Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to progress on towards the celebration of the most important parts of our Faith, that is the suffering, Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is Sexagesima Sunday, or literally meaning ‘sixty’ as a reminder for us that we are within about sixty days from the coming of Easter.

And on this day we heard about the nature of our lives, of our dwelling in this world, and the answer to all of our difficulties, plight and sorrows. As the first reading, taken from the Book of Job had mentioned, the suffering of this world, the pain and sorrow we all experienced, are like what Job had once experienced when Satan tested and tempted him against the Lord.

If we read the entirety of the Book of Job from the beginning to the end, we would realise that the suffering of mankind was never, ever the intention of our Lord. Suffering is in fact the result of the works of Satan and all of his allies, the forces of darkness in this world, and also more importantly, because of our disobedience against the will of God, that is sin.

Job’s friends accused Job of having sinned and committed wickedness before God. But meanwhile Job continued to complain and lamented for his sufferings, part of which we heard in our readings today, he continued to remain faithful to the Lord and never did once he cursed the Lord or blamed Him for what had happened to him. God showed Job that there are much that he did not understand, and He gave His answer to all of Job’s complaints, and for his continued faith despite his ramblings, he received great rewards surpassing what he had lost and what he had suffered from.

Thus, God wants to succour us and help us, and that was what God intends with us. The psalm today speaks of the healing which we can find in God, and it is this healing which our Lord Jesus Christ had brought with Him as He entered into our world to save it and to save all of us, His beloved people and children. The Gospel today reinforced this, by showing how Christ is concerned with all of His people, from the greatest to the least, and was concerned about spreading the truth He brought into the world to all the peoples.

He worked to heal the people of their afflictions, of the diseases that scourged their bodies, just as Job once was covered with boils and scabs that itched, and far above all these, was the healing which our Lord wrought upon our souls. What is this sickness of our souls? It is none other than sin. Sin is the scourge upon all of us, and it is a great barrier that prevents us from reuniting and being in complete unity and reconciliation with our Lord.

But we truly have no need for fear, as the Lord Himself had spared nothing else but Himself, and incarnate through His own Son, He made Himself the salvation and deliverance for us all mankind. For He is the Word of God, the Divine Word who is God and always is with God since before the beginning of time, and who was incarnate in the flesh to become like one of us, born a Man.

And through Jesus therefore, the word of God became real and concrete in this world, and instead of speaking through messengers and prophets, by the coming of Jesus into the world, God Himself speaks directly to us all, by what Jesus had taught us, and which His Apostles and disciples, and through them the Church, had preserved and passed down upon us.

In the readings for the Sexagesima Sunday, we hear of the parable of Jesus, that is the teaching of Jesus using stories and real experiences to make it easier for people to understand, the translation of the word of God into the words of men. Through what Jesus taught the people, what we know as the parable of the sower, the word of God has the power to bring us from the darkness of this world and from the suffering of the world into eternal happiness and joy with God.

However, as the parable shows us, that the word of God is like seeds planted by the Lord, who is the Sower, and the fate of those seeds depend on what kind of treatment or soil that they land on. This means that from our side, we must put in effort and work to ensure that the word of God can fall on fertile soil, and hence grow to bear rich fruits, that will lead us to our eternal reward, just as God once rewarded Job for his faith.

There will be many obstacles, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the parable shows us, and surely as our own experiences should have told us, that to be truly faithful and devoted to the Lord, and to follow Him in all of our ways is not going to be easy. Temptations of the world, the pressure from our peers and friends, and from the world itself to conform to the ways of the world or be rejected will be great, and it is on our part that we need to put in our effort to resist those challenges and temptations.

Today we celebrate the feast of two saints, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, two people who had very different life stories, and yet their experiences and examples will show us that what God had done unto us, by His coming into the world to offer us His generous mercy and love, is truly unmatched and unprecedented in the history of this world.

St. Jerome Emiliani was once a civil servant who worked in the government sector a few hundred years ago in what is today Italy. He eventually left behind everything to join the sacred priesthood and dedicated himself completely to the Lord and to his fellow men. St. Jerome Emiliani was renowned especially for his great love and care for orphans and all the children who were destitute and filled with problems in their lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani therefore helped to establish institutions and places where orphans and many other people who had been ostracised and rejected could stay as their new homes, and he himself with other priests and servants of God ministered to them and cared for them. He also established houses to accommodate former prostitutes who had repented from their sins.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was born in what is now Sudan just a century and half ago, and when she was young, she had to taste the bitter pill of war and violence, as well as the experience of slavery and subjugation by others, forced to accept the religion of heathens by her captors. She was sold as a slave and she was treated very badly, often tortured and not given proper food and place to live in.

By the grace of God, she was freed from her slavery when she was purchased from her previous owners by a Christian diplomat who came into the region and then entrusted St. Josephine Bakhita with the care of his family and children. A court thereafter ruled that St. Josephine Bakhita had not been legally a slave as where she was at, the state had ruled out slavery since before her birth, and thus she was then a freedman.

