Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard clearly in the first reading which was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, on how God loves all of us mankind greatly, and how He has blessed the people of Israel again and again, bringing them out of Egypt and out of their painful slavery, and bringing them across the Red Sea and providing them with what they need for many, many years, so that even as they went through a great desert, they did not go hungry and thirsty.

And we have to understand the context and situation of the time in order to really understand what had happened at the time. The people of Israel, despite such a great treatment and blessing by the Lord, who gave them all that they needed, they continued to bicker and to complain against the Lord, and demanded all the more, even though they have been blessed beyond many others.

Thus, on this occasion, we witnessed how Moses, after journeying for many years in the desert with the people of Israel, he reminded all the people of the love and care which God had shown them, which no other peoples had experienced and which no other deities or false idols had done for anyone besides what God had done for His beloved ones, even considering their rebelliousness and refusal to believe.

He chastised them for their stubborn hearts and minds, which had refused all the love which God had poured unto them with great care and tenderness. He taught them that they ought to be thankful and be grateful to the Lord for all that He had given to them. And they ought to live according to the Law which God had given to all of them, a set of rules and regulations to be followed, that they all may remain forever in the grace of God.

This is very linked and related to what we heard in the Gospel reading today, where Jesus spoke of how we have to die to ourselves and to take up our crosses and follow Him, if we are to live righteously and justly in the grace of God. He spoke of this, because for many of us, just as it was for the people of Israel, it was very difficult for us to let go of many worldly things, which entanglements often prevented us from finding our way to God.

How many of us often find it difficult to resist the temptations of the flesh? How many of us have been greedy for the many goods of the world, for the allure of money and possessions, for the pull of sexual gratification and the desires of our heart? Indeed it is not easy for us to resist all of them, but if we give in to them, and do nothing about it, then we truly ought to fear for the sake of our souls.

We are reminded yet again on this day, that we should go forth and seek the treasure that lasts forever, that is the true treasures of heavenly grace, found only and given only by our Lord for those who are faithful to Him. This surpasses all other things of this world, the false and impermanent treasures that is plenty in this world, but which can be destroyed by fire, by rot, by the interventions of men, and are not eternal.

Thus, we ought to resist all the temptations and challenges that come our way, and live faithfully to the ways which God had taught us, and which we have learnt through the Church, where we are together as one people, facing all the oppositions and challenges from all those who rejected Him and followed Satan instead, and this is our cross to bear, that is the cross of our own temptations and sins.

Let the examples of the saints whose feast we celebrate on this day be an inspiration to all of us. Pope St. Sixtus II was the Bishop of Rome and Leader of the entire Universal Church in the early Church, and he was a very devoted servant of God who cared for all those entrusted under his care, as the shepherd appointed by God to be the one to lead all of his people to Himself.

He worked hard together with many other holy men of his time, many of whom were arrested together with him during the great persecution against the Church and the faithful by the Roman Emperor Valerian. They refused to recant their faith in God and continued to stand firm in their faith in God, and their examples inspired many others to stand by their faith, despite all the temptations and offers by the authorities that if they recanted their faith, they would be rewarded handsomely and enjoyed many good things.

This is exactly what Jesus meant by gaining the world and losing your soul, for if they had accepted the offers, then indeed they would not suffer grievous death that the holy martyrs had suffered, but then, they too would lose forever the grace and salvation which had been promised to them, and for a temporary respite and moment of goodness in this world, they have lost forever the promise and surety of eternal life.

St. Cajetan, the other saint whose feast we celebrate today, was a priest known for his great piety and holiness, and with his works to bring back many of the people who have gone astray from the Church to return to the Holy Mother Church, and to repent from their sins. He established together with another Saint, St. Jerome Emiliani, a religious congregation devoted to the care of the people of God.

Therefore today, inspired by the examples of these holy saints, let us all ourselves walk in the path of the Lord, removing from ourselves the taint of sin and corruption of the world, and instead focus on the Lord and in His ways, carrying our cross together with Him, giving Him thanks for all He had done for us, and together reach out to the everlasting life and inheritance He had promised all of His faithful. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for My sake will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys his soul? There is nothing you can give to get back your soul.”

“Know that the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some here who will not die, before they see the Son of Man coming as King.”

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Psalm 76 : 12-13, 14-15, 16 and 21

I remember the deeds of the Lord; I recall His marvels of old. I meditate on all Your work, and consider Your mighty deeds.

Your way, o God, is most holy. Is there any god greater than You, our God? You alone are the God who works wonders, who has made known His power to the nations.

With power You have redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. You led Your people as a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Deuteronomy 4 : 32-40

Moses said, “Ask of the times past. Inquire from the day when God created man on earth. Ask from one end of this world to the other : Has there ever been anything as extraordinary as this? Has anything like this been heard of before? Has there ever been a people who remained alive after hearing as you did the voice of the living God from the midst of the fire?”

“Never has there been a God who went out to look for a people and take them out from among the other nations by the strength of trials and signs, by wonders and by war, with a firm hand and an outstretched arm. Never has there been any deed as tremendous as those done for you by YHVH in Egypt, which you saw with your own eyes.”

“You saw this that you might know that YHVH is God and that there is no other besides Him. He let you hear His voice from heaven that you might fear Him; on earth He let you see His blazing fire and from the midst of the fire you heard His word.”

“Because of the love He had for your fathers, He chose their descendants after them, and He Himself made you leave Egypt with His great power. He expelled before you peoples more numerous and stronger than you, and He has made you occupy their land : today He has given this to you as an inheritance.”

“Therefore, try to be convinced that YHVH is the only God of heaven and earth, and that there is no other. Observe the laws and the commandments that I command you today, and everything will be well with you and your children after you. So you will live long in the land which YHVH, your God, gives you forever.”