Saturday, 5 November 2022 : 31st 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 Scriptures, we are called to remember that we have to be true and committed in our faith in Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We cannot be easily swayed, distracted and tempted by the many worldly pleasures, coercions, distractions and temptations all around us. We have to remember that often times as Christians we have to make a stand and choice between following and serving God, or to choose following the path of the world, the path of temptation and sin. As long as we remember this, then we are less likely to be drawn or swayed into the wrong path, and we also have to keep in mind that our actions, deeds and works can either inspire others to do the right thing or things that can bring scandal to the Church and our faith.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful community in Philippi, the Apostle spoke of the need for all of the faithful people of God to put their faith and trust in Him, and to dedicate themselves to the path that He has shown and guided them through. St. Paul told them all that they have to trust in the Lord for His providence, strength and protection. What the Apostle referred to in our first reading today must have been the people’s concerns over what St. Paul had to endure, in his many struggles and trials, in the challenges that he had faced, throughout all those moments and times when he had to brave even great dangers in order to bring the Word of God and the Good News to more and more people.

Yet, the Lord was always with St. Paul and his companions, with the other Apostles and missionaries, all the servants whom God had chosen, called and sent to minister to the people of this world, to call them all back to Himself. The Lord never abandoned or left them all on their own, and even amidst their sufferings, they were still guided by God on their side. And first of all, we must also ever forget the very fact that the Lord Himself, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, had suffered persecution, rejection and death for our sake, for the sake of His love for each and every one of us, and for the truth that He had brought into our midst by His coming into this world, and for the salvation of the whole entire world.

Thus, all the faithful who have shared in the Lord’s own Body and Blood, and become one in the Holy Communion of the faithful, as the one united Church of God, the Body of Christ, are bound to share in His sufferings and rejections, oppressions and challenges as well. The Lord Himself had told His disciples in a few occasions as highlighted in the Gospels, that if the world hated Him, the Lord and Master, then surely the same world will also hate those who are following Him and believing in Him. That is why we must not be surprised that we may have to endure those challenges as well, but we are not alone in that, because God is always by our side, and we must have firm faith in Him or else we will be easily swayed by worldly temptations.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding the matter of serving God and Money, continuing from what we have heard yesterday with regards to the parable of the dishonest steward. In that parable, we heard of the steward who had been dishonest and cheated on his master and lord in order to gain more for his own good. However, when the lord found out about his dishonest action, the steward was fired and that same steward did whatever he could and in whatever way he knew, in order to secure a good livelihood for himself after he was fired. Thus, he then cheated his master of even more money by illicitly altering the debts of some of those who owed his master money and goods.

Through that parable, the Lord wanted us all to know that the temptations of the world such as money and other forms of material possessions are truly dangerous, and they can easily lead us down the wrong path if we are not vigilant or do whatever we can to resist those temptations. And as I mentioned in yesterday’s discourse, it is not that those money or material possessions themselves that are evil, as they can very well be used for good use and purposes too. However, it is actually our obsession and unhealthy attachments to them that is the true culprit for our downfall, and our inability to be truly faithful to God, because our hearts are divided between those things we desire and God. And often times we sidelined God and chose other things instead of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let today’s Scripture passages be reminders for each one of us so that we may truly carefully reflect upon our lives, our choice of actions and path in life. Are we going to continue to choose the path of worldliness, worldly desires and ambitions, desires and greed, and are we going to continue to sideline God in our lives and instead be focused on our wants and desires? Or are we going to reevaluate our priorities in life and begin to attribute a much more important place for the Lord in our lives, that is at the very heart and centre, and as the focus of our whole lives and existence? This is what we seriously have to consider as we remind ourselves of these Scripture passages we heard today and whatever we have discussed just earlier on.

Let us all make a commitment and renew our conviction to live ever more worthily of God from now on, prioritising Him in our lives and actions. Let us no longer be swayed or tempted by all sorts of attachment to worldliness and desires, ambitions, pride or ego. Let us all be purified in our hearts and minds, and be strengthened by God, that through His grace we may always ever strive to be faithful and committed to Him. May God be with us all, and may He bless our every good efforts and endeavours, for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 5 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 16 : 9-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “And so I tell you : use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that, when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes. Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones.”

“So if you have been dishonest in handling filthy money, who would entrust you with true wealth? And if you have been dishonest with things that are not really yours, who will give you that wealth which is truly your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt. You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and sneered at Jesus. He said to them, “You do your best to be considered righteous by people. But God knows the heart, and what is highly esteemed by human beings is loathed by God.”

