Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by God through His words in the Scriptures not to put our trust in any worldly things or dependencies, but instead put our whole trust in the Lord our God alone. If we place our trust in the world, all the glories, power and wealth it can give us, then in the end, what we will face is just disappointment and regret as our Scripture passages today should remind us of the truth.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Greek Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes in continuation of the narrative of this week from the Book of the Maccabees. King Antiochus IV was the same king who ordered all the people in his whole Empire including the descendants of Israel in Judea to abandon their laws and customs, their faith and worship of God for the pagan worship of the Greek gods, and enforced Greek customs and ways on them.

And for that purpose and end, the king persecuted many of those who remained faithful to their dedication and faith in God, and those who refused to abandon their faith were put to great suffering and many even met death in martyrdom. That was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in which the Maccabees, the sons of Mattathias, one of the faithful Jew, rose up against the king in revolt, seeking to free themselves from his tyranny.

In today’s first reading then, we heard of the great campaign carried out by king Antiochus IV as he went to the land of Persia and Media to reclaim parts of the kingdom which once belonged to his predecessors but had been lost in the past decades. We can see from all these that king Antiochus IV was a stubborn and ambitious man, who sought above all the glory of the world, power and majesty above everything else that he was willing to go against God.

Yet, as we have heard and witnessed from history, for all of his pursuits and aims for greatness, king Antiochus IV failed in all of his efforts, as not only that his religious policies and oppressions led to rebellions particularly in the lands of the Jewish people, but he also failed terribly in his efforts to reclaim the lost lands of his predecessors and his plans to gain the wealth and taxes from those lands. And he ended up dying and meeting his end in regret and sorrow.

This is then related to what we have also heard from the Gospels today, in which we heard of the exchange and debate between the Lord Jesus and the group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were one of the major and very influential groups at the time of Jesus, in contrast to the Pharisees. While the Pharisees were those who were very spiritual and particular of the commandments and the Law of God, the Sadducees on the other hand were like the ‘secular’ party, who did not believe in many of the tenets of the Law.

The Sadducees did not believe in Angels and spiritual things, and neither did they believe in the resurrection from the dead. To them, the life in this world as they enjoyed was the ideal and death was nothing more or less than the end of all the joy and happiness. This fits the personality of the Sadducees perfectly as they were men of this world, those with positions of power and close connections to the king and members of the ruling class.

As they debated and asked the Lord with regards to whether the woman who had seven brothers as husbands had any one of them as her husband in the afterlife, they were in fact thinking in a worldly manner, thinking and wondering if they could retain the possessions, wealth and things in this world as how they have enjoyed it even to the afterlife. They could not bear to part with all of that they have gained and enjoyed in life, just as how king Antiochus IV himself also behaved.

But all of these had led many among us mankind into our downfall as they made us to be greedy and obsessed with all the worldly concerns and things that often distract us, mislead us and bring us further and further away from the path towards God and His salvation. And many of us also failed to realise until it was too late, that none of these things will last forever, and the joy and happiness they provided were merely temporary and not true joy, unlike what God can give to all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all instead as Christians seek for the true joy and happiness in God, by learning from the examples of our holy predecessors in faith, the two saints whose feasts we are celebrating on this very day, namely that of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them had led holy and wonderful lives committed to God, which we ourselves can imitate and follow in our own lives. All of us should look up to the examples of these two holy men for inspiration.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the Pope of the Church, remembered for his great zeal and faith, for his tireless dedication to build and maintain the Church through difficult years of persecution and struggles. He was known for his many letters and Epistles to the various parts of the Church through which he reminded the faithful to keep their faith strongly in God and to persevere through the challenges and trials that they had to face.

And like the other early Church fathers and the Apostles, Pope St. Clement I had to suffer persecution as well, as it was told that he was arrested and put into exile, and he was also put into hard labour as part of his imprisonment and suffering. In the end, Pope St. Clement I was martyred, but he met his death with joy, unlike king Antiochus IV who met it with regret and the Sadducees who feared it, because Pope St. Clement I knew that God was with him, and he would receive the gift of eternal life and glory from Him.

Meanwhile, St. Columban the Abbot was a famous and pious Irish missionary who was a great missionary and abbot, who helped to strengthen the foundations of the Church and also monastic practices of the Church of his time, as he helped in the establishment of many monasteries and places that eventually attracted many monks and people who wanted to serve the Lord through prayer. St. Columban was remembered for his great dedication to God, his enduring love and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the examples which these two holy men had set for us. Let us all follow in their footsteps and grow in our own faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us through life, and may He help us to remain faithful to Him and to love Him with ever greater devotion from now on so that we may look beyond earthly things and desires, and seek only His eternal kingdom and glory. May God bless us all and our good works for His sake, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, then some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.’”

“Now, there were seven brothers : the first married, but died without children. The second married the woman, but also died childless. And then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

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

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 4 and 6, 16b and 19

Let my heart give thanks to YHVH, I yearn to proclaim Your marvellous deeds, and rejoice and exult in You; and sing praise to Your Name, o Most High.

For my enemies fell back in retreat, they stumbled and perished before You. You have turned back the nations; You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their names forever.

The feet of the pagans were ensnared by the trap they laid. For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

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

1 Maccabees 6 : 1-13

When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander, the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks.

