Saturday, 8 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings, we are all presented with contradictions and discrepancies that exist first of all, between the brothers Esau and Jacob, the sons of Isaac, in which we heard how Esau, the elder one among the brothers were supposed to obtain the blessings from Isaac, his father as the rightful heir, and yet, not only that he sold his right for inheritance to Jacob, his younger brother, in an earlier part of the Book of Genesis, a prelude to today’s passage, but as we have heard, he has also lost his blessings and graces which his father instead bestowed on Jacob, the younger one of the two brothers.

It was told that Esau was a great hunter, mighty in the sight of men and the world alike. For many people, it would indeed be natural for Esau to succeed his father and obtain his inheritance. And yet, he was not the one whom God had chosen to be the one through whom He would pass His favour to, but instead, He gave all these to Jacob, the father of all Israel.

Esau represented the old ways, as it was told that he married local Canaanite women and worshipped their gods, unlike what the Lord had told His servants, that is to serve the Lord alone as their God and Master. Jacob was therefore the representative of the new covenant of God which He renewed with the descendants of His faithful servant Abraham. The passing of blessings and inheritance from Esau to Jacob represents this shift from the old way of paganism and sin, into a new reality and new life blessed by God.

In the Gospel today, we heard a seemingly different story, when Jesus spoke of the parable of the wineskin and the wine, as well as the parable of the cloth to His disciples. In that parable, He spoke of how old wine ought not to be put and stored into new wineskins, and vice versa, for they are incompatible. In the similar manner, old cloth ought not to be sewed into new clothes, and vice versa, or else their contradictions will reject each other.

How is this related to what we have heard in our first reading today? And more importantly, how are they related to our own lives? What we have heard today in fact have called us to discern and think about how we ought to be better disciples and followers of our Lord through our life, our actions and deeds in life. We are all called to a new life in God, one that is transformed and changed by His love.

The old wineskin and the old clothes represents the old ways of our life, what we used to say, do and believe. It represent the sin of our disobedience and the sin of our flesh, all that we have committed in the past. The new wine and the new patch of cloth represents the new way of the Lord, one that is distinct from the old ways of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, when Jesus spoke to His disciples about the new wine causing the old wineskin to tear and burst, and the same thing happens also to the old clothes patched with new piece of cloth, He was indeed saying that with our new life in God, that life is incompatible with our past sinfulness and all of our past wrongdoings.

This means that we cannot profess to be one of the disciples and followers of the Lord, and yet at the same time, continuing to sin and to disobey or be ignorant of His laws and commandments. Otherwise, the consequences for us will be indeed severe, as we will only cause an even greater sin upon ourselves. We must change our ways and turn away from all of the disobedience and ignorance which have brought us into sin, sin against God.

Let us all today reflect on this, and think of what we mankind can do better, as the members of God’s Church, as His servants and disciples, in following Him and obeying His laws and commandments, so that through our every actions, deeds and all that we do, we will always bring glory to Him, not to ourselves, and thus be truly who we have been called to be, to become a new people with a new life blessed by God, our Lord and Master. May God be with us all and bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 8 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 8 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Psalm 134 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise the Name of YHVH. O servants of YHVH, praise Him, you, who serve in the house of YHVH, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise YHVH, for He is good; praise His Name, for it is beautiful; for YHVH has chosen Jacob as His own, Israel as His possession.

I know that YHVH is great, that our YHVH is above all gods. Whatever YHVH pleases, He does – in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in their depths.

Saturday, 8 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Genesis 27 : 1-5, 15-29

When Isaac was old and his eyes so weak that he could no longer see, he called Esau, his older son, and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac continued, “You see I am old and I do not know when I shall die; so take your weapons, your bow and arrow, go out into the country and hunt some game for me. Then prepare some of the savoury food I like and bring it to me so that I may eat and give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau went into the country to hunt game and bring it back, she took the best clothes of her elder son Esau that she had in the house and put them on Jacob, her younger son. With the goatskin she covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck, and she handed to him the bread and food she had prepared.

He went to his father and said, “Father!” He answered, “Yes, my son, who is it?” And Jacob said to his father, “It is Esau, your firstborn; I have done what you told me to do. Come, sit up and eat my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac said, “How quick you have been my son!” Jacob said, “YHVH, your God, guided me.”

Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near and let me feel you, my son, and know that it is you, Esau my son, or not.” When Jacob drew near to Isaac, his father felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognise him, for his hands were hairy like the hands of Esau his brother and so he blessed him.

He asked, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob answered, “I am.” Isaac said, “Bring me some of your game, my son, so that I may eat and give you my blessing.” So Jacob brought it to him and he ate. And he brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So Jacob came near and kissed him.

Isaac then caught the smell of his clothes and blessed him, saying, “The smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. May God give you the dew of heaven; and of the richness of the earth; and abundance of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you and nations bow down before you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone that curses you and blessed be everyone that blesses you!”

Friday, 7 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of God’s love and providence for His people, by calling them out of the darkness and into the light. In our Gospel passage today, we heard about how the Lord Jesus came to call the tax collectors and sinners to redemption, by reaching out to them and calling them to turn towards Him with full sincerity.

He came to call the sinners to be saved, as He wants everyone, every single one of us mankind to be part of His salvation, and not only just the righteous ones. This was what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were unable to comprehend, as of why Jesus did as He had done. At that time, it was considered unworthy, despicable and even sinful for one to deal in any kind of interaction with those deemed as sinful and wicked.

The tax collectors were deemed as those who were sinners due to their work, as those who collected the taxes on behalf of the Roman Emperor, a job despised by the rest of the Jewish population as they resented being made subjects of the Romans and having to pay lots of taxes to them. They were considered as traitors to the nation, having seen as betrayers and those who have sold their fellow countrymen for money.

Yet in reality, that was not a true depiction of who the tax collectors were. The tax collectors were just people who were doing what they have done, because they themselves need money and provisions to sustain themselves and their families. They were just ordinary people who were misunderstood by their fellow countrymen, and whom because of their work were often conflicted about their priorities in life.

But that is when the Lord Jesus came to save them from their predicament. He came to show them that there is hope for them should they choose to be forgiven and reconciled with God. This is when they saw the light of God, and therefore walked on the path towards redemption. This is affirmed by the Lord Himself Who spoke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, pointing out that He came to save those whom the Pharisees and teachers of the Law considered unworthy.

What the Lord wants us to know is that, every single one of us, every single human beings whom He created out of love, is beloved by Him, without exception. And as He had lost us all due to sin and disobedience, He endeavoured to bring us back to Him through the obedience of His Son Jesus, Who showed all of us how to be truly faithful to God. It is through our strong desire to be forgiven, and by our sincere repentance that we are able to find our way back to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this occasion, all of us are called to follow the Lord, Who called on the tax collectors and sinners with the words, “Follow Me!” If those tax collectors and those who were considered sinners had listened to the Lord and followed Him, then why should we not have done the same? Why is it that we stumble and hesitate to do the same?

That is because we are still plagued and held back by the many temptations of this world. We are unable to shake ourselves free from the many things that kept us bound to sin and to disobedience against God. All of us need to focus our every effort to turn away from those sinfulness and from all that had caused us to stumble on our way to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us begin from ourselves and from our interactions with one another. Let us show our faith in God through our works, through our actions and words. Let us not be deterred by the challenges we may encounter in our way, but persevere through, supporting one another, and helping us on our way to God and His salvation. May the Lord bless us all and help us on this endeavour. Amen.

Friday, 7 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from where He healed the paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 7 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 105 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, for His love endures forever. Who can count YHVH’s mighty deeds, or declare all His praises?

Blessed are they who always do just and right. Remember me, o YHVH, when You show favour to Your people.

Rescue me when You deliver them; let me see the triumph of Your faithful; let me share the joy of Your nation; and join Your people in praising You.

Friday, 7 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Genesis 23 : 1-4, 19 and Genesis 24 : 1-8, 62-67

Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years. She died at Kiriatharba – that is Hebron – in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to weep and mourn for Sarah. Abraham left his dead one and spoke to the Hittites, “I am only a stranger among you; give me a burial place among you, so that I may bury my dead.”

After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. Abraham was now old and well on in years, and YHVH had blessed him in every way. Abraham said to his senior servant, who was his steward, “Put your hand under my thigh and you will swear to me by YHVH, God of heaven and earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom we live; rather it is to my country and my kinsfolk that you will go to choose a wife for my son, Isaac.”