Saturday, 5 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 8a and 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

His heart is confident, he needs not fear, he gives generously to the poor, his merits will last forever and his head will be raised in honour.

Saturday, 5 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Philippians 4 : 10-19

I rejoice in the Lord because of your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me before, but you had no opportunity to show it. I do not say this because of being in want; I have learnt to manage with what I have. I know what it is to be in want and what it is to have plenty. I am trained for both : to be hungry or satisfied, to have much or little. I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me.

However you did right in sharing my trials. You Philippians, remember that in the beginning, when we first preached the Gospel, after I left Macedonia you alone opened for me a debit and credit account, and when I was in Thessalonica, twice you sent me what I needed.

It is not your gift that I value but rather the interest increasing in your own account. Now I have enough and more than enough with everything Epaphroditus brought me on your behalf and which I received as “fragrant offerings pleasing to God.” God Himself will provide you with everything you need, according to His riches, and show you His generosity in Christ Jesus.

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture passages, we are all reminded of the Lord calling on us to follow Him and to do His will. Each and every one of us as Christians have been charged and entrusted with the capacity, the gifts, abilities and opportunities for us to contribute our actions and deeds, our works and efforts for the missions and other things that the Lord has given us, that by our faithful commitment and actions, we may indeed fulfil our roles as the Lord’s beloved people and flock, whom He had appointed to be His stewards and servants, to be the stewards and guardians of His creation.

Each and every one of us have been given the various responsibilities in our different areas of expertise, in our various circumstances, groups, and in whatever things that we are doing in life. No two Christians will have the same exact set of responsibilities, mission, ministry and calling, as each one of us are going to have a distinct path in life, although some of us may have more similarities than others, while some have very different paths that God had led them into. In the end, what matters is that each one of us are called through our missions and ministries, through the opportunities that God has granted us, to do whatever we can in contributing to all that He had entrusted us to do.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and to the faithful community there, the Apostle spoke about the need for all Christians to adhere to the path and the teachings which the Lord their God has shown all of them, that they all should be genuine in their faith and way of life. They should not follow the path of worldliness or be distracted by the many worldly temptations all around them. The same reminder applies to us all as well, brothers and sisters, as in this day, even in our own communities, we have always faced those same challenges and trials, oppositions and difficulties. As Christians, we are expected to do the will of God, and to carry out the missions that He has entrusted to us, with all of our hearts and strength.

As St. Paul mentioned in that same passage, all of us as Christians belong to God, as the citizens of Heaven. And because Heaven is our ultimate destination, therefore each one of us must live according to God’s ways. How can we call ourselves as Christians if the way we live, how we act and interact with one another contradict directly what we profess to believe in? Doing so is essentially marking us as hypocrites, who belief in one thing and yet acting in another way. Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we are expected to be faithful and committed to God, not just in name or appearances only, but in everything we say and act, they all have to be reflective of God’s truth, love and grace. And we have to do what God has told and asked us all to do, through the various responsibilities, opportunities and missions that He has entrusted to us.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard from the Lord Himself the words of His parable to the people and the disciples as He wanted to teach them and show them what they were all expected to do as His followers. Through this parable of the dishonest steward, which many of us should be quite familiar with, the Lord wanted to highlight to us first and foremost, that each one of us are truly the stewards of the Lord, the stewards entrusted with the care of this world that we are living in today, as per what He had told man at the beginning of creation in the Book of Genesis. While He granted mankind the rule and guardianship of the world, He also entrusted it to their care, and hence, each one of us are the stewards of God’s creation.

Now, that parable of the dishonest steward reminds all of us, of the dangers of ‘money’ that is worldly temptations and pleasures, allures and goods, all of which can distract, mislead and tempt us away from the right path. But we must also understand that money, material goods, properties and all the things we have in this world are by themselves actually not evil. They are not harmful on their own, but it is our attachments to them, our unhealthy obsession over them that led to a lot of harm and troubles, a lot of wickedness and evil in our behaviour and actions. Just as the dishonest steward cheating his master in order to save himself, to provide a means for him to live after he was fired, therefore, in many occasions, all those worldly things and possessions had caused many people to mistreat and manipulate others, or even causing extortion and exploitation of our fellow brothers and sisters.

