Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are reminded to be ever faithful and committed to God, in our daily living, even if we are beset by various troubles and trials, challenges and obstacles. We should not be afraid or be deterred by the opposition and the hardships which we may encounter in our journey of faith through life. We must remain resolute in our faith and dedication to God, believing wholeheartedly in His path and not be easily swayed and tempted by all the traps and the other things that the devil and his wicked allies and forces had placed before us all. We must hold on to that faith which we should have in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Habakkuk in which the Lord spoke and interacted with Habakkuk, a prophet who was active in the land of Judah during its final years, and whose life and ministry revolved around the sufferings and oppressions endured by the followers of the Lord at the land where the people refused to believe in God, where the prophets were persecuted. And not only that, Habakkuk was also referring to the sufferings of the people themselves, who at that time were brought under the dominion of the Babylonians and their king, Nebuchadnezzar.

The prophet Habakkuk pleaded before God for His intervention and help, saying that he and the people have suffered, and were in need of God and His help. But God reassured Habakkuk and also the people, by saying that, whatever He would reveal through Habakkuk himself, everything would come in due time, just as whatever He had spoken through His earlier prophets like Amos and Isaiah, among others. Everything will happen as God wills it, and eventually, all those who remain faithful in God will be redeemed and will enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. God will not forget or abandon those who seek Him, even if they themselves had abandoned or forgotten about Him before.

In our Psalm today, we heard the exhortation for us all, God’s beloved people to rejoice in Him, in His faithfulness and love. We are all reminded to focus our attention to Him, to serve and glorify Him, and to praise and worship Him at all times. We are also reminded not to be like those who rebelled against God as at Massah and Meribah. At Massah and Meribah, the very ungrateful Israelites rebelled against God and complained against Him, because they refused to obey Him and follow Him, and complaining that they were deprived of what they wanted to have, when God had taken care of them day after day, month after month, and year after year, feeding them all and guiding them to the Promised Land.

We are all reminded through these that often times, we are ourselves our own greatest opponent and obstacle, especially in our pride, ego and desires. It is our pride and ego which prevented us from seeing how faulty our lives can be, and led us to stubbornness and rebellious attitudes, as we often did not want to admit that we could have been wrong in our ways. We ended up refusing God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy, hardening our hearts against Him as what the Israelites had done in the past, at Massah and Meribah and during the time of the prophets like Habakkuk. Their refusal to abandon their pride and ego led to their downfall.

While their attachments to their desires, to the many pleasures and allures of this world misled them down the wrong path, as they preoccupied themselves with the pursuit of power, knowledge, glory, wealth, affluence and fame, status and many others. They gave themselves to the worship of false idols and false gods to satisfy their own desires and wants, and refused to follow the Law and precepts that God had set before all of them. This is what has happened to us as well, and will continue to happen to us if we are not vigilant in living our lives in our present day world. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by the many concerns and attachments, ambitions and desires we have, we will likely end up being lost from God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples when they asked of Him to increase their faith. The Lord reminded them all that if they truly had genuine faith, even no matter how small it may seem to be, everything will be possible. Again, the Lord was actually reminding all of His disciples that they should not treat faith as a tool for their own self-benefit and ambition. For at that time, the disciples had followed the Lord for various reasons, and likely many of them were also spurred by the desires they had for power, influence and glory, as is common for any groups and movements, just as the history of the world and our Church have shown us.

As the Lord told His disciples that after everything that the servants had done, they were after all just servants of the Master. Any glory they have done and any great things they had performed, all these were due to the Master and not themselves. The Lord reminded His disciples and all of us through this parable, that all of us as the servants and followers of God ultimately live our lives at the command and charge of the Lord, and everything we say and do, all of our achievements and greatness are ultimately not due to ourselves, but due to God, attributed to Him and should have been offered to Him, rather than to make ourselves bloated with pride and ego.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, pride and ego are often obstacles and barriers that kept us away from God. Due to those, we often enclose ourselves in our own cocoon, in our own comfort zones, seeking to attain our own personal comfort and satisfaction rather than to do the will of God. The Lord reminded His disciples to be wary of these temptations that they do not seek for glory and acclaim in life, and whenever they do His will, they should do it because they want to do it for the glory of God and for the good of their fellow brothers and sisters, and not for their own selfish desires and ambitions instead. St. Paul his Epistle to St. Timothy, in our second reading today, also echoed the same thought, that we ought to follow the Lord and His ways, and not to give in to worldly ways and desires.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we are now then called to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how each and every one of us should proceed forward in our respective lives. The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him and we should answer His call with faith and commitment. We should do whatever we can in life, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant things so that our lives, our every actions, our words and interactions with one another bear within them the light and truth of God, His hope, His love and His way. Through us, the Lord can touch so many more other people in this world, and this is our calling as Christians, to do God’s will and to live our lives faithfully in the way that He has shown and taught us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church and in our respective involvements, in our Church ministries and organisations, there should be no quarrel, infighting and power-playing that unfortunately often happen because we as fellow Christians, instead of dedicating our works and efforts to serve the Lord and focusing our attention on Him, we focus our attention on ourselves instead, and seeking to satisfy our own personal ambitions and desires. That is why we end up having so many issues and conflicts, factionalism and infighting even among the members of the Church and its various communities and bodies.

