Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of the Messiah, the joy and happiness that are associated with the coming of the One Who has been awaited for so long by the people of God, Whose coming has been prophesied and foretold for many years by many prophets and messengers of God. And today, we heard of that moment when salvation was finally about to come into the world, and the joy that came with it.

The coming of the Messiah was foretold, that He would be born among the people of God, as the Heir of David, to receive the glorious kingdom of His forefather David. His coming would usher a new time and era, where God would renew the Covenant that He had made with His people Israel. His coming would also herald a new time of peace, and the reunion and gathering of all the scattered people of God back to Him.

Thus, everyone was expecting the coming of the Messiah, hoping that He will come to free His people from the tyranny of the Romans and all those who oppressed them. In the idea of some, the Messiah would come as a mighty, conquering King, Who will defeat the Romans and reestablish the glorious and mighty kingdom of Israel as how it was during the days of the great kings David and Solomon.

Who would have expected the Lord, King and Saviour to have come in the form of a Baby, born not as a mighty Prince or wealthy and powerful Ruler, but instead, through a poor, humble and yet devout young virgin, Mary of Nazareth in Galilee? But to those to whom God has given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they recognised the presence of the Saviour, as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of St. John the Baptist recognised the Lord’s presence in Mary’s womb.

St. John the Baptist, the one foretold to be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah, also recognised his Lord and Saviour. In the other part of the Gospel, we also heard how Simeon the old priest recognised the Lord when the Lord Jesus was brought for His presentation at the Temple, as well as the prophetess Anna. There are many other occasions where the people recognised their Messiah in their midst, but unfortunately, there are even many more who did not recognise Him.

There were those who rejected the truth and the message which the Lord has revealed to them, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of king Herod’s court, the teachers of the Law and the scribes refused to believe in the Lord, and even considered what He spoke and taught before the people as a heresy and blasphemy before God.

And instead of allowing themselves to listen to the truth which the Lord had brought them, they hardened their hearts and closed their senses and minds from knowing God’s presence and works in their midst. They allowed their pride and haughtiness to get in the way of their own salvation. They thought that they were doing what was right before God, but in reality, as the Lord pointed out, they were only serving their own desires and in trying to satisfy their greed and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, by remembering and reflecting on what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and from what we have just discussed, we are called to reflect on our own lives, and on how we have prepared ourselves for Christmas, that is just a few days away. Have we recognised the presence of God in our midst, He Who loves us so much, that He has given us the perfect and best gift of all, that is Himself?

He gave us His beloved Son, to be one of us, to be in our midst, sharing our humanity, that together, all of us, Who are His brothers and sisters, will be reconciled with our loving Father, through His selfless and perfect sacrifice on the cross, where He gathered willingly all of our sins and faults, and bearing them all on His cross, He suffered and died for our sake, that by His death, we may have a new life in Him.

Have we recognised Him and welcomed Him into our own lives? Or have we been too busy because of the many temptations of our life, that we are unable to recognise Him and His loving works in our midst? Have our Christmas celebrations been so secular and materialistic, as how much of the world celebrates it, year after year, again and again? And have we forgotten the centrality of Christ and His role in our salvation, that is the centre theme and true reason for Christmas?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, one of the great and renowned saints of the Church, a holy and devout servant of God, who dedicated himself to the work of evangelisation and teaching of the people of God. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, a religious order established by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time of a great upheaval and challenge for the Church.

During that time, the Protestant ‘reformation’ was in full swing, in response to the excesses and corruption within the Church. With many people quickly falling into the myriads of misguided and false teachings that unfortunately came about during that time of trials and confusion, the Jesuits, including St. Peter Canisius was at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation effort, which was meant to return the purity of the Christian faith, as well as the evangelisation of the masses of people, especially those who have been separated from the Church.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent took place during that time, where discipline and order were reestablished within the Church, with many corrupt practices and clergy being condemned and removed from the Church. And the Jesuits were sent to many places, some to mission areas in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, and some, including St. Peter Canisius were sent to the parts of Europe where there were rampant misunderstandings of the faith.

St. Peter Canisius, through his many works and writings, his courageous and never-ending effort to clarify the truth about the Christian faith in the Church, managed to convince many thousands and more to return to the true faith. Yet, he did this not through coercion or harsh words, but instead, through love and understanding, through patience and compassionate care for his fellow brethren.

His works on the Catechism, as well as his extensive Mariology, were so well received and so important in the maintenance and spread of the faith even amidst difficult times of heresy and misinformations, that they have inspired many throughout the subsequent years, and were used until this very day in catechism and evangelisation. St. Peter Canisius gave everything for God and devoted his whole life to serve Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have discussed today, and also from the life and works of St. Peter Canisius, we ought to ask ourselves, what we can do in order to emulate his good examples in our own lives. Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves to Him just as he has done? Are we able to spend our time, effort and attention to be with God and to do His will as St. Peter Canisius and surely many other holy men and women had done?

This Christmas, let us all have a profound conversion of heart, mind and soul, and let us all celebrate Christmas with new and greater understanding of the true joy and meaning of Christmas, not in excessive pleasure and revelries, but in the greater love we have for God, and also for our brethren, by the giving of ourselves, our time, compassion and attention, our love for especially those who are needy and who cannot rejoice the way that we are capable of.

Let us all be more generous in our giving, and be compassionate this coming Christmas, so that whatever joy we have, we may always share it with each other. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 11-12, 20-21

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust on His holy Name.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Song of Songs 2 : 8-14

The voice of my Lover! Behold He comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Noe He stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice.

