Saturday, 10 November 2018 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to examine our lives and actions, and see how we can be better disciples and followers of Christ in our daily living. From the readings of the Scripture we can see just how to be a true Christian will often require us to persevere through trials and difficulties, and often to suffer rejection and pain in life.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord Jesus succinctly summarised the reason into what He said in the Gospel passage today, ‘that you cannot give yourself to two masters, God and money.’ He mentioned this, saying that we cannot have two masters, for if we obey one, we are bound to disobey the other, and vice versa.

In the Gospel passage itself, we already can see this tension between the Lord and the Pharisees, who loved money, power, fame and the attention of the world. The Pharisees and many of those in the priestly class resented the Lord Jesus and sneered at Him at His words, although in fact their very action actually vindicated them in proofing that the Lord’s words were true.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, throughout the Gospels, we can see from historical facts and the actions of those who opposed the Lord’s good works, how those people adored attention and had worldly ambitions, fuelled by their greed, human desires and ego. And that is why they were not able to devote their hearts and minds entirely to God, exactly as what the Lord had said Himself.

That was why, He labelled them as hypocrites and as those who did not have true faith or love for God. In their hearts and minds, they were filled with ego and desire, and hence, had the wrong focus and attention that showed in the way they lived their faith. Instead of being centred on God and directing the people towards Him, they projected an image of self-centredness and egoism.

And this is what the Lord calls us to avoid and turn away from, that we do not fall into the same trap that the Pharisees had fallen into, or otherwise, we too will be in danger of falling into sin and away from God’s salvation. We must turn ourselves completely towards the Lord and resist the temptations of worldly things and concerns that will often influence us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great, one of the great Popes of the Church and a devout defender of the faith and reformer of the Church, in the midst of the turbulent years of his reign as Pope. He became the successor of St. Peter at the time when the authority of the Roman Empire was crumbling everywhere in Western Europe, and that includes the city of Rome itself, where Pope St. Leo the Great was the bishop of.

Yet, Pope St. Leo the Great was remembered as a great Pope who helped to steer the Church through those difficult times, devoting himself wholeheartedly to the Lord, standing up against heretics and all those who followed the false ways of the unorthodox faith. He helped the Church and the faithful to go through those difficult years, and he even stood up against the brutal and mighty Attila, king of the Huns, who had no fear of man and who caused countless deaths in his rampages across Europe, and managed to persuade him to stay away from Rome, the City of God and heart of Christendom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought to follow the good example, the faith and the courage shown by Pope St. Leo the Great in his life and work. Let us all be faithful in the same way that he has been faithful, and commit ourselves to serve the Lord to the best of our abilities from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us, every single moments of our lives, that we may turn to Him with all of our hearts and love Him with all of our strength. Amen.

Saturday, 10 November 2018 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 10 November 2018 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 10 November 2018 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together joyfully with entire Universal Church, the great feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, also known by its full name of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World. It is the actual Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and as such, is where the Cathedra of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome is.

We may think that the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican is the place where the Pope has his Cathedra, and we may think that it is the principal and the most important church in all the world, but in truth, today, we mark the anniversary of the dedication and consecration of the Cathedral of Rome, the most important church in all of Christendom. It is the heart of Christendom and the centre around which all the whole world of Christianity revolves.

Indeed, the Pope now resides in the Vatican City and celebrates most of the liturgical celebrations and functions in St. Peter’s Basilica, clearly the second most important church after the Lateran Archbasilica, as it was the place where St. Peter was martyred and where his tomb was laid. But historically, the Pope stayed for many centuries in the Lateran Palace just adjacent to the Lateran Basilica.

And today as mentioned, marked the date when the Lateran Basilica was completed and dedicated for divine worship, the very first of its kind after the official toleration of the Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire after hundreds of years of persecutions. The Roman Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians through the Edict of Milan in the year 312 AD, and within slightly more than a decade after that, the Lateran Basilica was completed, and to be followed by many other churches, many of them sponsored by the state.

The dedication of a church marks the moment when the building and the spaces of a church are made holy and sacrosanct, blessed and worthy of the worship of the divine as prescribed by our faith. In the dedication of a church, the altar, which is the centre part of every churches, is blessed first with holy water, and then anointed with holy oil, incensed with the fragrant perfumes of incense, and finally has its altar candles lighted.