Not only that, but even outside the Church, and within our own respective circles of friends and families, we should be the ones to bear forth the goodness of God’s love and truth rather than being the source of division or suffering for others. Too often we have heard how people were being scandalised and turned off by the actions of Christians who did not live their lives as how Christians should, and instead they lived their lives in the manner of the world, and often even worse than how non-Christians behave themselves. This is why, each and every one of us, whenever and wherever we are, we have to do our best to live our lives righteously and worthily in the manner that God has shown us.

May the Lord our most loving God and Master continue to watch over each and every one of us, and may He strengthen us all with the courage and resolve to follow Him and to walk ever always in His path and presence, resisting the many temptations present all around us that we do not end up falling into the traps that the evil ones had intentionally set before us to bring about our downfall. Let us all seek the Lord ever more fervently and spend more of our time and effort to do His will, and to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. May God bless our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 17 : 5-10

At that time, the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord said, “If you have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted, and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it will obey you.”

“Who among you would say to your servant, coming in from the fields after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Go ahead and have your dinner?’ No, you tell him, ‘Prepare my dinner. Put on your apron, and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink afterward.’”

“Do you thank this servant for doing what you told him to do? I do not think so. And therefore, when you have done all that you have been told to do, you should say, ‘We are no more than servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Timothy 1 : 6-8, 13-14

For this reason, I invite you to fan into a flame, the gift of God you received, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not confer on us a spirit of fearfulness, but of strength, love and good judgment. Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in labouring for the Gospel, with the strength of God.

Follow the pattern of the sound doctrine which you have heard from me, concerning faith, and love in Christ Jesus. Keep this precious deposit, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Who lives within us.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Habakkuk 1 : 2-3 and Habakkuk 2 : 2-4

YHVH, how long will I cry for help while You pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and You do not save. Why do You make me see injustice? Are You pleased to look on tyranny? All I see is outrage, violence and quarrels.

Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deterred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us gather together to listen to the words of the Lord and to celebrate together as one whole Church, the Feast of the great saint and Patroness of Missions, the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. On this day we heard of the words from the Scriptures reminding us all to entrust ourselves to the Lord and to follow Him faithfully, to follow Him with all of our hearts and might, and to be like little children in our faith, pure and sincere, and genuine in our desire to love God and to walk in His path, unfettered by the many temptations of the world often present all around us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah, as He told them to have faith in Him and trust in Him, as He would restore peace, glory and happiness to Jerusalem, to His people and nation, and that they would no longer have to suffer or be in agony, as the Lord would be by their side and they would be His people. This was made in the context of how difficult the situation of the people of God at the time of the mission of the prophet Isaiah, and God wanted His people to remain firmly faithful to Him and to entrust themselves to Him, calling on them to turn away from their past, sinful ways.

For back then, many of the people of God had ended up being cast out and exiled from their own lands because of their own sins and disobedience as they allowed themselves to be swayed by their desires and attachments to the world. Those who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, composed on much of the ten tribes that rose in rebellion against the House of David, had been brought into exile by the Assyrians, the mighty empire that came and conquered the lands of Israel and destroyed the cities and towns of Israel, humiliating and crushing them. And all these happened because the Israelites there had not listened to God and His frequent reminders and calls on all of them to repent from their sinful ways. God had sent His many prophets, servants and messengers to call on them to repent, but they refused to pay attention and even persecuted those prophets.

In the southern kingdom of Judah, where the prophet Isaiah ministered in, the people of God had also not always been faithful to God and had from time to time falling again and again into sinful paths. They had not always listened to the words of the Lord, and rebelled against Him. They too have suffered at the hands of their neighbours and enemies, and back then, they were also under threat from the growing might of the Assyrians. But the Lord reassured them and told them that if they were to put their faith in Him, they truly had nothing to fear. God would restore the glory of Jerusalem and His kingdom to the people who were faithful to Him, and they would once again rejoice in His presence.

