Saturday, 9 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the loving and wonderful works of God, our Lord and loving Creator, Who has willingly loved each and every one of us, and remained in that love despite of our refusal to believe in Him, our stubbornness and lack of faith. God loves us so much, that He sent us all His greatest gift of all, the perfect manifestation of His everlasting love, that is none other than Jesus Christ, His begotten Son, to be our Saviour.

And today, we are reminded of the Lord Who is our loving Shepherd and Guide, our Teacher and Hope, the One through Whom we have received the truth about God and His saving grace, like light piercing through the great veil of darkness that have occupied us all these while. He came into the world, filled with that burning love and compassion, pitying us for our sufferings, and wanting to show us His generous and rich mercy.

That was what the Gospel passage today showed to us, when the Gospel passage told us how the Lord Jesus and His disciples ministered to the people without cease, and continued to work despite them having insufficient amount of rest and sleep. The Lord Himself told His disciples to get some rest while He continued to teach the people and ministered to them. All of these were possible because of nothing less than the pure love with which God cared for us so tenderly and mercifully, that He still wants to forgive us despite of our stubbornness and rebelliousness.

Although the Lord Jesus Himself must have been tired, but He went on nonetheless, caring for the needs of the people with all of His strength, to be their Guide, Leader and Shepherd. It was mentioned clearly in the Gospel today, how He saw the people all who were like sheep in the flock without a shepherd. Sheep without a shepherd will become lost, and will be in great danger because there are many things out there in the wild that can harm them, like predators and other natural dangers.

That was why the Lord became their Shepherd, loving His people and caring for them, lest they become lost from Him, and fall into the depredations of Satan and all of his wicked allies, the forces of darkness and evil, all those seeking the ruination and damnation of souls of man. And in another occasion in the Gospels, He referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd, as the One Who will stand by His sheep at all times, no matter what circumstances and challenges.

The Good Shepherd gives up His life for His sheep, and this was what the Lord Jesus emphasised to the people to show them just how much He loved each and every one of them, to be their guide and their shield from all those who seek to harm them. And the ultimate expression of this love, is what we have seen in the cross of Christ, when He laid down His own life, bearing the heavy weight and burden of the cross, that each and every one of us may live.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded both of the wonderful love of God, as well as the responsibility and mission to which each and every one of us have been called to, as all those who have heard the word of God and responded to His call to be Christians, as all those who believe in Him and walk in His ways. Just as God Himself has loved us all so greatly, we too are called to show this same love to our fellow men, our brothers and sisters.

Let us all show this love, selfless and pure, to our brothers and sisters who need them, especially those who have no one to love them and to care for them, all those who have been ostracised and cast aside, who are in need, hungry and sick, downtrodden, sorrowful and filled with pain. We should follow the examples of the Lord, by showing the same love and compassion to them, to share with them the wondrous love of God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He, our Good Shepherd continue to guide us in this path of life, that we may continue to love Him and serve Him despite the challenges and difficulties we have to endure throughout life. Amen.

Saturday, 9 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Go off by yourselves to a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began a long teaching session with them.

Saturday, 9 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Saturday, 9 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Hebrews 13 : 15-17, 20-21

Let us, then, continually offer through Jesus a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips celebrating His Name. Do not neglect good works and common life, for these are sacrifices pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are concerned for your souls and are accountable for them. Let this be a joy for them rather than a burden, which would be of no advantage for you.

May God give you peace, He Who brought back from among the dead Jesus our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Whose Blood seals the eternal covenant. He will train you in every good work, that you may do His will, for it is He Who works in us what pleases Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom all glory be forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God reminding us to remain virtuous and faithful in life, especially with the emphasis on faith and fidelity in our love for one another, in the married life between a man and a woman, the foundation of all Christian families. Through the Scripture passages that we heard today, we are reminded to put our faith and trust, especially in our marriage and family life, in God, and not in any other things.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the king Herod Antipas got himself into a very serious sin of murder because of his lack of faith in God, which caused him to fall into the temptations of lust and human desire, as well as ego and pride, that made him to commit even more and more heinous acts and sins against God. He committed adultery by taking the legal Herodias, the wife of his own brother Philip, and made her to be his queen, while his brother was still alive and legally married to Herodias.

