Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture passages, we are all reminded of the Lord calling on us to follow Him and to do His will. Each and every one of us as Christians have been charged and entrusted with the capacity, the gifts, abilities and opportunities for us to contribute our actions and deeds, our works and efforts for the missions and other things that the Lord has given us, that by our faithful commitment and actions, we may indeed fulfil our roles as the Lord’s beloved people and flock, whom He had appointed to be His stewards and servants, to be the stewards and guardians of His creation.

Each and every one of us have been given the various responsibilities in our different areas of expertise, in our various circumstances, groups, and in whatever things that we are doing in life. No two Christians will have the same exact set of responsibilities, mission, ministry and calling, as each one of us are going to have a distinct path in life, although some of us may have more similarities than others, while some have very different paths that God had led them into. In the end, what matters is that each one of us are called through our missions and ministries, through the opportunities that God has granted us, to do whatever we can in contributing to all that He had entrusted us to do.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and to the faithful community there, the Apostle spoke about the need for all Christians to adhere to the path and the teachings which the Lord their God has shown all of them, that they all should be genuine in their faith and way of life. They should not follow the path of worldliness or be distracted by the many worldly temptations all around them. The same reminder applies to us all as well, brothers and sisters, as in this day, even in our own communities, we have always faced those same challenges and trials, oppositions and difficulties. As Christians, we are expected to do the will of God, and to carry out the missions that He has entrusted to us, with all of our hearts and strength.

As St. Paul mentioned in that same passage, all of us as Christians belong to God, as the citizens of Heaven. And because Heaven is our ultimate destination, therefore each one of us must live according to God’s ways. How can we call ourselves as Christians if the way we live, how we act and interact with one another contradict directly what we profess to believe in? Doing so is essentially marking us as hypocrites, who belief in one thing and yet acting in another way. Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we are expected to be faithful and committed to God, not just in name or appearances only, but in everything we say and act, they all have to be reflective of God’s truth, love and grace. And we have to do what God has told and asked us all to do, through the various responsibilities, opportunities and missions that He has entrusted to us.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard from the Lord Himself the words of His parable to the people and the disciples as He wanted to teach them and show them what they were all expected to do as His followers. Through this parable of the dishonest steward, which many of us should be quite familiar with, the Lord wanted to highlight to us first and foremost, that each one of us are truly the stewards of the Lord, the stewards entrusted with the care of this world that we are living in today, as per what He had told man at the beginning of creation in the Book of Genesis. While He granted mankind the rule and guardianship of the world, He also entrusted it to their care, and hence, each one of us are the stewards of God’s creation.

Now, that parable of the dishonest steward reminds all of us, of the dangers of ‘money’ that is worldly temptations and pleasures, allures and goods, all of which can distract, mislead and tempt us away from the right path. But we must also understand that money, material goods, properties and all the things we have in this world are by themselves actually not evil. They are not harmful on their own, but it is our attachments to them, our unhealthy obsession over them that led to a lot of harm and troubles, a lot of wickedness and evil in our behaviour and actions. Just as the dishonest steward cheating his master in order to save himself, to provide a means for him to live after he was fired, therefore, in many occasions, all those worldly things and possessions had caused many people to mistreat and manipulate others, or even causing extortion and exploitation of our fellow brothers and sisters.

Clearly, this is not what we as Christians are expected to do, and that is not what our Christian identity and action should be. If we are truly God’s people and followers, and if we truly believe in Him, with all of our heart and strength, then naturally we should be like Him, in how He loves us all so generously and tenderly, that He is willing to do everything for us, showing us a most selfless love by giving us His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and Saviour, and to die for us on the Cross, that through all of that, we may be reconciled with Him, and saved from all of our troubles and from the clutches of the evil ones, and from the path to damnation. That is what Christians are expected to do, to be filled with the love of God, and not with the selfish love of ourselves and our own desires.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, and a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. And today as we rejoice in the memory of this great and renowned saint, hopefully we can be inspired by the many good examples set by this great servant of God, and emulate his examples in how he exercise great stewardship over whatever it is that God had entrusted under his care, in all the missions and works that he had done throughout his life. St. Charles Borromeo was a brilliant young nobleman who completed his studies and was eventually made as a Cardinal of the Church by his uncle, who was elected as Pope. In his capacity as Cardinal, he assisted the Pope in the many areas of governance of the Church. He helped the Church reforms, rooting out worldly excesses and corruptions from among the clergy and the members of the Church.