Clearly, this is not what we as Christians are expected to do, and that is not what our Christian identity and action should be. If we are truly God’s people and followers, and if we truly believe in Him, with all of our heart and strength, then naturally we should be like Him, in how He loves us all so generously and tenderly, that He is willing to do everything for us, showing us a most selfless love by giving us His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and Saviour, and to die for us on the Cross, that through all of that, we may be reconciled with Him, and saved from all of our troubles and from the clutches of the evil ones, and from the path to damnation. That is what Christians are expected to do, to be filled with the love of God, and not with the selfish love of ourselves and our own desires.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, and a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. And today as we rejoice in the memory of this great and renowned saint, hopefully we can be inspired by the many good examples set by this great servant of God, and emulate his examples in how he exercise great stewardship over whatever it is that God had entrusted under his care, in all the missions and works that he had done throughout his life. St. Charles Borromeo was a brilliant young nobleman who completed his studies and was eventually made as a Cardinal of the Church by his uncle, who was elected as Pope. In his capacity as Cardinal, he assisted the Pope in the many areas of governance of the Church. He helped the Church reforms, rooting out worldly excesses and corruptions from among the clergy and the members of the Church.

He was also later on appointed to be the Archbishop of Milan, which after Rome was probably the most influential and important Episcopal See. As Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo launched a great campaign of reform in rooting out the debauched corruptions and condition in which the clergy and laity of the Milanese See had ended up in after many decades without proper leadership as previous archbishops had not resided in Milan at all. St. Charles Borromeo rooted out all those lingering corruptions and worldliness that had crept into the very heart of the Church, leading the faithful on a path towards renewal and rejuvenation of their faith. He pressed on despite the challenges and trials that he had to encounter along the way, and he did not give up his struggle and hard work to the end.

And as Archbishop and Cardinal, he still remained humble and simple in his lifestyle, contrary to the many other people of his class and office. He dedicated much of his time to visit the poor and care for the sick, establishing institutions, hospitals and schools for the betterment of his flock. He spent a lot of time and effort to care for the sick and dying when a plague struck at Milan and the surrounding regions even when the ruler and the local governors all fled from the area, leaving the sick and the poor to fend for themselves. St. Charles Borromeo dedicated his life for the sake of those who have been entrusted to him as we have heard, and this should be what each one of us should be doing as well, as faithful and dedicated Christians, throughout our lives. As he had done, let us all make good use of whatever opportunities and gifts God had granted us all, as stewards of His creation.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. May He empower us all with courage, strength and perseverance to live ever more faithfully in accordance to the path that He has led and guided us through. May God bless us all and may He remain with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 16 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him for fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.'”

“The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do : I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people who will welcome me into their homes.'”

“So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question. ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.'”

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness : for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.”

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Philippians 3 : 17 – Philippians 4 : 1

Unite in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and look at those who walk in our way of life. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. I have said it to you many times, and now I repeat it with tears : they are heading for ruin; their belly is their god and they feel proud of what should be their shame. They only think of earthly things.

For us, our citizenship is in heaven, from where we await the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Lord. He will transfigure our lowly body, making it like His own Body, radiant in Glory, through the power which is His to submit everything to Himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, you my glory and crown, be steadfast in the Lord.

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each one of us are reminded that as Christians we must not have the elitist attitude thinking that we alone are righteous and that others are less deserving of God’s salvation than us. We must not think that we are more worthy than others just because we follow His Law and commandments, and then ridicule and ostracise, being prejudiced or biased against others, or worse still, blaming others just because we think that they have not been faithful to God the way that we have been faithful. Instead, first and foremost we must remember that it is our Christian calling and obligation in fact to not only love the Lord with all of our hearts and might, but also to love our fellow brothers and sisters, without prejudice, in the same way.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, we heard the Apostle speaking to the people regarding the matter of circumcision and the faithful. In order to understand the significance of this discourse, we have to understand that back then there were significant friction between the members of the Christian communities including that in Philippi, between the new converts from among the Jewish diaspora as well as the new converts from among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people like the Romans, the Greek and many others. The Christian faith and truths attracted both the Jewish people and the Gentiles alike, and the differences in their thoughts and practices bring about this discord between the faithful.

That is because according to the practices of the old Law as revealed through Moses and as shown in the Old Testament, the Jewish people had to undergo circumcision or the removal of the skin from the genital of their males, in order for them to be part of the Jewish community. This Law had been preserved from the days of Moses onwards to this day. However, the crux of the matter as highlighted by St. Paul, was the overemphasis on these external and outward practices and which also became sort of badge of pride and honour by the adherents of its practices which resulted in the people of God being elitist and exclusivist in their way of life and in how they interacted with others who do not belong to their group, or those whom they deemed as inferior and less worthy than they were.

