Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard first of all from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the description of a great vision that Isaiah received, as he saw the marvellous glory of God, the magnificent Throne of God and His divine majesty, enthroned among the Seraphim and Cherubim, the greatest among the Angels of God. The Lord showed Isaiah that vision to strengthen him and to make him know how He has chosen him to bear His words to the people and to proclaim His truth and prophesy in His Name.

And therefore, from then on, Isaiah after he enthusiastically answered God’s call with, ‘Here I am! Send me!’, went on to serve the people, speaking God’s words among them, encouraging them as shown at the moment when king Sennacherib of Assyria came up to besiege Jerusalem with a mighty army and mocked both God and the king, Isaiah reassured both the king of Judah and the people, that God would be with them and that for all the boasts and hubris of the Assyrian king, he was nothing compared to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sure enough, no sooner that the Assyrian king had made his boast, blaspheming against God, that the Lord sent His Angels against the king’s mighty army, and wiped them all out with a great disaster and plague, that when morning broke, hundreds of thousands were dead and the Assyrian king Sennacherib had to abandon his siege and retreat back to his lands in shame. Through this, God showed that He is truly the One in charge, and the Master over all things.

And through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has also promised His people that He would bring them salvation and liberation, as He renewed His promise of the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was extensively spoken about in many of Isaiah’s prophecies. Through all these assurances, the Lord again wanted His people to have faith in Him and to keep their trust in Him, that despite everything that they might have suffered and endured because of their sins, their wickedness and disobedience, but God was always ready to welcome them back and be reconciled with them.

This reconciliation came about and was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the One Whom the prophet Isaiah had been prophesying about. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the whole world has seen the salvation of God, and the world that was once filled with darkness and uncertainty, have seen the light and hope of God, finally revealed to all. And Christ reiterated again and again, including in what we have heard in our Gospel today, how we are truly fortunate to have God Who loves us all dearly and considers us precious.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord spoke of the trust that we ought to have in God because of just how precious we are in the sight of God, how beloved we are and how fortunate we are because every single one of us are blessed and important to God, no matter how small or insignificant we may think we are. The Lord has shown again from time to time, throughout history, how He has protected His faithful ones and provided for them in their time of need. And even at the darkest and the most vulnerable moments, when we mankind have no where else and nothing and no one else to turn to, the Lord is and will always be there for us.

But are we willing to accept Him? Are we even aware that He is always there for us, providing for us and granting us what we need? The Lord has shown us His ever present love and attention, but many of us have abandoned Him, left Him for other things, for worldly comforts and desires, for all sorts of temptations that made us more and more distant, and became more and more separated from God. That is why today we are reminded through these Scripture passages, to turn once again towards God if we have forgotten about Him or abandoned Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have to remember how we are truly beloved by God and precious to Him, and then, even more importantly, we are called by God to do His will, to follow in the footsteps of the prophet Isaiah and help others to find their way back to God, and to remind them all of how great and loving God has been towards us. All of us have been called and share in this calling through our baptism, that we all are charged with spreading the word of God, to lead others to Him.

St. Benedict, holy Abbot and great father of Christian monasticism in the Western Christendom can be our great source of inspiration, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. Benedict, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was a great and holy servant of God, renowned for his piety and commitment to live a life of purity and prayer dedicated to God. He was born in a Roman noble family and had a good upbringing and life, but as he continued his education in Rome, the immorality and wickedness he witnessed made him to want to seek God.

As a result, he and his sister, St. Scholastica, began to seek God through prayerful life and retreat away from the world. Through his efforts and example, the foundations for Christian monastic practices in the Western Christendom were established, as he inspired many others to follow him in a life of asceticism and prayer dedicated to God, living in a close-knit community, and wrote the rule which would be remembered for many centuries and generations since, the Rule of St. Benedict, which would also inspire the rules in the many other monastic orders.

Through his life, St. Benedict inspired many people to turn once again towards the Lord, some of whom decided to follow his way of life and become an ascetic and monk, while others endeavoured to lead a better life more connected to God, through greater charity, life more attuned to God and more righteous and just in all of their dealings. Are we able to inspire others just as St. Benedict had done? That is why we need to follow God wholeheartedly and make our lives a great reflection of our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He make us all great instruments of His presence in this world. May He grant us the strength and courage to be ever faithful, dedicated to Him as how the prophet Isaiah and the many other prophets, and as St. Benedict of Nursia and the many other holy saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. May all of us be ever faithful, and be great and committed disciples of the Lord, in words, deeds and actions, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 6 : 1-8

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him were Seraphs, each with six wings : two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another : “Holy, Holy, Holy is YHVH Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with His glory!”

