Saturday, 20 November 2021 : 33rd 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 presented with the continuation of the story from the Book of the Maccabees, this time about the end of the life of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who persecuted the Jewish faithful in his kingdom and caused the rise of the Maccabean Revolt. Then in the Gospel passage today we heard from the Gospel of St. Luke in which we heard the Lord’s encounter and exchanges with the Sadducees regarding the matter of the resurrection from the dead.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the Maccabees how King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Greek Empire who was away campaigning in Persia, failed in his endeavours and not only that, he heard of the defeats inflicted to his forces in Judea and elsewhere due to the rise of the Jewish rebellion under Judas Maccabeus and his brothers who resisted the king’s efforts to impose Greek religion and customs among the Jews and others throughout his kingdom.

As we heard in yesterday’s readings, the forces of the faithful under the leadership of the Maccabees retook the holy Mount Zion and the Temple of God that was there, and reestablish the worship of the One True God there, overthrowing the idols that King Antiochus had installed there and broken down the old defiled Altar, rebuilding a new Altar worthy of Divine worship. Essentially, all that the king had done was to undermine his own power, control and authority over Judea and the lands where the Jews dwelled in, as they all rose in rebellion against Him.

The king died in regret, knowing that all that he had done were in vain, and God was punishing him for all of his sins, his pride, greed and megalomania. His lack of respect for the Lord and his actions had brought about all the calamities on him, and he would be held accountable for all of his actions, all the sufferings he had caused the people of God. And not long after that, he died in great agony, ending his rule as a king in this world, and entering into the afterlife. What is to become of King Antiochus, no one knows but God alone.

Now, linking to what we have heard in that passage with our Gospel passage today, we have something in common which is the matter of the afterlife. In the Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with the Sadducees, as they discussed about the matter of the resurrection from the dead and the afterlife. The Sadducees were one of the two very influential group back then in the Jewish community, which was made up of those who were powerful and rich, the aristocratic families and those with connections, and many of them were strongly influenced by Hellenism or Greek ways and customs.

As such, many among them did not believe in spiritual matters and did not believe in the afterlife or any resurrection from the dead. They preferred to enjoy life as they knew it there and then, and many likely enjoyed lavish parties and celebrations as were common at that time among the rich and powerful. When they asked the Lord about the resurrection, that was because the Lord always spoke of the world that is to come, and also for mankind to reject hedonistic ways that are incompatible with the way of God.

As they asked that, actually the Sadducees were showing that they feared what was to come after they die. While they did not believe in the resurrection, that also meant that they were afraid to part with all the things that they then currently enjoyed in life. They asked Him what would happen to a woman who married seven husbands and all of the husbands died, and who would be that woman’s husband in the afterlife because they were very concerned about worldly matters and things, and they do not want to lose what they were familiar with in the world, like their possessions, status, attachments and many other things.

This is where the Lord then reminded all of them and also all of us, that in the end, whatever we are in this world and whatever we possess, our status and all things are inconsequential in the world that is to come. All of us are mortals and will one day face death, and this is a certainty that all of us will endure, with the ultimate unknown being the time that this will happen to us. We will not bring our attachments and possessions in this world with us, and regardless whether we are beggars and poor, or rich and powerful kings like King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, all will die and face judgment for our actions and deeds in life.

The Lord revealed and reaffirmed that life after death is a reality, for our existence in this world is meant to be a temporary one. After passing through death, all those who are faithful to God and remained true to Him to the end will be judged worthy to share His glorious inheritance, to share in the beatific vision of the saints, whether immediately or through the fires of Purgatory. And in the end, it is immaterial what status or riches we have in this world, for all of us will be equal before God and equally beloved by Him without any prejudice and bias.

Now the question is, are we ready to welcome Him fully and enter into His kingdom should He call us back to Him at this very moment? Today’s readings serve as a reminder for our own fragile mortal existence, and we should remember that no matter how great we are in this world, we are still all the same before God, and we will have to answer Him for every single one of our actions and deeds. Will these be found worthy or wanting by the Lord? Will God find true and living faith in us, or will He instead find hypocrisy and lukewarmness in faith?

