Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses in this way, you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11

At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce fighting, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.

When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has YHVH allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the Ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that YHVH may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the Ark of YHVH Who is seated on the Cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Ark.

As soon as the Ark of YHVH entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the Ark of YHVH had been brought to the camp.

The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A God has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods Who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues – and in the desert. Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, o Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews in the same way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.”

So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Isaiah 30 : 19-21, 23-26

O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, He will listen; when He hears, He will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, He, your Teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see Him, and your ear will listen to His words behind you : “This is the way, walk in it.”

He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill.

The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when YHVH binds up the wounds of His people and heals the bruises inflicted by His blows.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope 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 God, we are all reminded of the great power of God and His most loving compassion and mercy, through the works which He has shown to us, by which He has manifested Himself before all of us, His people, that we all may know the existence of our most Almighty God and Saviour, the One Whom we ought to love and show our dedication and commitment to.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Wisdom the words of the Lord spoken and directed towards the kings and rulers of the world. The Lord spoke through the author of the Book of Wisdom, which traditionally was attributed to King Solomon, or one of the prophets or some others who compiled the sayings of the Lord, in which He chastised the attitudes of the kings and the rulers who were often corrupt and wicked, who abused their power and authority for their own benefits and causing sufferings to others.

The Lord reminded all of them that all of their power and authority ultimately came from Him, and that they would themselves be held accountable for all of their actions and choices. For all of their good and evil deeds they shall be judged and measured, and those who committed bad and wicked deeds shall be punished for their actions while those who are good and righteous, dutiful and just in being a ruler and governor over the people will be judged in a favourable way in the end.

At that time, many of those rulers and other powerful lords did things without much regard or concern for the poor and the needy in their domain, or anyone else, save for their own desires and wishes for power, for glory and more of the wealth and possessions that many of them already had plenty of. It was these excesses that the Lord condemned and criticised, and through what we have heard today from the Book of Wisdom, all of us are therefore also reminded not to do the same in our own lives. The greater the position we have in the community, the more responsibilities are expected of us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the Lord Who healed the ten lepers who came to Him as outcasts from the community in the wilderness. Ar that time, according to the Law, those who contracted leprosy had to be excluded from the community and had to wander off in the wilderness and away from others until they were cleansed and healed from their leprosy. As long as they were still suffering from the leprosy, they would not be allowed to return back to the community.

The Lord then told them that they would be healed while telling them to go and show themselves to the priests. On the way, as mentioned, they were all healed, but only one of them, a Samaritan actually went back to the Lord Jesus and thanked Him, while the other nine all were too happy and joyful that they just went on their way and not even showing any gratitude to the Lord for having healed them. The fact that it was a Samaritan who had the faith made it even more ironic, as Samaritans then were considered by the Jews as being pagans and worthy of condemnation.

What the Lord wants us to know from that episode is that all of us have to remember that everything and every blessings have come to us from God, and we must not be prideful in thinking that everything happened for us because of our own success and power. It is not that the Lord expects us to show Him gratitude and thanksgiving. On the contrary, it is by right and justice that all of us must show Him proper reverence and gratitude for all that He had done for us, even for us wicked sinners.

The Lord Himself showed a good example for us to follow, in how He did not even show off His power and glory, as He healed those ten lepers. He could have performed magnificent miracles before them and then told them all to proclaim His works before all the people. No, that was not what He did. What He did was to simply tell them to show themselves to the priests to prove that they had been cured, while the miracles happened quietly and without fanfare. The Lord, the One true authority and font of all power in the Universe, humbly hid Himself and His glory.

That is how all of us as Christians ought to act, with humility and prudence, with true faith and love for God, and not greed and love for ourselves. And today, we all should follow the faithful examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of Pope St. Leo the Great, whose feast we celebrate this very day. Pope St. Leo the Great can show us what it means for us to be faithful Christians and to obey God and His will in our lives, in remaining humble before Him and in staying true to our faith.

Pope St. Leo the Great was the first Pope to be called the Great, and he was the Pope and Leader of the entire Universal Church during crucial moments in the history of the world and Christendom. At that time, the Western Roman Empire and the city of Rome itself had been beset by barbarian invasions, and there were much devastation caused in those difficult years of conflicts and wars. At the same time, the Church had also faced a lot of problems with heretical and unorthodox teachings, most prominently the heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism, which both were at the extremes of the Christian theology, threatening to break the Church apart.

Pope St. Leo the Great was a powerful figure, a humble yet very respected leader throughout Christendom, who devoted his time and efforts to care for the needs of his flock, to prevent the Church from falling into heretical ways and to support the Church and the community of the faithful by his great leadership. He also wrote extensively to the bishops and other leaders of Christendom, adhering and affirming to the tradition of the faith of the Apostles, keeping the Church united in the midst of divisions and disagreements. He stopped the barbarian hordes of Attila the Hun, which until then was mostly unstoppable, and prevented Rome itself from being sacked and destroyed by those Huns.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope St. Leo the Great through his actions, leadership and great personal qualities and humility showed us how each and every one of us can become faithful Christians in our own way of life. Are we all willing to follow his good examples and practice our faith courageously and devotedly the way that he had done? Let us all discern these carefully, and pray to the Lord, asking Him to guide us in our journey, that we may make the right decisions and choices, to walk in the path that God has set before us.