So Antiochus went there. But the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learnt of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. He had to turn back; and he returned much embittered to Babylon. While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews, who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighbouring armies.

He heard, too, that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and had rebuilt the Temple walls to the same height as before; and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur. When he received this news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned.

So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt he was dying, so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me – I who was generous and well-loved when in power – and now I am so discouraged.”

“Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know, that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me; and I am dying of grief in a strange land.”

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages by which we are reminded of the duty and responsibility that each and every one of us have to keep as all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as true Christian disciples and as the followers of God’s will and commandments. All of us are called to be full of faith and love for God in all things.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the victory and triumph of the rebellion of Judas Maccabeus, one of the Maccabean brothers who revolted against the kings of the Greek Seleucid Empire because of their oppression of the faithful people of God and their attempts to destroy the Law of God and outlawing the worship of God and by forcing the Greek pagan worship to the Jewish people.

The city of Jerusalem was taken over by the pagans and the citadel built there kept the entire populace under the power of the kings, while the Temple of Jerusalem was desecrated and made to be a mockery of the faith, where pagan idols and pagan worship took place at the altar once reserved only for the worship of the One and only True God. As such, the House of God was defiled and could not be used for the purpose of divine worship.

That is how it was until the time when Judas Maccabeus and his forces managed to score victories against the king in rebellion and eventually came to occupy the Temple of Jerusalem once again, and as described in our first reading passage today, the abominations, pagan idols and corruptions in the Temple were cleared out and the old altar torn down to make way for a new altar dedicated to God.

There is then a clear parallel between that event and how just over a century later, the Lord Jesus cleared the same Temple from the corruptions of merchants and sinners as described in our Gospel passage today. At that time, the Temple courtyard just outside the main Temple building itself was filled with numerous merchants and people peddling their wares and goods to the visitors and worshippers of the Temple.

Yet, many if not most of those merchants and peddlers cheated their customers to gain more profits for themselves. They bought their goods at a low price while raising their sale prices to be as high as possible to profit from all the people visiting the Temple for various purposes. As many of the worshippers came from faraway places, they would have no choice but to accept the prices imposed by the merchants even at a great loss.

Such wicked and sinful practices should not have been allowed at the Temple, and yet the Temple authorities tolerated them all and even became angry at the Lord Jesus when He cleared them and chased those merchants out of the Temple grounds. Why was that so? That is because the presence and the activities of the merchants were mutually beneficial to both the merchants themselves and the Temple priests and elders.

When the Lord Jesus chased those merchants outside the Temple, the Temple authorities, the elders and the chief priests became angry because while the Lord stated the right thing but those Temple authorities were more concerned about their own worldly concerns and attachments, their desire to retain power and authority, and saw the Lord Jesus as a dangerous threat to their own worldly power.

But the Lord wants us all to know through these that if we are too attached and distracted by the many temptations of life present in this world, we will end up forgetting what our true focus in life should be. And we will end up walking down the same path of wickedness and sin that have been mentioned in our Scripture passages today. We heard of the defilements of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, twice, first by the Greeks and then secondly by the wicked merchants with the tacit approval of the elders and the priests.

But more importantly for us all today is to take note that each and every one of us are also in fact God’s Temple, the Houses of His holy Presence. Why is this so? That is because firstly, through our Holy Communion and by sharing in the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, we have partaken in the Lord Himself, being fully present in the Eucharist in Body and Blood. And not only that, but the Lord Himself has given us His Holy Spirit through our Baptism and which He reaffirmed and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, if we are God’s Holy Temples and are His dwelling place, then if we act in manners that are wicked and sinful, we are in fact corrupting and defiling the holiness of this Temple that is our body, our heart, our mind and our soul. We are no better than the Greek kings, those wicked merchants and all those who have defiled God’s Temple. And we saw how God’s anger became manifested against all those who had done that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today all of us are reminded of this fact and are called to live upright and virtuous lives, turning away from sin and from all sorts of temptations that can cause us to fall and to defile the sanctity of these Holy Temples of ours. And today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Cecilia for inspiration and strength.

St. Cecilia, whose feast day we celebrate today, is a well-known patron for musicians and choirs. Yet, she was also a dedicated servant of God, who remained true to her faith in God despite the challenges that she had to encounter because of her faith, that she had to suffer and eventually die for the sake of her faith. St. Cecilia dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity, and although she was forced to marry a pagan noble by her parents, she remained a holy virgin and persuaded her husband, who was touched by the miracle he had seen and became a Christian as well.

St. Cecilia met her martyrdom with faith, as she was executed following her husband and her brother-in-law, both having become Christians through her. She remained adamant and strong in her faith, and no amount of suffering could have convinced or pressured her to abandon her faith in God. Truly, her dedication and commitment to God is an inspiration to all of us who are still struggling in this world in our own journeys of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to be virtuous and righteous, maintaining our purity from sin as St. Cecilia herself had done in her way. We do not have to follow her in her vow of chastity and virginity, but rather, we should imitate her love for God, and as a result, keep ourselves away and free from sin as best as we can that the Temple of God’s Holy Presence, our bodies and our whole beings may remain pure and worthy of Him. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord in all things and devote our whole lives to Him from now on. May God bless us all, our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours. Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH.

You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.