The main reason why the people had not been faithful and continued to fall into sin, again and again was because they were too attached to the worldly matters and concerns, desires and other things that kept them chained to the path of sin and disobedience against God. They were all too busy with their many attachments to worldly matters to attend to God and they ignored His calls because they were all too busy and preoccupied in seeking more worldly things, of wealth and glory, of fame and status, of many other satisfactions and pleasures in life. Due to all these, they kept on growing further and further away from God and His righteous path.

And that is exactly why we should heed what the Lord Jesus Himself had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that unless we follow the Lord in the manner that the little children were following Him, then we all can have no place in God’s kingdom. At that time, as mentioned, the disciples were then arguing amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and they were competing and arguing that each one of them had better merits and worth to be the ones trusted by the Lord, to be part of His inner circle. But in doing that, they essentially opened themselves to the temptations of Satan and the other evil spirits, who always tried to seek our downfall.

That was how we mankind often fell into sin, because we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, happiness and satisfactions, the desire for money and material wealth, for pleasures of the flesh and the comfort of the world, in various forms, and in indulging upon our many desires and wants in this world. Through these things, the devil and all of his wicked allies were trying hard always to snatch us from the path towards God and His salvation and grace. And unless we make the conscious efforts to resist the temptations to sin, then we may likely fall deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the life and examples set by one of our holy predecessors whose feast we celebrate today as just mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, namely St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. This holy servant of God was also often known as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’ and was remembered for her intense devotion to God and for her faith and holy life, as well as for her propagation of her ‘Little Way’ which were what she was mostly remembered and commemorated for. Even up to this day, the impact from her life and contributions are still enormous and can still be easily felt.

St. Therese of Lisieux was a Discalced Carmelite nun who had strong devotion to the Lord since her early youth, and who was inspired to join the religious convent at the very young age of fifteen. She grew up in a very devout and religious family, and her parents, who later on became saints themselves. St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, inspired their children to live a life of virtue and dedication to God, and all of their children became religious and dedicated their lives to God, including that of St. Therese of Lisieux herself. And when her mother passed away in her life, St. Therese was drawn closer to God, finding her refuge in Him.

Despite suffering from ill health throughout her life, St. Therese of Lisieux remained firm in her commitment to God and in her desire to be a religious devoted completely to God. St. Therese also began to experience visions and other mystical experiences from early in in her life. St. Therese was well-known for her night of ‘complete conversion’ experience, in which she experienced a great mystical vision and the liberating and comforting presence of God, solidifying her desire to commit herself to the Lord. Eventually, after a period of discernment and after some arrangements, St. Therese joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery.

She was remembered for her constant care for others, and for her prayers for sinners, such as for one convicted murderer, Henri Pranzini, whom she prayed for daily for his conversion before he was due to be executed for his crimes. She was also remembered for her great sanctity and her adherence to what is now known as St. Therese’s ‘Little Way’. This ‘Little Way’ constitutes the need for all of us as Christians to commit ourselves to God even in the smallest and the littlest things we can do on each days and in every moments of our lives. St. Therese said that it is in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we gradually build up our approach towards the eternal kingdom of God.

The faith and dedication which was shown by St. Therese of Lisieux should remind all of us that as Christians, we have the calling and responsibility to reach out to our fellow men and to be the genuine witnesses of our Christian faith and truth. We are all called and in fact, challenged to do whatever we can to glorify God and to proclaim His Holy Name, His truth and love to the world, by the simplest things we do in life. We do not have to think of great and ambitious things, as in fact, many of those who seek for great things to do, end up disappointed, and not just that, but many ended up doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to serve their own pride and vainglory, their own desires and ambitions rather than to fulfil their role as servants and followers of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that each one of us as Christians have that important responsibility, for all of us to contribute in whichever ways we can, in our respective areas and missions entrusted to us, in our own daily living and activities. All of us are indeed missionaries, and we have to realise that mission entails even things as simple as us proclaiming the Lord through our own exemplary and virtuous lives. That is why St. Therese of Lisieux is the Patroness of Missions, reminding us not to have the misconception that missions can only take place in faraway and distant lands, or in great missionary efforts, but in fact, mission happens in each and every moments of our lives.

Let us all therefore do our best to proclaim the Lord as His missionaries of faith, hope and charity, and do our best, inspired by the good examples of St. Therese of Lisieux and the innumerable other saints, holy men and women of God, that we may always be virtuous and worthy in our actions, words and deeds, even in the smallest things. Let us all strive to be holy and inspirational to others, leading a most Christian living in our daily lives to the best of our abilities. May the Lord continue to bless us and strengthen us in our efforts and endeavours, and may St. Therese of Lisieux, of the Child Jesus continue to pray for us and intercede for us sinners, always. Amen.