May the Lord continue to guide us and remain with us, and may He empower us all to live faithfully as true and genuine Christians, in all things and not just in formality and name only. May all of us who are entrusted with power and authority also use them with prudence and with genuine care and concern for those who are placed under their care and for others. May God bless us and all of our efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 11-19

At that time, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee, and as He entered a village, ten lepers came to meet Him. Keeping their distance, they called to Him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

Jesus said to them, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” Then, as they went on their way, they found they were cured. One of them, as soon as he saw that he was cleansed, turned back, praising God in a loud voice; and throwing himself on his face before Jesus, he gave Him thanks. This man was a Samaritan.

Then Jesus asked him, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Did none of them decide to return and give praise to God, but this foreigner?” And Jesus said to him, “Stand up and go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 81 : 3-4, 6-7

Give justice to the weak and the orphan; defend the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the helpless and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“You are gods,” I said, “You are all sons of the Most High.” But now, you will die like the others; you will all fall, like any mortal.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Wisdom 6 : 1-11

Listen, o kings, and understand; rulers of the most distant lands, take warning. Pay attention, you who rule multitudes and boast of the numerous subjects in your pagan nations!

For authority was given you by the Lord, your kingship is from the Most High Who will examine your works and scrutinise your intentions. If, as officials of His kingdom, you have not judged justly or observed His law or walked the way God pointed our, He will oppose you swiftly and terribly; His sentence strikes the mighty suddenly.

For the lowly there may be excuses and pardon, but the great will be severely punished. For the Lord of all makes no distinction, nor does He take account of greatness. Both great and lowly are His work and He watches over all, but the powerful are to be judged more strictly.

It is to you then, sovereigns, that I speak, that you may learn Wisdom and not stumble. For those who keep the holy laws in a holy way will be acknowledged holy, and those who accept the teaching will find in it their defence. Welcome my words, desire them and they will instruct you.

Thursday, 28 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are brought to attention of the fact that all of us as Christians have received the calling to proclaim the Word of God, the truth of God and be faithful witnesses of our Christian faith in the midst of our respective communities and societies. Unless we do this, we cannot truly call ourselves as Christians, and our faith is merely one that is a formality and not genuine.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples using a parable, of that of the light placed on a lampstand. By using that parable, the Lord wanted all of us to know that we must never be passive or be ignorant of our calling to be the bearers of God’s light and truth in the midst of our communities. The light that He referred to in the parable represent the truth that He Himself had brought into this world and which we had received, through His Church.

It also represents all the gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities we have received and been blessed with by God. Thus, whatever it is that we have received from God, we should not take for granted and we should make good use of them, in whatever opportunity we have, to be good disciples and followers of Christ. And what does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we should be His genuine witnesses, to bear His love in the midst of our communities, among the members of our own families and relatives and in our circle of friends and to those whom we encounter daily in life.

As our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews highlighted to us, we proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, the One true and Eternal High Priest Who had come into this world, accepting His mission to be the One to offer the perfect and worthy sacrifice for the sake of our salvation. And this sacrifice was none other than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, to be both the High Priest offering for our sake and the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice. By the outpouring of His Blood, His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has brought us a new hope of eternal life through Him.

This ultimate and most selfless love of Our Lord is what we are proclaiming, brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us should therefore first of all, love the Lord with all of our might and heart, and then, do our best to show the same love towards our fellow men, to our brothers and sisters. It is then by our actions and deeds, together with our words and love that we may inspire many others to believe in God as well, and they may also follow in our footsteps and receive God’s grace as well.

For ourselves, we can also be inspired by the faith and examples showed by St. Thomas Aquinas whose feast we are celebrating this very day. St. Thomas Aquinas was the famous theologian, known as among the best if not the best of those who seek to understand more of the nature of God in theology. He was renowned for his pivotal work, the Summa Theologiae. He was also remembered for his many other contributions, writings and works which still influenced and inspired so many people long after his passing.

St. Thomas Aquinas was however also remembered for his great love for the Lord, in his tireless desire to glorify God and to lead a holy and exemplary life. And for his dedication to love the Lord and his efforts, all of us should also be inspired and be strengthened in our faith. All of us have so much potential in us to be great in our commitment and works, in touching the lives of others positively and in being genuine witnesses of our Lord at all times.

Let us all proclaim the Lord and His truth most wholeheartedly each and every moments of our lives, through even our smallest and least significant of actions. Let us all be genuine in loving God and in dedicating ourselves to Him just as St. Thomas Aquinas had done, and as our many holy predecessors had done and lived through their lives. Let us all glorify the Lord by our lives and be true to our Christian faith, at all times. Amen.