Then the same process of blessing with holy water, anointing with holy oils, incensation with fragrant incense, and the lighting of candles are done, on the whole church building and all the people gathered inside the church, and twelve consecration crosses are blessed, as the sign that the church has been dedicated and consecrated for the proper use of divine worship, becoming a worthy space for the worship of God.

In the reading today, the first reading is taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, in which part his vision of the heavenly Temple of God was read out to us. He saw the vision of the Temple of God in heaven, and how water was flowing out of the Temple, a life-giving water that brings about life to its surroundings, and provides enrichment for all that Ezekiel saw.

This Temple is a figurative representation of Christ, Who is the true Temple of the Lord, His own divine presence in heaven, which surpasses and overrides the earthly Temple, which at that time represents the Temple in Jerusalem, first built by king Solomon, and then rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, and last of all, the latter was rebuilt and enlarged by king Herod the Great, which was the Temple standing at the time of Jesus.

The Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage today mentioned that the Temple of God would be destroyed and in three days, the Temple would be rebuilt again. And it was mentioned that the Temple that the Lord Jesus referred to, was actually His Body. And this is linked to what the alternative passage for the first reading today reads, that is from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians.

St. Paul spoke of each one of us as the Temple of the Holy Presence of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells in each and every one of us. And if we are the Holy Temple of God, where God Himself is present, then we must do our very best to uphold the sanctity and the goodness of the condition of this venerable House of God. We cannot defile this Temple with corruption, that is the corruption of sin.

This was what the Lord Jesus did with the physical Temple of Jerusalem, when He came there and saw all the wicked things and the corruptions that had struck at the heart of the House of God, the focal point of the community of Israel. He saw all the merchants and money changers that set up their businesses at the Temple, selling animals for the Temple sacrifice and exchanging the money of foreigners and Jewish diaspora migrants who came back to the Temple.

And in order to understand and appreciate fully the extent of the anger of the Lord, when He took a whip and chased all the merchants and money changers out of the Temple grounds, we must realise that most likely, the merchants were selling their sacrificial animals at a high price and therefore earning a lot of profit from the exchange, and the same occurred for the money changers as well. Essentially, they were dishonest merchants that tricked the people off their money.

And it was likely that the priests of the Temple benefitted from the dishonest and wicked merchants and money changers. By judging on common practices that we mankind usually do, we often try to help one another, even in illicit and illegal ways, and that includes blatantly allowing such sinful activities to take place within the holy grounds of the Temple, at the profit and benefit of both the merchants and the priests of the Temple.

Imagine, then, brothers and sisters, what will happen if we, the Temples of God’s Holy and Real Presence, defile ourselves with sin, even to the smallest and least serious amongst all sins? If the Lord cast out the merchants and the money changers from the Temple of Jerusalem with such anger and righteous justice, then what can we expect at the Last Judgment, when the Lord will divide those who are righteous from those who are just?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and recall the wondrous memories of those who have been persecuted for their Christian faith, and finally triumphed with the great dedication of this magnificent Archbasilica, the mother and head of all the churches in the world, we must also recall our own calling and mission as God’s own dwelling place, where He resides in each and every one of us who have received the Lord through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.

And because God created us in His own image, thus our bodies and our existence are the image and the reflection of the Body of Christ, through Whom Christ unites us into His Real Presence, which He gave us through the Eucharist, His own Body and Blood given to us who receive Him into ourselves. We are the Tabernacles and the Ark of the Lord’s Presence. Therefore, we really need to be mindful of the sanctity and the holiness that is needed to be maintained, in keeping our bodies, minds and hearts, and our souls, our whole being, free from the corruption of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore, rediscover our purpose in faith, in honouring God through our daily living, and through our worthy commitment. Let us all turn our hearts, minds and our whole being towards the Lord from now on, with a new faith and with a new conviction, willing to do what it takes, in order to keep ourselves holy and worthy of God’s Holy Presence in us.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us, that through His Holy Presence in us, as His Temples and Houses, He may guide us to the right path, and that we may, in the end, be found worthy of His eternal glory, and be worthy to be with Him forevermore. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore; though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the City of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is YHVH of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of YHVH – the marvellous things He has done in the world.