He was also later on appointed to be the Archbishop of Milan, which after Rome was probably the most influential and important Episcopal See. As Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo launched a great campaign of reform in rooting out the debauched corruptions and condition in which the clergy and laity of the Milanese See had ended up in after many decades without proper leadership as previous archbishops had not resided in Milan at all. St. Charles Borromeo rooted out all those lingering corruptions and worldliness that had crept into the very heart of the Church, leading the faithful on a path towards renewal and rejuvenation of their faith. He pressed on despite the challenges and trials that he had to encounter along the way, and he did not give up his struggle and hard work to the end.

And as Archbishop and Cardinal, he still remained humble and simple in his lifestyle, contrary to the many other people of his class and office. He dedicated much of his time to visit the poor and care for the sick, establishing institutions, hospitals and schools for the betterment of his flock. He spent a lot of time and effort to care for the sick and dying when a plague struck at Milan and the surrounding regions even when the ruler and the local governors all fled from the area, leaving the sick and the poor to fend for themselves. St. Charles Borromeo dedicated his life for the sake of those who have been entrusted to him as we have heard, and this should be what each one of us should be doing as well, as faithful and dedicated Christians, throughout our lives. As he had done, let us all make good use of whatever opportunities and gifts God had granted us all, as stewards of His creation.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. May He empower us all with courage, strength and perseverance to live ever more faithfully in accordance to the path that He has led and guided us through. May God bless us all and may He remain with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 16 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him for fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.'”

“The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do : I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people who will welcome me into their homes.'”

“So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question. ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.'”

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness : for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.”

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Friday, 4 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Philippians 3 : 17 – Philippians 4 : 1

Unite in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and look at those who walk in our way of life. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. I have said it to you many times, and now I repeat it with tears : they are heading for ruin; their belly is their god and they feel proud of what should be their shame. They only think of earthly things.

For us, our citizenship is in heaven, from where we await the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Lord. He will transfigure our lowly body, making it like His own Body, radiant in Glory, through the power which is His to submit everything to Himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, you my glory and crown, be steadfast in the Lord.

Thursday, 4 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall what we have just heard in the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God’s ever generous love and mercy for each and every one of us. God has desired to be reconciled with us and He wants to forgive us our sins, making us sharers in His glorious promise and inheritance because that was what He had intended for us in the very beginning. God created us all out of love and wanted us to share in His love.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful community in Rome, we heard the Apostle reminding them all of the fact that all of them, all mankind exists for the Lord and the Lord is the Master of all, and therefore is the One holding the control over all things that are in our lives, and whatever we say and do, we ought to do them while knowing this fact, which means that we must not forget that the Lord will hold us accountable over all of our actions, words and deeds.

St. Paul made this exhortation to the people in order to address the issue that often arose within the Church, both at that time and even to this very day, of how we often criticise and gossip against one another, or comparing among ourselves who are better and holier, while despising and condemning others whom we look down upon. In this way, we end up causing divisions and unhappiness within the Church, causing us to be set against our fellow brothers and sisters, and we are not doing what the Lord wanted us to do, that is to love one another just as He has loved each and every one of us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people using a parable, that is the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. In that parable, the Lord mentioned how a man who had a hundred sheep and lost one of those sheep would do everything he could to find that one lost sheep, going around and doing everything in order to find and be reunited with that lost sheep. Once he had found that lost sheep, he would rejoice for the lost sheep even greater than for the other sheep that were not lost. The same logic was applied with the lost coin as well.

