission, preaching the word of God to the people of Persia, Armenia, and other areas like North Africa and Asia Minor. They worked hard to speak the truth of God to the people, many of whom were receptive and were willing to believe in God, and yet, there were also many others who refused to believe in the Lord and persecuted them and the other servants of God.

St. Simon was martyred together with St. Jude in the most well-preserved history of the Church, in which both Apostles were persecuted, tortured and finally put to death for their evangelising works among the pagans. In the end, regardless of their origins, they all embraced God’s calling and mission, and dedicated themselves to serve the Lord, following Him to where He led them, and gave themselves, even their own lives for the sake of the glory of God, and for the salvation of mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect today on the lives and works of these two great Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude, let us all discern carefully what we should do with our own lives, as those who profess the Christian faith and are therefore disciples and followers of Christ. Let us all consider carefully how we are to live our lives from now on, and reflect upon the examples of the Apostles to guide us and to help set us on the right path in life.

May the Lord protect us and guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He empower all of us to follow in the footsteps of His glorious Apostles, especially St. Simon and St. Jude, whose memory we venerate today, and whose examples we want to emulate. May God be with us always and may He bless us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 28 October 2021 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 6 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus went out into the hills to pray, spending the whole night in prayer with God. When day came, He called His disciples to Him, and chose Twelve of them, whom He called ‘Apostles’ : Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James son of Alpheus and Simon called the Zealot; Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who would be the traitor.

Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of His disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon. They gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. And people troubled by unclean spirits were cured.

The entire crowd tried to touch Him, because of the power that went out from Him and healed them all.