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 1-3

O YHVH, my heart is not proud nor do I have arrogant eyes. I am not engrossed in ambitious matters, nor in things too great for me.

I have quieted and stilled my soul, like a weaned child, on its mother’s lap; like a contented child is my soul.

Hope in YHVH, o Israel, now and forever.

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 66 : 10-14

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.

For it shall be known that YHVH’s hand is with His servant, but His fury is upon His enemy.

Friday, 30 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained within the Scriptures, let us all be reminded of the need for each and every one of us to believe in the Lord and His words, and entrust ourselves to Him, with ever greater fidelity and commitment each day. All of us are reminded through what we have heard today, of the limitations of our human selves and existences, and how we have to open ourselves and listen to the Lord speaking to us and revealing His truth to us. We have to believe in Him and entrust ourselves in His hands.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of Job of what God spoke to Job towards the end of his tale, after he had gone through great sufferings and troubles, humiliations and attacks against him by even those who were close to him, because he was attacked by Satan, who took away all of his possessions, material wealth and even those who were dear to him like his own children. In the end, Job himself had to suffer from painful and itchy boils when Satan continued to strike against him in trying to make him to betray and abandon God. Yet, Job remained faithful to God and did not leave the Lord. Not even his sufferings and trials could dissuade him or tempt him away from the path towards God.

Job believed in God wholeheartedly even as he despaired. He trusted in Him even when he languished in the terrible state of health, and also derided and abandoned by even those closest to him, cursed and attacked because they thought that Job must have committed a great sin and disobeyed God to have suffered such a great calamity to himself and his family and possessions. Thus, Job and his so-called friends and companions ended up in great debate in which Job himself despaired and blamed himself for what had happened to him, and saying that God should just end his life there and then because of his unworthiness and lack of virtue.

It was there then we heard the Lord kindly rebuking His own servant Job as we listened to our first reading passage today. The Lord told Job that he should not have despaired and thought that he could comprehend the greatness of God, His thought and ways. Whatever happened to Job, God said that everything happened according to His will, and that it was by God’s will that everything came to be a reality, including what God Himself would do for Job at the end of all of his great misery and suffering. God granted Job double and more of all the things that he had lost earlier due to the calamities caused by Satan, and he regained all the joy and wonders of the world because of his unwavering faith in Him.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Jesus cursing several of the cities of Galilee such as Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, all of these because those cities and their people had not believed in the Lord despite everything that He had done before them all. Unlike Job who had believed and trusted in the Lord, remaining faithful to Him even when he was surrounded by the various calamities and not able to see the Lord and His great deeds, the people of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin all had seen the many miracles and wonders of the Lord, and yet they had not believed in Him.

Instead, some among them doubted Him and questioned His authority and the veracity of His works and wonders. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them in particularly kept on hounding Him and His disciples in trying to find way to discredit Him and putting many obstacles in His path. That is part of the reason why the Lord, in His righteous anger, rebuked those cities and all those within them who had hardened their hearts and minds against Him, and refused to listen to Him and His truth, despite all the things and wonderful signs which He had performed before their own eyes, and which they had witnessed on their own.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall these words of the Scriptures, we are also reminded therefore of our calling as Christians to trust in the Lord despite our trials and challenges, because the Lord alone is the source of all our hopes and salvation. And today, we should be inspired by the examples shown by our holy predecessor in faith, one great saint and servant of God, namely St. Jerome, who was remembered most for his great contribution in the translation of the Bible from its Greek Septuagint and Hebrew origins to the Latin Vulgate version, which allowed the faithful people of God in many places to have greater access to the truth contained within the Word of God in the Scriptures.

St. Jerome translated the Scriptures as part of his many other works and writings, which he carried out for the good of the Church and the people of God. And in his role in assisting the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, who entrusted to him many matters including the translation of the Scriptures itself, and the reforms of the Church, many considered St. Jerome as a precursor of the Cardinals in the Church, as one of the closest confidants and collaborators of the Roman Pontiff. St. Jerome also encouraged greater holiness and sanctity among the people he was working and interacting with, encouraging them to be ever closer to God in their ways of life. He had to face many challenges and trials, oppositions and troubles, and yet, St. Jerome remained firm in his faith and trusted God in all things.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Jerome whose memory we venerate today, as well as Job, the holy, devout and committed man of God. Let us all glorify God by our lives and let us entrust ourselves ever more to the Lord so that in all things, we may always be great and faithful witnesses of His truth, glory and resurrection. May God be with us always and may He bless us in our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.