She was then baptised as a Christian and accepted into the Church by the future Pope St. Pius X, who was then the Patriarch of Venice, as she lived in the region where he had jurisdiction in. St. Josephine Bakhita thereafter joined the Canossian sisters, where she had lived for a while prior to her freedom, and from then on she lived a life of holy contemplation and filled with prayers and dedication to God. Great is her reward at the end of her earthly life.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter, as well as we prepare for the season of Lent that precedes the former, which is soon to come, let us all take all these lessons and words into our hearts. St. Jerome Emiliani cared for the least of the people, the orphans and the rejected, just as Christ Himself gave Himself to the service of all those who have not been loved and those persecuted by others.

Let us all allow God to come into our lives, and through the planting of His words in our hearts, let us all be changed and transformed to become true and faithful children of our Lord, in all our words and deeds. Like St. Josephine Bakhita, the slaves turned freedman and then into a faithful servant and devoted woman, by allowing God to come into our lives, we allow ourselves to be freed from the slavery of sin and detaching ourselves from the things of this world.

May Almighty God bless us all, guide us all back to Him and in Him may we find satisfaction, succour and enlightenment, that we may all rejoice in Him in His everlasting glory, as we receive the great rewards for our faith, and may all of us be healed from the earthly and worldly afflictions. Amen.

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 29-39

At that time, on leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits : the whole town was pressing around the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but He did not let them speak, for they knew who He was.

Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others also went out, searching for Him; and when they found Him, they said, “Everyone is looking for You.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.”

So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues through Galilee; He also cast out demons.

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward?

In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel. So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number.

To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 146 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! How good it is to sing to our God, how sweet and befitting to praise Him! The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars, He calls each of them by name.

The Lord is great and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Job 7 : 1-4, 6-7

Man’s life on earth is a thankless job, his days are those of a mercenary. Like a slave he longs for the shade of evening, like a hireling waiting for his wages. Thus I am allotted months of boredom and nights of grief and misery. In bed I say, “When shall the day break?” On rising, I think, “When shall evening come?” and I toss restless till dawn.

My days pass swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, heading without hope to their end. My life is like wind, You well know it, o God; never will I see happiness again.

(Usus Antiquior) Sexagesima Sunday (II Classis) – Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Offertory

Psalm 16 : 5, 6-7

Perfice gressus meos in semitis Tuis, ut non moveantur vestigia mea : inclina aurem Tuam, et exaudi verba mea : mirifica misericordias Tuas, qui salvos facis sperantes in Te, Domine.

English translation

May You make perfect my goings in Your paths, that my footsteps be not moved. Incline Your ear, and hear my words. Show forth Your wonderful mercies, You who save those who trusts in You, o Lord.

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Oblatum Tibi, Domine, sacrificium, vivificet nos semper et muniat. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

May the sacrifice we offer You, o Lord, ever vivify and defend us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Communion

Psalm 42 : 4

Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam.

English translation

I will go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.

Post-Communion Prayer

Supplices Te rogamus, omnipotens Deus : ut, quos Tuis reficis sacramentis, Tibi etiam placitis moribus dignanter deservirr concedas. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Grant, we humbly beseech You, Almighty God, that those whom You refreshed with Your sacraments may serve You worthily by a life well pleasing to You. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Sexagesima Sunday (II Classis) – Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke

Luke 8 : 4-15

In illo tempore : Cum turba plurima convenirent, et de civitatibus properant ad Jesum, dixit per similitudinem : Exiit, qui seminat, seminare semen suum : et dum seminat, aliud cecidit secus viam, et conculcatum est, et volucres caeli comederunt illud.

Et aliud cecidit supra petram : et natum aruit, quia non habebat humorem. Et aliud cecidit inter spinas, et simul exortae spinae suffocaverunt illud. Et aliud cecidit in terram bonam : et ortum fecit fructum centuplum. Haec dicens, clamabat : Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat.

Interrogabant autem eum discipuli Ejus, quae esset haec parabola. Quibus ipse dixit : Vobis datum est nosse mysterium regni Dei, ceteris autem in parabolis : ut videntes non videant, et audientes non intellegant. Est autem haec parabola : Semen est verbum Dei. Qui autem secus viam, hi sunt qui audiunt : deinde venit diabolus, et tollit verbum de corde eorum, ne credentes salvi fiant.

Nam qui supra petram : qui cum audierint, cum gaudio suscipiunt verbum : et hi radices non habent : qui ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recedunt. Quod autem in spinas cecidit : hi sunt, qui audierunt, et a sollicitudinibus et divitiis et voluptatibus vitae euntes, suffocantur, et non referunt fructum.

Quod autem in bonam terram : hi sunt, qui in corde bono et optimo audientes verbum retinent, et fructum afferunt in patientia.

English translation

At that time, when a very great multitude was gathered together and hastened out of the cities unto Jesus, He spoke by a parable, “The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

And some others fell upon a rock, and as soon as it sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some others fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it. And some others fell upon good ground, and having sprung up, they yielded fruits a hundredfold.” Saying these things, He cried out, “He who have ears to listen, let him hear.”

And His disciples asked Him what this parable might be. To whom then He said, “To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest only in parables, that in seeing they may not see, and in hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this : The seed is the word of God, and those by the wayside are those who heard, and then the devil came and took the word out of their heart, lest in believing they should be saved.

Now those upon the rock are those who when they hear, receive the word with joy, and these have no roots, for they believe for a while, and in time of temptation they fall away. And those who fell among thorns are those who have heard, and going on with their way, they are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yielded no fruit.

But those on the good ground are those who in a good and very good heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.