The Lord used this parable to counter the argument of the Pharisees and rebuking them for their self-righteous and elitist attitude in looking down on all those whom they deemed to be less worthy than they were. Those Pharisees frowned because they saw the Lord speaking and having a meal with tax collectors and all those whom they deemed to be sinners. To those Pharisees, the tax collectors, as were prostitutes and others who were deemed unclean and unworthy, as sinners and incapable of being saved.

The Lord proved them wrong and rebuked them for their attitude and short-sightedness, as well as for their lack of love, care and concern for their fellow brethren. They were entrusted with the guardianship and guidance for the people, and yet, they sought mostly their own justification and salvation over that of others, and even made it difficult for many others to come to the Lord by making the Law so strict and oppressive that it turned away many that could have been saved in the Lord.

This is what each and every one of us as Christians are called to distance ourselves from, from the attitude of excesses of pride and haughtiness, of arrogance and selfishness. We are instead called to be loving and selfless in our actions and deeds, to be caring towards one another and to show love and mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters. And as Christians we are all called to reflect the love of God in our every actions and to proclaim His truth through our every deeds and words. We cannot do so unless we love one another and consider each other fellow brethren in the same Lord.

Today, we should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating, namely that of St. Charles Borromeo. St. Charles Borromeo was the famous Archbishop of Milan who was a faithful servant of God and one of the courageous leaders of Counter-Reformation. St. Charles Borromeo was remembered for his great piety and dedication to the Lord. St. Charles Borromeo spent a lot of effort to reform the Church and to lead his flock down the right path, leading by example in his many years as shepherd of the faithful.

St. Charles Borromeo was involved in many aspects of the Church, its leadership and pastoral engagements, spending a lot of time and effort to restructure and to purify the Church and its institutions from creeping corruptions from worldly forces and influences. He reinvigorated the faithful in all of his diocese and in other parts of Christendom through his contributions, and together with other leaders of Counter-Reformation was crucial in preventing many others from falling to the falsehoods of heresies and other wrong teachings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the great examples set by St. Charles Borromeo should inspire each and every one of us to follow the Lord more courageously, and we should spend more effort and time to seek the Lord more wholeheartedly, and to dedicate our entire lives to serve the Lord and to love our fellow brothers and sisters, in each and every moments and in every opportunities we are given. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us in our journey, and strengthen us in faith. Amen.

Thursday, 4 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 15 : 1-10

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the Angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

Thursday, 4 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

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

One thing I ask of YHVH, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His Sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of YHVH in the land of the living. Trust in YHVH, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in YHVH!

Thursday, 4 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 14 : 7-12

In fact, none of us lives for himself, nor dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Either in life or in death, we belong to the Lord; It was for this purpose that Christ both died and came to life again, to be Lord, both of the living and of the dead.

Then you, why do you criticise your brother or sister? And you, why do you despise them? For we will all appear at the tribunal of God. It is written : I swear by Myself – Word of the Lord – every knee will bend before Me, and every tongue shall give glory to God. So each of us will account for himself before God.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded that as Christians we are all called to glorify the Lord through our lives and follow in the examples of the Apostles and the saints, in all that they had done for the greater glory of God. The Lord has come into this world proclaiming His truth and revealed everything about Himself to us through His Church, and yet, there were still plenty of obstacles that He encountered because of the stubbornness of those who refused to believe in Him.

For example, the chief priests and the Pharisees opposed the Lord and questioned His motives and works, when whatever He had done clearly came from God. He had performed many miracles, signs and wonders before them, just as many among the Pharisees and the priests had witnessed the works of the Lord as they followed Him from place to place, some among them hoping to catch the Lord in making mistakes and that they could then charge Him and destroy His reputation among His followers.

Why were the chief priests and the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord and in all the truth and things that He has brought into this world? That is because of their pride and worldly attachments, so much so that they also refused to believe in the servant whom God had sent to go before Him, namely that of St. John the Baptist, precisely because he was so popular and so many people went to him seeking to be baptised and converted to the Lord, that the chief priests and the Pharisees were afraid that everyone were turning away from them, toward St. John the Baptist earlier on, and then, towards the Lord Jesus.