St. John the Baptist spoke up against this heinous act and immoral behaviour, which went up against the Law of God and the moral conduct of the society. For his outspokenness and his stand against the king, St. John the Baptist was arrested and put into prison. Herodias held grudge against the saint for what he had blatantly and fearlessly mentioned before all, the sin of adultery that she and Herod had committed.

That was why in today’s Gospel passage we heard of how Herodias tried to achieve this by manipulating Herod, through her daughter, who was very beautiful and seductive, as she danced during a party that Herod had thrown for his nobles and guests. Herod was mesmerised by her performance and probably swayed under influence of the party and even alcohol, began making unrealistic promises and oaths before her, overcome by his desire and lust.

And this was when Satan struck, by making use of the opportunity through Herodias and her daughter, to force Herod’s hand into committing a great sin. Herod had not wanted to deal harm to St. John the Baptist even though he had arrested him and put him into prison, but as he made all those promises and oaths to the daughter of Herodias, when the mother instigated her to ask for the head of St. John the Baptist, Herod was trapped and could not refuse the request before his guests and nobles.

In all of these, we saw how when God is not at the centre of our family and married life, then we will end up having a lot of troubles, temptations of the desires of the flesh and the greed within our hearts, lust for things that are immoral and improper in the sight of God and men alike. That was how Herod and Herodias sinned, and that was also how countless others among us mankind also had sinned. Marriages and families have been destroyed by those corrupt desires and sin.

Today all of us are called to return to the true faith in God, and anchor ourselves, our marriage and family lives for all those who have families and been married, in God. Unless we do this, we will end up bringing harm and destruction to us and to our loved ones. Satan is always busy at work trying to strike at us, and even when we are faithful, we saw how St. John the Baptist was treated. He suffered many rejections, people who doubted and accused him, and was martyred for his courage in faith.

But all of these should not discourage us from living our lives with faith. Instead, they should become inspiration for us to be even more courageous and dedicated in living our lives with sincere love and genuine faith for God. Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints whose exemplary life and commitment to God should become inspiration to each and every one of us in how we ought to be living our individual and respective lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a soldier who turned into a priest and loving servant of God and His people, after conversion experience and intercession by the Blessed Virgin Mary during his time of troubles. He became well-known for his care of many orphans whom he encountered, all those who experienced sorrow and sadness, suffering and pain for the loss of their loved ones. They had no one to take care of them, but St. Jerome Emiliani took care of them, fed them and showed them much love.

He founded a religious order, gathering those who were like-minded and having the same desire to serve the poor and all those children of God who were suffering and had no one to take care of them. And he continued to minister to the people, particularly the poor, the orphans as mentioned earlier, the sick and those who were dying. St. Jerome Emiliani did not let up on his work, and ministered to all, dying in his duty as he contracted illness as he cared for the sick.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was once a slave, who was enslaved by slavers and made to suffer many terrible experiences as a slave, as someone who had virtually no rights at all, and she had to endure many insults to her dignity as a human being. Eventually, she became the servant to an Italian family, who was the Vice Consul of Italy in the region where she was in, today’s Sudan. And that was how she gained her freedom, as she left her old life of slavery behind and became a free woman.

She became a Catholic after being inspired through the experience of her freedom, and after baptism, she decided to dedicate her life to God for the rest of her life, and join the religious order of the Canossian sisters, and she was a very dedicated servant of God and of her fellow sisters, and praying at all times for all those who shared the painful experiences of her slavery and for all others in Africa, who were suffering from abject poverty and abuse of human rights.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of these faithful and loving servants of the Lord? In their own ways, St. John the Baptist, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita have shown us how we can truly be faithful in our daily lives, and also filled with love for one another and for God, by loving those who are in our midst, and putting aside all the temptations and the desires of our body and flesh. We are called to be faithful, and to resist all the efforts that Satan had put in place, to cause us to fall into sin.

Let us all pray and work together, that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church may come together united and strong in our faith, beginning from our families, where each and every one of our families are the important foundations of the Church and our faith life. Let us all strive to do our best to emulate the good examples showed by our holy predecessors and do our best to love one another and to love the Lord, putting Him at the centre of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Psalm 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.