Thursday, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 26-40

An Angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south towards the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert road.” So he set out and it happened that an Ethiopian was passing along that way. He was an official in charge of the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians; he had come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was on his way home. He was sitting in his carriage and reading the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and catch up with that carriage.” So Philip ran up and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah; and he asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He then invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

This was the passage of Scripture he was reading : He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered; like a lamb that is dumb before the shearer, He did not open His mouth. He was humbled and deprived of His rights. Who can speak of His descendants? For He was uprooted from the earth.

The official asked Philip, “Tell me, please, does the prophet speak of himself or of Someone else?” Then Philip began to tell him the Good News of Jesus, using this text of Scripture as his starting point. As they travelled down the road they came to a place where there was some water. Then the Ethiopian official said, “Look, here is water; what is to keep me from being baptised?”

And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the carriage to stop; both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water and Philip baptised him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The Ethiopian saw him no more, but he continued on his way full of joy.

Philip found himself at Azotus, and he went about announcing the Good News in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Virgins)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, all of us heard about the account of the creation of Man, how God created the first of our kind and gave him life. He blessed them and gave them many things, and also the command and stewardship over the earth. It was also mentioned that God laid an important commandment to man, that he must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, a story which we are surely well acquainted with.

In that story we heard of how the first man, Adam and the first woman, Eve disobeyed God, when Satan disguised as a serpent tempted them to eat a fruit from the tree, and therefore gaining knowledge over good and evil to become like God their Creator. That was how mankind sinned and therefore were cast out of the Gardens of Eden, and were forced to endure sufferings on earth as a result of their disobedience.

But now let us ask this question to ourselves. Was it the forbidden fruit from the tree that had caused mankind to sin and to become wicked? Or was it because they themselves were unable to restrain their greed and failed to resist the temptations of the devil? This would become significant if we look into the Gospel passage today, where Jesus mentioned to the Pharisees and to the teachers of the Law, in their dispute about the rules of the laws that the latter tried to impose on the people of God.

We have to understand the dynamics and the historical developments of that time if we are to understand why Jesus struggled with these people, who refused to budge and adamantly tried to advance their own thinking against the truth revealed to all by God through Jesus. At that time, the Pharisees strictly enforced the rule of food prohibitions, or what is now known as the kosher rule.

They followed the old rule of Moses, which the Lord passed down to the people in the guidelines of what they ought to eat and not to eat. But at that time, the people of Israel were travelling in the desert, and they were truly rebellious and refused to obey the Lord and His ways. That was why God imposed on them the set of laws, rules and regulations that He had put in place so as to help them to control themselves and to help guide them on the way towards righteousness.

But God never intended for the laws to become a burden for His people, or as a tool to make people to lord it over others just because they conform to the rules, and while others did not. It was never God’s intention for His people to misunderstand the real meaning of His laws. Yet, that was precisely what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

These people were too focused on the external applications of the Law, to the point that they were blinded to their own shortcomings and failures. They were so focused on the purity of their externals and all the observations of the laws they so carefully guarded, they had forgotten the most important commandment of all, that is to love and serve the Lord with all of their might and strength.

Many of the things which they had done, they did them in order to be seen and to be praised by the people who saw them. Many might have seen how they have observed fully the entirety of the laws of Moses, all of its rules and tenets, but on the other hand, as just mentioned, their intention for doing all these were wrong. God did not have the place of honour in their hearts as He should have.

It was just as how it was at the time of Adam and Eve. At that time, they disobeyed God and therefore sinned. It was not because of the fruit they ate that they have sinned, but because from their own hearts, wickedness had arisen, the inability to restrain their greed and desires which Satan used in order to bring about our downfall. In the same manner therefore, what Jesus said was very true, that what made someone impure is not something that we eat and bring in from the outside, but rather what came out from ourselves.

God created all things good and perfect, and therefore it is not right indeed to say that anything is impure or unclean. Rather, it was what had come out from our hearts that had led us into sin. It was our vulnerabilities and our tendency to fall into the temptations of worldliness which had brought us into sin, rather than anything else outside ourselves.

