Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, 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 as we are called to be faithful to the Lord and to remember everything that He had done for us all, and we are called to reject the temptations to sin and to disobey His will and commandments, as we shall certainly encounter these in our journey of life throughout. And we should also encourage one another in how we live up to our faith, that we should inspire one another to be faithful to God.

In our first reading today, we heard the exhortations and reminders made by Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy, likely during the last moments of the Exodus, as the Israelites had been spending forty years in the desert, journeying and waiting for their time to enter the land promised to them and to their ancestors. The journey should not have taken such a long time, but the Lord chastised and punished His people for their disobedience and lack of faith in Him, when they openly rebelled against Him just as He was about to lead them into the Promised Land.

During that entire period of forty years, an entire generation of those who disobeyed and disregarded the Lord perished, just as the Lord had decided, that none of those in that generation, save for the two adult faithful servants of God from the days of the Israelites in Egypt, who remained faithful to Him, namely Caleb and Joshua, would remain and enter into the Promised Land. Joshua would be the one to succeed Moses in leading the Israelites as they marched to the land promised to them.

God spoke through Moses in our first reading passage today, as He reminded His people to remain faithful to Him and not be swayed by the temptations to sin and to disobey Him. Through Moses, God reminded all of them to remain strong in faith and not to forget about the Lord Who had saved them from their slavery in Egypt, and Who had guided them and provided for them and their ancestors, throughout the Exodus and afterwards.

But unfortunately, as we can see throughout the accounts of the Old Testament, the people of Israel did not remain faithful and continued to walk in the path of sin, falling again and again into disobedience against God. The Lord has patiently guided them and called them to return to Him throughout all those years without fail, sending to them various prophets and messengers, and leaders and guides to help keep them on their path, to chastise and to remind them when they have erred and fallen into the path of sin and evil.

Then He sent to His people, to this world, the Saviour of all, His own Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour, the Master of all. Through Him, the Lord brought His salvation into our midst, revealing the truth about His love and His intentions for each and every one of us. Yet, despite having seen all that He had done, all the miracles and wonders He had performed, and despite having heard all the wisdom and truth that they had received, they failed to appreciate this truth and the love of God, and still continued to doubt the Lord and questioned Him and His truth.

Hence, we heard the Lord again rebuking His people and telling them to be faithful, and to abandon their stubbornness and wicked attitudes. The Lord called all of them to believe in Him and in the truth and the pure, genuine love that He had brought into their midst. He told them all, including His disciples, that even if their faith is small, metaphorically symbolised as the mustard seed in size, but if their faith is true, everything will be possible for them, and all things will be in their favour through God, by their faith and commitment.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord, and believe in Him in this manner? Today as we listened to these words of the Scriptures we are all called to turn towards the Lord with newfound faith and dedication, with genuine and pure love. We are all called to serve Him faithfully and to walk ever in His presence without fail. And we should seek inspiration in the examples of our holy predecessors, especially in Pope St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, whose feast days we are celebrating together today.

Pope St. Sixtus II was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult time of the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman Empire, when Christians faced series of persecutions while the rest of the Roman Empire were also undergoing upheavals and instabilities. Christians were often blamed for the troubles and issues that faced the state. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church faithfully through this difficult period, encouraging the faithful people of God to remain true to their faith despite the challenges and trials that they had to endure, and when he was arrested and martyred, Pope St. Sixtus II remained firm in his faith and exemplary in his courage to stay true to the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was an Italian priest remembered for his dedication and care towards the poor and the sick, as he made the effort to care for those who were needy and for those who were suffering from incurable diseases. St. Cajetan spent a lot of effort, in establishing hospitals and care places, and also established the Congregation of the Clerks Regular, also known as the Theatines, assembling people who were like-minded and with the same desire to serve the Lord, responding to the Lord’s call and embracing their responsibility in reaching out to their fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by these two most dedicated saints, let us all in our own lives spent as much time and effort in order to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and faithfully so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and contribute to the good works of His Church, of which we are members and parts of. Let us all have true and genuine faith in the Lord, that as our holy predecessors have shown us, if we are faithful, even the greatest obstacles and trials will not hinder us from following the Lord.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in faith, and may He encourage us and empower us to live ever more faithfully at all times, that we may dedicate our effort and time to serve Him, in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Him, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

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

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 47 and 51ab

I love You, o YHVH, my strength. YHVH is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on YHVH, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

YHVH lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones.

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

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

Deuteronomy 6 : 4-13

Listen, Israel : YHVH, our God, is One YHVH. And you shall love YHVH, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today.

Repeat them over and over to your children, speak to them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates.

Do not forget YHVH when He has led you into the land which He promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; for He will give you great and prosperous cities which you did not build, houses filled with everything good which you did not provide, wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

So when you have eaten and have been satisfied, do not forget YHVH Who brought you out from Egypt where you were enslaved. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him and call on His Name when you have to swear an oath.