At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, YHVH Sabaoth.”

Then one of the Seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the Altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?”

I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Monday, 13 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about how the people of Israel in Egypt after the time of Joseph were mistreated and made into slaves. The Pharaoh or ruler of Egypt feared that these people who grew numerous and mighty him and his country, and thus he oppressed them and made them suffer. In this, as we compare to what Jesus had said in the Gospel, we can see indeed how conflict and clashes would come between the Lord and those who follow Him with the ways and norms of this world.

And as we see the conflict between the Egyptians and the Israelites, there would also conflict between us all who follow the ways of our Lord and those who follow the ways of this world. This is the fact which our Lord Jesus highlighted to His disciples and to all of us through them, that following Him and walking righteously in His path will not be an easy one. There will be plenty of challenges and difficulties awaiting us, as the conflict and clashes between our interests and ways will be our obstacles.

If we look at the history of the Church and our faith, then we will realise how in many occasions, for one to accept the faith and to believe in the Lord would often mean estrangement and opposition from one’s own family members and friends. Often many of the holy martyrs especially in the early years of the Church had to suffer martyrdom because they held fast to their faith despite the staunch opposition from their own families and friends.

That is because the way of the Lord is often opposed to the ways of the world, and for one to abandon the way of worldliness for the way which our Lord had taught us often mean for many, the estrangement from the norms of the society at large. And to many people who do not understand the way of God, it would indeed seem very strange that we would give ourselves and devote ourselves to this way.

This is just as the way of the world is selfishness, the way of the Lord is selflessness, and while the way of this world is materialism and consumerism, the way of our Lord is temperance and gratitude for whatever we have. While the world values appearances and human approval, the Lord values simplicity of heart and righteousness, and the courage to stand up for the truth, even when many others do not agree with us or approve what we are doing.

However, we have to take note that while the Lord Jesus Christ warned us about the conflict, clashes and confrontations that would come our way, it does not mean that we ought to go out there and purposely cause trouble for ourselves, inviting problems and dangers that may endanger those who are around us. Some of us may have misinterpreted the intentions of our Lord in this manner, as we may think that we have to confront the world actively and overpower it.

No, this rather means that we should be vigilant and be prepared that we may be ostracised, shunned, made an object of shame of, humiliated, or even tortured both physically and mentally by others, because of what we believe in. But do we then succumb and give up to the temptations and forces of the world? No, we must resist them. We must be courageous to stand up for our faith in the face of all these difficulties.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Henry, also known as Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, the sovereign Augustus and ruler of the revived Roman Empire in the west, God’s secular representative in the world. St. Henry II, was a great and benevolent Emperor, who led many of the faithful in the Empire, leading many other Christian nations at the time.

However, he also encountered many great challenges in his role as the paragon of faith and virtue. He combatted many forms of vices and excesses during his reign as Emperor, and he strengthened the Church and its many works by his tireless support of the Church and its activities, even though in many occasions he had to deal against the many people who opposed him and his reforms.

St. Henry was remembered for his upright actions and for his devotion to the Lord even though many people resisted and tried to undermine his works and reforms, for the good of the faithful, and even for the good of those who have resisted his works. Indeed, what he had done was a clear example of what we have just discussed this day. If we are truly faithful to the Lord, the path forward will not be easy, and challenges will surely come our way, but if we stay faithful to the end, our rewards in the Lord will be great indeed.

May the examples of St. Henry inspire us always and help us to be true to our faith and to defend it with all of our might. Let us show our faith in our actions, words and deeds, so that all who see us will know that we truly belong to the Lord. We have no need to fear anything for the Lord is with us, and whatever difficulties and challenges we will encounter, there will always be hope in the end, for the Lord will reward all those who keep their faith in Him even amidst persecution. God be with us all, and may He guide us in our way. Amen.

Monday, 13 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and come after Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and to proclaim His message in their towns.

Monday, 13 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Psalm 123 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-8

Had not the Lord been on our side – let Israel say – had not the Lord been on our side, when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more and the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Blessed be the Lord, who did not let us be devoured.