My Lover speaks to me, “Arise, My love, My beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard. The fig tree forms its early fruit, the vines in blossom are fragrant. Arise, My beautiful one, come with Me, My love, come.”

“O My dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice. Your face – how lovely! Your voice – how sweet!”

Alternative reading

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day, they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading passage, in which he beseeched and asked God to be merciful to His people, for they have been assailed by their enemies, beaten up and in danger of being destroyed and annihilated. At that time, during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah was on its last days of existence, as it was threatened by the power of the mighty Babylonians.

Yet, the people of Judah still refused to listen to the prophet’s warnings and they in fact persecuted him and made life very difficult to him. They arrested him and put him into prison, all because they would rather believe in the false prophets and guides, and in continuing to live in the state of sin, disobeying the Lord’s laws and commandments, profaning His Temple and House.

It was in this context that the prophet Jeremiah made his plea and prayer before God, for the sins of the people were very great indeed. If they continued to live as they were, their punishment and the consequences for their sins would be very great. Nothing would have been left of the people which God had led into the Promised Land of Canaan, and just as their northern neighbours, they would face destruction and annihilation unless they repented from their sins.

In the end, the people of Judah lost their kingdom, and they lost their Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians together with Jerusalem, which was sacked at the end of the kingdom of Judah. Most of the inhabitants, God’s people, were brought into exile in the faraway lands of Babylon, and what the prophets had prophesied and foretold for a long time became a stark reality. But eventually the people repented and turned back to God.

They realised the suffering and humiliation they endured, caused by the disobedience of their ancestors, and led by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, they would return to their homeland many decades later, to rebuild their cities, as well as the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They repented their sinful ways and cast aside many of the wicked acts and corruptions that had led their ancestors to sin.

And all of these showed us God’s true and enduring love for us all, His people. He despised our sins and wickedness, but in the end, He still loves each one of us. Every one of us that has been lost to Him because of sin, unrepented in stubbornness, are painful wounds in His heart. He does not desire the destruction of sinners, but rather their repentance, forgiveness and redemption, that all of them may be reconciled with Him.

That is why in the Gospel passage today, the parable of the wheat and weed, we heard about a sower of good seeds, representing God, who went against the enemy who tried to sabotage the field by sowing weeds among the good seeds. The devil is always trying to spread his lies and tempt us to sin, to disobey and rebel against God’s will. That is why the wheat grows up intertwined with the weeds, as there are both good and evil within us.

But God did not outright destroy us for our sins. Indeed, our sins are despicable in His sight, but He allowed us the opportunity to seek forgiveness and to be reconciled with Him, so that, in the end, we will be made worthy and clean again, free from the chains of our sins. Therefore, we will be truly worthy to be called God’s children and as God’s beloved people.

Today, together with the whole Church, all of us celebrate together the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, the largest religious order present in the Church today. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier, born from a noble and rich family in what is today known as Spain, but had a moment of conversion and revelation, in which, he changed his life completely, and devoted himself to a new existence with a new purpose in God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola initially desired for worldly glory, honour and power, as how he was conditioned in within his family environment and noble upbringing. Hence, he joined the military, fighting in the army in order to gain for himself valour, power, fame, recognition and honour, all the things that the world treasured at that time. But he did not find true fulfilment and consolation in them.

When he was grievously injured and imprisoned by his enemies during one particular siege, St. Ignatius of Loyola went through a spiritual conversion in which he was convinced to follow the religious life, called by God to turn away from worldly glory, and instead seek to bring greater glory of God. This would later on become the motto of the Jesuits, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the greater glory of God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola continued to study more about the faith and eventually was ordained as a priest. Gathering likeminded men of his time, filled with zeal and fervour for the faith, as well as missionary zeal, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, which very quickly became the epicentre of the efforts of Counter-Reformation against the false Protestant heresies spreading in many parts of Christendom at that time.

St. Ignatius of Loyola and many of his fellow Jesuits established schools and seminaries, through which the efforts of Counter-Reformation were done, as the spearheads of the Church’s work to call many of those who have fallen into heresy to return to the Mother Church. Many people and many souls were saved because of the works of the Jesuits, and many of them had to suffer persecution for their faith.

The example of St. Ignatius of Loyola shows us all that while all of us are sinners and are unworthy of God because of our sins, but through sincere and genuine repentance, we can truly make a difference in our lives. As the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola has shown us, that God Who has called us to be reconciled with Him can make us into such great instruments of mercy and forgiveness for many others, and many more can be saved, through us, who have been saved first.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we all strive to turn away from our own sinful lives, and from all the wickedness we have committed thus far, which made us all unworthy to be truly called children of God? Let us all be inspired by the fervour and the courage which St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits showed, in the midst of difficulties and even persecution, to do the work of God, and to gain greater glory, not for ourselves, but for the greater glory of God.

May the Lord be glorified through our works, and may He be glorified by the strong and living faith present in each and every one of us. May He continue to bless us and all of our works, that we may truly walk the path to the eternal glory and true joy that God alone can give, and not the world. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 36-43

At that time, Jesus sent the crowds away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” Jesus answered them, “The One Who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, and the workers are the Angels.”

“Just as the weeds are pulled up and burnt in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send His Angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. And these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the just will shine, like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear.”

Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die.

Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.