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not want to follow me to this country. In that case should I take your son to the country you came from?” Abraham said to him, “In no way will you take my son back. For YHVH, God of heaven and God of earth, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, spoke to me and swore to me that He would give this country to my race.”

“He will send His Angel before you, that you may find a wife for my son. But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be free of this oath. In any case you are not to take my son down there.”

Now Isaac had come from the well of Lahai-roi, for he was living in the Negeb. As Isaac went out in the early evening to meditate in the field, he looked up and saw camels coming. Rebekah also looked up and when she saw Isaac she alighted from her camel and said to the servant, “Who is this man in the field coming to meet us?”

He replied, “It is my master!” She then covered her face with her veil. The servant related to Isaac all that he had done, and Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of Sarah, his mother. He made her his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Thursday, 6 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how God tested the faith of Abraham, by asking him to bring his son with him to the Mount Moriah, and then sacrifice Isaac, his son, on that mountain to Him. Certainly we must have been wondering, why did the Lord do such a thing? And why did He ask such a request from Abraham?

It was not recorded how Abraham personally felt about such a strange and outrageous request from the Lord. Nonetheless, as parents certainly should know, he must have been shocked initially as he heard the Lord asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him. Isaac had been the son whom the Lord promised to him, as the one through whom God would bless him as the father of many peoples and many nations. And then, why would He suddenly just withdraw His promise in that manner?

Yet, Abraham remained faithful and true to the Lord, despite his possible doubts and uncertainties. He obeyed the Lord and followed His commands, listening to His will and brought Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed. When Isaac himself asked his father on the whereabouts of the lamb to be sacrificed, Abraham told him, “God shall provide.”

In all of these, Abraham believed that God had plans for him and His will ought to be done no matter what. After all, who is man to presume to know all about God’s plan for them? Abraham trusted in God and kept his faith in Him, the same faith which he had ever since he was first called by God from his homeland, and following that call to walk in the path of God.

And God rewarded Abraham for his faith, as He saw just how genuine his faith and devotion to Him was. Abraham did not let his personal desires and human and worldly concerns to undermine or affect his faith and decision. He placed his faith in God first and foremost above everything else. That is why, after the Lord revealed His true intention to Abraham, He blessed him and his descendants because of his great and genuine faith.

What is the lesson which we can learn from this, brothers and sisters in Christ? What is the lesson that we can learn from Abraham, our father in faith? It is the lesson that all of us must not let our human and worldly concerns to overcome us or to affect our faith in God. It is too often that we mankind succumb to worldly temptations, the temptation of money, the temptation of worldly power and influence, the temptation of flesh pleasures and many others.

Take for example the case of St. Maria Goretti, the saint and holy woman whose feast we celebrate today. St. Maria Goretti lived about more than a hundred years ago in Italy, who was a devout and God-fearing young woman. At that time, she was suited by the son of her neighbour, named Alessandro, who wanted her to be his. He made his advances on her, and on a particular day, he cornered her, wanting to have sexual relations with her.

St. Maria Goretti, knowing that such an action is a great sin before God, rejected Alessandro’s advances and reminded him that they should not commit such a heinous sin before God. Therefore, as she continued to reject his advances, it made Alessandro to be overcome with anger and hatred, resulting in him stabbing St. Maria Goretti many times. He fled from the scene, leaving St. Maria Goretti mortally wounded.

But St. Maria Goretti did not have any grudge or hatred towards her murderer, Alessandro. From her deathbed, she forgave Alessandro and prayed for his conversion and redemption to the Lord. Eventually, Alessandro confessed to his murder and while in prison, he saw a vision of St. Maria Goretti who visited him. He had a change of heart and devoted himself to good cause from then on. He died many years later as a changed man, and even witnessed the canonisation of St. Maria Goretti, when she was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the examples and the inspirations from St. Maria Goretti and Abraham, our father in faith, by committing ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly and not allowing ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and influences. Let us stand by our faith in the Lord and remain true and righteous in all of our ways. Let us seek to do our best to be truly just and adhere to His laws obediently. May the Lord help us all in this endeavour. Amen.

Thursday, 6 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.