Like a bird our soul escaped from the snare of the fowler; the snare was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Monday, 13 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Exodus 1 : 8-14, 22

Then a new king who had not know Joseph came to power and said to His people, “The Israelites are more numerous and stronger than we are. Let us deal warily with them lest they increase still more and, in case of war, side with our enemy, fight against us and escape from the land.”

So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. In that way they built the storage towns of Pithom and Rameses. But the more they oppressed the Hebrews the more they increased and spread, until the Egyptians dreaded the Israelites and became ruthless in making them work. They made life bitter for them in hard labour with bricks and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields. In all their work the Egyptians treated them harshly.

Pharaoh then gave this order to all the people : “Every infant boy born to the Hebrews must be thrown into the Nile, but every girl may live.”

Saturday, 11 July 2015 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of a renowned saint, that is of St. Benedict of Nursia, also known as St. Benedict the Abbot, the founder of the Benedictines religious order, one of the largest and earliest established religious orders in the world. He was one of the earliest pioneers of monasticism and religious life dedicated to God.

St. Benedict founded many communities of the religious and the faithful, but his life began as a Roman noble in the fifth century after the birth of our Lord, where he once had a great prospect in life, a quality education and a good company of friends and even those who professed their love for him. But, St. Benedict gradually saw how wicked the sins and actions which his companions had committed, and gradually withdrawing himself from worldliness, he found the true purpose of his life.

He sought true satisfaction in life by leading a life filled with prayer, sanctity and devotion to God. When the devil at one time tried to tempt him by filling his mind with the beautiful image of a woman he once loved in his youth, he resisted the temptation by purging it from the flesh by self-mortification, lying on a bed of thornbushes to remind himself of the sinfulness of such thoughts. By purifying his flesh, he gained the purification of his soul and being.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Scripture readings today, the first of which was taken from the last part of the Book of Genesis, talked about the passing of Jacob in Egypt, continuing from where we left off yesterday, and the begging of the sons of Israel, or Jacob, on their brother Joseph, whom they had once betrayed and sold to the slavemasters.

They feared his retribution for all the wrongs they had wrought on him in the past. But this is where they failed to see that whatever evil they had concocted and planned against Joseph, God had turned them into something good for the benefit of many people. The way of the Lord is truly far beyond our comprehension and understanding, and His ways is truly far beyond us and our ways.

What the Lord Jesus wanted to tell the disciples was in fact of the same nature as well. This is because He told them about not needing to worry about anything in life, as God who cares for His beloved ones would be with them and providing them with all the things that they need. And indeed, this was the case, and will always be for all of us who put our trust in Him.

Brethren, it is the fallibility of our human nature for us to have fear, worry and uncertainties inside each one of us. It is exactly because we do not have faith in the Lord, and because we put our hopes on worldly things and matters that we end up sinning before God and men, for we act in ways so as to preserve ourselves, our own prosperity, material goods, well-being, often at the expense of others around us.

The examples of St. Benedict and all that he had done should have inspired all of us. It does not mean that all of us ought to abandon everything and pursue religious life as he had done. Some of us indeed may follow in his footsteps, in the footsteps of the many holy priests and servants of God in giving their lives up for the service of the Lord and His people, but for the majority of us, what we need to do is to live faithfully and reject all of the temptations of the world, which Satan is offering us for the destruction of ourselves.

Can we indeed try to look away and detract ourselves from the temptations that is the worldliness all around us? Do not worry about these things, for truly what is more important is the salvation of our soul. There is no point for us to have a good life in this world, to have plenty of everything, and yet in the world that is to come, we have nothing, because in our striving for goodness in this world, we have brought suffering to others, we have not been obedient to God, and we have ended up sinning before His presence.

Let us all build for ourselves the richness and treasures of the world that is to come, by listening and obeying all that the Lord had shown us. May the examples of St. Benedict and that of other holy saints be inspiration for us, so that we may be forever true to our commitment to our Lord and God. May He bless us and keep us in His grace, and strengthen our faith in Him always. God be with us all. Amen.

Saturday, 11 July 2015 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be glad to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the family has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of the family! So, do not be afraid of them.”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For only a few cents you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are no less worthy than many sparrows!”

“Whoever acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others I will reject before My Father in heaven.”