The Lord yet did not allow all these to stop Him or to dissuade Him from continuing on with His ministry and works. On the contrary, He continued to push on and persevere through the challenges He faced, and refuted the chief priests and the Pharisees such that they were not able to respond back to Him in kind, as shown in our Gospel passage today. He showed all of us that to be Christians, we have to be first and foremost be committed to the Lord and resist the temptations to give up our commitment and struggles just because we may encounter challenges and trials along the way.

Instead, we have to deepen our commitment, and share in the sufferings of Christ, as we walk through our journey of faith in life. This is what we should be doing with our lives, and today, we can also be further inspired by the examples of a great saint and Pope, whose lives and works through a difficult and turbulent time faced by the Universal Church can help us to remain firm in our own faith in the Lord, and also to discover the calling and the mission entrusted to us by Him, by our renewed conviction and faith.

Pope St. Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was one of the more recent Popes, the predecessor of Pope St. John Paul II and his own predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who passed away just over forty years ago in the Year of Our Lord 1978. Pope St. Paul VI lived through difficult times, surviving through two World Wars that devastated much of Europe and other parts of the world. He was born into a small noble Italian family, who joined the seminary with the intention to become a priest during the midst of the First World War. He went on to complete his studies and was ordained a priest a few years after he joined the seminary.

Later on he would then continue to serve the Church in the Holy See, as part of the Secretariat of State through which he worked closely with Pope Pius XII and other prominent members of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See. During the difficult years of the Second World War, he helped the Pope in his numerous efforts and missions to mediate between the warring sides and to save many people who were suffering persecutions, as well as managing the affairs of the Church in places that were devastated by conflict and war.

It was later on after many years of service then that the Pope appointed then Father Montini as Archbishop of Milan, tasked with the governance and guidance of the largest Archdiocese in Italy and one of the most important in the whole world. During this tenure as the Archbishop of Milan, and later on as Cardinal under Pope St. John XXIII, the future Pope St. Paul VI laboured hard in dedicating himself to his flock in the Archdiocese of Milan, and was also deeply involved in many other projects and charitable works of the Church.

Then as one of the key members of the Ecumenical Second Vatican Council and as the succeeding Pope, in leading the Church in completing the Ecumenical Council and the management of the Church during those times of transitions, Pope St. Paul VI worked hard to help the Church to survive through those difficult years, when many left the Church and abandoned their faith in God. His landmark Humanae Vitae papal encyclical, widely praised for his staunch defence of Church teachings was condemned and rejected by many segments of the Church. Nonetheless, Pope St. Paul VI continued to labour hard and to persuade those who have erred in their path and faith, to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring example set by Pope St. Paul VI and reminding ourselves of the good examples set by so many other wonderful holy saints and martyrs, God’s holy people, then let us ask ourselves if we have been living our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us, like how those saints had lived their lives. Or have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and ways, that we hardened our hearts and minds much like those chief priests and the Pharisees? If we have done the latter, then we must realise that it is still not too late for us to turn away from these sinful ways and return to the Lord.

Let us all therefore live our lives faithfully from now on, giving our very best to be righteous and just, to be committed to the Lord at all times. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen us all to remain resolute and committed to walk in His path regardless of the challenges and trials we may encounter. Amen.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Mark 11 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus and His disciples were once again in Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders came to Him, and asked, “What authority do You have to act like this? Who gave You authority to do the things You do.”

Jesus said to them, “I will ask you a question, only one, and if you give me an answer, then I will tell you what authority I have to act like this. Was John’s preaching and baptism a work of God, or was it merely something human? Answer Me.”

And they kept arguing among themselves, “If we answer that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’” But neither could they answer before the people that the baptism of John was merely something human, for everyone regarded John as a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you what authority I have to act as I do.”

Alternative reading

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”