It is often that we, like the Pharisees and the elders, refused to see this truth because we are proud, and we do not want to lose our face, knowing that we are not perfect inside us, but dirty and wicked. And therefore, we put on masks of purity and piety, in order to hide the fact that we are sinners and delinquent rebels before God and men. But what we are doing is that we are just running away from the problem, and often, we end up in denial, which leads us all into an even greater sin, that is the refusal to repent from our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where perhaps we should look up to the examples of the holy saints we venerate and glorify today, namely St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita. St. Jerome Emiliani was an Italian priest whose deeds among the orphans and those who were suffering then, was greatly noted by his contemporaries, as he worked hard to ensure that these people were properly taken care of and not abandoned.

St. Jerome Emiliani established places for these people to settle in, renting houses for this purpose, and increasingly, there were more and more pious and loving people who followed in his footsteps and stepped in to help the orphans and the poor people to be able to have a decent living. Eventually a religious society founded upon the ideals and the works of St. Jerome Emiliani was established, through which many people would go on to follow in the footsteps of this great and holy saint.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was a former slave turned a pious nun, born in Sudan in northern Africa, and was sold to slavery at a very young age, when she was kidnapped by slave traders who sold her to the slave market. She was also sold and resold a few times between slave owners, which experiences troubled and traumatised her greatly.

Eventually she was bought by an Italian vice-consul, and through difficult moments, managed to make her way to Italy, where she received the faith and became one of the converts. She also managed to gain her freedom, and upon baptism, she chose to join the convent of religious sisters, becoming one of the Canossian sisters.

She eventually continued to serve God and His people dutifully, renowned for her great piety and faith, in her zeal in the service of God, and in how her holiness shone through her actions in life. She never forgot her experiences in life, how she had suffered through slavery and all the other injustices, and yet, as the perfect example of Christian love and virtue, it was told that when one youth asked her if she would forgive her captors and slavers, she immediately said without hesitation that she would forgive them, for without them, she would not be a Christian, a religious, and indeed, later a saint.

The examples of these two venerable saints can be our inspiration in life, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must follow in their footsteps, doing good in our lives, and not be trapped by our pride, our folly and our stubbornness to accept God’s grace, forgiveness and love. We must learn to be faithful as St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita had been faithful, and learn to love as they have loved.

May the Lord help us all, so that we may emulate the lives of His wonderful saints, and practice what they themselves had done, in our own lives. May the Lord bless us all and our works, so that they will bring much good to this world, and bring righteousness and justice upon ourselves, that we will be worthy of the Lord, and worthy to receive His promise of eternal life, purified from all of our sins. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Virgins)
Mark 7 : 14-23

At that time, Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?” Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean.

And He went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Virgins)
Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Virgins)
Genesis 2 : 4b-9, 15-17

On the day that YHVH God made the earth and the heavens, there was not yet on earth any shrub on the fields, nor had any plant yet sprung up, for YHVH God had not made it rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the earth, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the surface of the earth.

Then YHVH God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He placed Man whom He had created. YHVH God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of life on the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

YHVH God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to take care of it. Then YHVH God gave an order to Man saying, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die.”

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Zephaniah 3 : 1-2, 9-13

Woe to the rebellious, the defiled, the city that oppresses. She did not pay attention to the call nor accept the correction; she did not trust YHVH nor did she approach her God.

At that time I will give truthful lips to the pagan nations that all of them may call on the Name of YHVH and serve Him with the same zeal. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia they will bring offerings to Me. On that day you will no longer be ashamed of all your deeds when you were unfaithful to Me; I will have removed from your midst the conceited and arrogant, and My holy mountain will no longer be for you a pretext for boasting.

I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.

Friday, 4 December 2015 : 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 29 : 17-24

In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day, the deaf will hear the words of the Book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see.

The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down – those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.

Therefore YHVH, Abraham’s Redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob : No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of My hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify My Name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel.

Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.