The Pharisees, to which St. Paul himself belonged to, and which the Apostle highlighted in that very occasion, was in particular the most to blame for this attitude. For back then, many among the Pharisees were very proud of their observance of the Law of God, their piety and dedication. They looked down on others and made great show of their faith practices and piety. They imposed the very strict interpretation and excesses of the additions to the Law of God over the centuries to the whole people. Their prejudice against people who were sick and diseased, possessed, and others like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, were carried on to some among the early Christian converts originating from among the Jewish people, some of them like St. Paul himself, were Pharisees.

Therefore, there were disagreements and even attempts by those who supported the Pharisees and wanted the whole Church to adopt the very strict interpretation of the Law and all of its immense number of rules and regulations, imposing them even to the Gentiles who converted to the Christian faith. That would have made it very difficult then for the Gentiles to adopt the Christian faith, as back then, some of the Jewish practices and customs were viewed with disdain and even with outright disgust by the Romans, the Greeks and the other Gentiles. In particular, this involved the practice of male circumcision, which the Gentiles found abhorrent. That is why, people like St. Paul, a former Pharisee, wanted this practice to be made completely optional for the whole Church.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord Jesus as He confronted the Pharisees and the elders who were very critical at the Lord’s warm treatment of those whom the they considered as sinners and unclean like the tax collectors, as He went even to their place to have a meal with them. Such an action would have been unthinkable for the Pharisees and the elders who wanted to have nothing to do at all with those pagans and all those whom they deemed to be inferior, less worthy and wicked. This was exactly why St. Paul warned the faithful against these attitudes that are actually incompatible with all of us being Christians. A Christian should not be prejudiced, exclusivist and self-righteous in their attitudes.

On the contrary, we have to remember what the Lord told all those assembled, using the parable of the lost sheep and the lost silver coin. When He mentioned how the shepherd would go out forth to look for the one lost sheep despite the ninety-nine other sheep that were safe and sound, and how the woman would put all her effort to find her missing silver coin piece despite the other pieces that she had with her, it showed us all the kind of love and the effort with which God had done for our sake, out of His ever enduring and ever great love for us all. Through His generous love, He has reached out to us again and again, all of us sinners who are undeserving of His love, and yet, despite our rebelliousness and stubbornness, God continued to reach out to us nonetheless, with love. And that is what we as Christians are expected to do as well with our lives.

Today, we shoud also look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, on his feast day, namely that of St. Martin de Porres, the renowned patron saint of the poor and the needy, and of those who are underprivileged and ostracised. St. Martin de Porres was himself born in the New World, the Americas, as a mixed-race illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed nativewoman. St. Martin de Porres grew up in poverty and endured a lot of prejudices and sufferings because of his background, and although as he grew up he wanted to join the Dominicans as a member of the religious order, the prejudices and the challenges facing St. Martin de Porres as a mixed-race man prevented him from joining the Dominicans as a full member.

Nonetheless, St. Martin de Porres continued to persevere in his faith and faithful actions, devoting a lot of time and effort to care for his fellow brethren, especially to those who were sick and dying, those who were underprivileged and suffering. He performed many works, even menial works and labours for the sake of his community of Dominican brothers, as well as others. Soon after, many miracles and wonderful works occurred all around St. Martin de Porres, and many came to him for healing and advice. He continued to live humbly and faithfully in God’s path, and devoted his works to the good and the well-being of his brethren, obeying his superiors and listening to God’s will. He lived virtuously and humbly, to the very end of his life, a great example and role model for all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of St. Martin de Porres, his life and good examples, let us all therefore reflect upon all these and see in what way we as Christians can do and act in our own lives to be more like St. Martin de Porres and the innumerable other saints whose holy lives, whose love for the needy, the poor and the underprivileged can become our source of inspiration and examples, in how we ought to lead our own lives. Shall we not follow the path of the Pharisees and the elders, and the path of those who thought themselves as being worthy and righteous, but instead, walk ever humbly and faithfully in the path that God had set before us?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen and empower each and every one of us to be able to live courageously with faith and devote ourselves and our attention to Him. May God bless us all and all of our good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 15 : 1-10

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the Angels of God over one repentant sinner.”