Let us all ponder these questions and discern carefully our path moving forward in life, so that we may know how to proceed and to dedicate ourselves from now on, that we may be worthy before the Lord. May God bless us all and remain with us, and may He guide us in our journey of faith through life. May God keep us in His love always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 20 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 20 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 20 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (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, 19 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard about the moment listed in the Book of the Maccabees when the forces of the Maccabean Rebellion advanced on the holy Mount Zion just outside of Jerusalem, the place where the Temple of God was placed since the days of Solomon, and retook it from the forces of the Greek Seleucids that had profaned it under the orders of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

In today’s reading, we heard how the forces of the faithful Jews retook the Temple and was committed to its rededication and repurification, to remove all the taints of the defilements, the idols, the pagan worship and all corruptions that the Seleucids and their supporters had brought on the holy House of God. Judas Maccabeus, the leader of the rebellion ordered the old defiled Altar of the Temple to be torn down, and then rebuilt anew, symbolising its renewal and purification.

We heard of the great joy with which the people celebrated the liberation and purification of the Temple of God, as a very pivotal and important moment in the struggle of the faithful people of God against those who oppressed them, the pagans and those who had inflicted much sufferings just as we have heard in the past few days of the discourses from the Book of Maccabees. The people had finally seen the salvation of God, His providence and deliverance to them.

That was why they rejoiced so greatly, for the coming of the Lord’s promised salvation and deliverance from their enemies. They had seen the light in the midst of their suffering and the darkness, and hope had once again been rekindled in their hearts. This is also the festival still celebrated today as the Hanukkah by the Jewish community, as it was told that at that occasion, when the Temple of God was retaken and reconsecrated, there was only enough oil to light up the menorah or the seven-branched candles for a day, and yet, miraculously, it remained lighted for the whole period of the eight days of celebrations.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard a related account of the Lord Who came to the Temple of Jerusalem, the same Temple that was liberated by the Maccabees just less than two centuries before the time of Christ. Ironically, at that time, the Lord Himself came to Jerusalem and drove out the many merchants and money changers who had taken up office in the courtyards of the Temple with the collusion and cooperation with the chief priests of the Temple of God.

Why did the Lord have to clear those people away from the Temple? Many of them acted dishonestly and cheated the innumerable pilgrims and the other people who came to worship the Lord at His Temple. They overcharged the people and sold their products or exchanged the money for the pilgrims at high profits. The necessity of exchanging money was made necessary because the commonly circulating Greek and Roman coins had the faces of the rulers, who were then considered as divine, and therefore were unsuitable for use in the Temple.

Unfortunately, the greed of those merchants and the money changers, which were supported by the Temple officials, the chief priests and elders, who likely also benefitted from the arrangement resulted in the Temple of God being defiled yet again, with the idolatry of money and greed, and with the dishonesty and wickedness of those who had mistreated and cheated the innocent worshippers and all those who came seeking to worship the Lord in His Temple.

That was why the Lord chased out all of those merchants and money changers, and cleansed the Temple much as how the Maccabees purified the Temple from the defilement of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Lord chastised all those who had corrupted and defiled the holy House of God, and reminded them that it should remain holy and worthy. And this is a reminder to all of us that we must also keep ourselves holy and worthy and not defile ourselves with the corruption of sins of the world.

Why is that so? That is because we ourselves are the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, the dwelling place of the Lord Most High, as we have partaken in His Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit has also descended upon us and dwelled in us. As such, God Himself dwells in us and as a result, all of us are also, the ‘Houses of God’. And if the Temple of God in Jerusalem had been made clean and holy, purified and worthy for God, then all of us must also make sure that our lives and actions are worthy for God.

That is the most important takeaway we have from today’s Scripture readings, and we have to strive to keep ourselves wholly dedicated to God, to keep His Law and commandments that He has given us through His Church, and live our lives as holy and worthy as possible. Let us all also inspire one another in being faithful so that we may be good role models and examples for one another, and serve the Lord faithfully together as one people, one community and one Church. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours and efforts. Amen.

Friday, 19 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 19 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.

Friday, 19 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said : “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (in the year 164 B.C.) they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs, accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.

They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. The front of the Temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; and the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors. There was no end to the celebration among the people; and so profanation of the Temple by the pagans was forgotten.

Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.

Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of not just one but two of the four great Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, namely the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican as well as the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. These two great Basilica are among the most prominent churches in Christendom, just below in prestige and honour to the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and the Pope, which Dedication we just celebrated earlier this month.

These two great Papal Basilicas were also appropriately named and consecrated in the name of the two great Apostles of the Lord, the patrons and protectors of the city of Rome and the Universal Church, for St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ, and St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles, were both martyred in Rome after many long years of ministering to the Church of God and the faithful.

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter, probably the most famous of all the churches in the world is where the Pope currently celebrates most of his liturgical celebrations, as the largest church in all Christendom and also as it is adjacent to his residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City. It also stands atop the site where St. Peter was likely martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero in the first great persecution of Christians, with the tomb of St. Peter located just below the great Altar of the Basilica.

Meanwhile, the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls as its name suggests, was located outside the old boundaries of the ancient city of Rome, at the exact site mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the place in which St. Paul resided during his time in Rome. He had relatively a lot of freedom in Rome and went about quite freely among the people, both the Jewish diaspora in Rome and among the Gentiles alike, ministering to the faithful and proclaiming the truth and the Good News of God.

As we recall today the moment when these two great Houses of God, the worthy places and Temples of His Holy Presence, were consecrated to God and dedicated to Him, we are therefore called and reminded that we are all also God’s Holy Temples, the Temples of His Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul himself in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of this, comparing each and every one of us to the Temple of the Holy Spirit, exactly because God Himself has dwelled in us, by the Holy Spirit He has sent down to us, as well as through our partaking of the Eucharist, Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood.

As such, we are all reminded through the examples set by the two great Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, whose names adorn those two great Basilicas, that we all have to be faithful to the Lord in the same manner as St. Peter and St. Paul had been faithful and committed to God in all things. And if we think that we are unworthy or that it is impossible for us to be faithful to God as they had been faithful, then we have to remember that those two great Apostles were themselves once also ordinary, sinful men.

St. Peter was an uneducated and illiterate fisherman, whom the Lord called to follow Him at the shore of Lake Galilee. This same St. Peter was the one who denied knowing the Lord three times at the moment of His arrest and suffering during His Passion, and denied Him publicly before all, even after he declared that he would die for the sake of the Lord just earlier on the same night. It is the same St. Peter whose faith was wavering as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord asked him to come towards Him in the middle of the storm, walking on the water.

Then for St. Paul the Apostle, he was once a great enemy of the Church and all the faithful, being a young zealot among the Pharisees named Saul who was dead set on destroying the Church and persecuting all the faithful, all who proclaimed the Name of Jesus and His teachings. St. Paul as Saul persecuted thousands across Judea and beyond, and was feared by many of the faithful, who went into hiding in fear of the retribution and the actions of that young zealot and others who persecuted them.

As you can see, both Apostles were once great sinners and flawed, that many would not have imagined how these two could have become great Apostles, as the greatest of the Lord’s champions and defenders in the end. Yet, that was what had exactly happened. God did not choose the holy and worthy, the powerful, intelligent or mighty to be His disciples, but rather, He empower those whom He had called and chosen, who responded to His call and committed themselves to Him, to be holy and worthy, as St. Peter and St. Paul had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing to respond to God’s call as well? Through baptism, all of us have responded to God’s call, but many of us are still not yet truly committed to Him. Many of us still keep on holding to our past, sinful practices and way of life, and many still have placed the Lord as secondary in importance in their lives. Are we then able and willing to embrace the Lord and His calling for us, to accept the mission entrusted to us and to live our lives worthily as holy and devout Christians from now on?

Let us discern these carefully today as we remember our great rejoicing on this Feast of the Dedication of the Papal Basilicas of St. Peter in Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Walls. May all of us, God’s living Holy Temples, the Temples of His Holy Presence continue to strive to keep ourselves holy and worthy, that in our every words, actions and deeds, we will always be exemplary in our Christian living and conduct, and do our best to proclaim the truth of God in all things, following the courageous examples of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of God. Amen.

Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Luke 19 : 41-44

At that time, when Jesus had come in sight of the city, He wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Yet days will come upon you, when your enemies will surround you with barricades, and shut you in, and press on you from every side.”

“And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and not leave stone upon stone within you, for you did not recognise the time and the visitation of your God.”

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself, to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”