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.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021 : 4th 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and as we come ever closer to the celebration of Christmas in just a few more days, all of us are reminded that God loves us all, and we are all precious and cherished by Him. We should be grateful and feeling very fortunate to have been treasured in such a way by our loving God, and to have experienced His most wonderful love and grace. God has always ever been patient in loving us despite our many transgressions and mistakes, as He wants us to return to Him and rediscover the love that we all should have for Him.

The Lord has promised us all His salvation, and has always proved His love for us from the very beginning, never abandoning us even in the moments of our greatest distress. He has always put us all first and foremost in His thoughts, and He always endeavoured to reach out to us, trying to find us and to redeem us so that we may not be forever lost to Him. And that was why He came down into our midst, through His most Blessed Mother Mary, the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mother of God, who went to visit Elizabeth, her cousin in our Gospel passage today.

Elizabeth recognised Mary and the One inside her womb, the Saviour of the whole world and the Lord Himself, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has taken up the human existence and form in the flesh, to bring His salvation into our midst. The Lord has revealed Himself to us, the fullness of His love, through His incarnation and then His birth into this world. The world that was once in the darkness and in the shadows of evil and wickedness has finally seen the truth, love and salvation from God.

That is the true essence of Christmas, which often sadly had been forgotten by the world, by many of us, even we who called ourselves as Christians. We have forgotten what the Lord had done for us and sidelined Him because we have little faith in Him. We are easily distracted by the many temptations and worldly desires present in this world. These had misled us down the wrong path and caused us to be separated further and further away from God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, we are therefore reminded of the need for us to respond to God’s love and to answer His call. He has called all of us to follow Him and to entrust ourselves completely to His care and to believe in His hope and light, in His truth and way. But in order to do so, first of all, we need to reject firmly the temptations of our worldly concerns and desires.

Today, all of us are celebrating the feast of a great saint whose life, works and devotion to God and His Blessed Mother Mary can be great source of inspiration and strength for all of us. St. Peter Canisius was a renowned Jesuit priest and teacher of the faith, who dedicated his life in serving God. Born as Peter Kanis in what is today the Netherlands, the future saint would come to join the Society of Jesus together with other famous saints like St. Francis Xavier and its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

St. Peter Canisius dedicated himself in the many efforts of Counter Reformation in what is today Germany, seeking to undo and repair the damages caused to the Church and the communities of the faithful by the false teachings of the heresy of Protestantism back then. He laboured hard among the people, teaching the faith and revealing the truth about Church teachings and tenets, in a way that is both understandable, respectful and conciliatory.

He once remarked that the right manner and attitude must be used in persuading the lapsed ones to return to the Holy Mother Church, saying that if a forceful method is used, then it may end up preventing the healing of the division within the Church of God. To that extent, he continued to work hard to bridge the divisions among the people of God, and managed throughout his efforts to convert and convince many to abandon their rebellion and return to the true Church of God.

St. Peter Canisius was also well known for his Catechism, which was widely published and reproduced, which resulted in the great rejuvenation of faith among the people and the increase in the number of people who began to appreciate the true teachings of the Church more, and many others deepened their under his guidance and through their understanding and exposure to his works. He was also known for his Mariology and devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, and was credited with the last line in the Hail Mary prayer, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Canisius in his faith and dedication to the Lord. Let us all devote ourselves ever more to Him and His Blessed Mother, while reminding ourselves of what we are celebrating this Christmas, of Christ Our Lord, Whose love for us and His generous mercy and compassion has saved us from certain destruction. May God be with us always, and may He continue to love us, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021 : 4th 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!”

Tuesday, 21 December 2021 : 4th 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.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021 : 4th 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, 14 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, 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 Scriptures, we are called to remember our duty and responsibility to listen to the Lord, to obey Him and follow His ways and teachings. The Lord has shown us all the way, and He calls on us to follow Him that we may become His people, His disciples and followers. And through His truth, He shall gather us all into His presence and free us from the fetters and chains of our bondage to sin and evil.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, in that occasion, God spoke to His people through the prophet who lived during the time of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of Judah who happened to be also the last among the righteous kings. At that time, so that we can understand better the context of the words of the Lord, the people of God had been scattered and divided among the nations, as the former northern kingdom of Israel had been crushed and destroyed, while the southern kingdom of Judah had gone through many periods of difficulties and defeats against their enemies.

And all these happened because the people had not always stayed faithful to the Lord, as their kings and lords led them to sin and disobey the Lord, false prophets and teachings going rampant all over the whole land. They had strayed from the guidance shown by the prophets and the messengers of God, and they had turned a deaf ear against those who had called on them to return to the Lord and to repent from their sins. They had not heeded the Lord’s call that He had made repeatedly calling on them to return to Him with faith.

That was why God smote His people who had been rebellious against Him, that all those who disobeyed Him knew what it meant for them to go against His will and for walking in the path of wickedness and evil. While God is always loving, compassionate and merciful, but we must not forget that He is also a just God Who upholds justice and truth. No sin and evil can stand before Him unaccounted for and unless we have sought Him for forgiveness and mercy, then we will need to account for our sins and wickedness.

Yet, He still loved us nonetheless and still wanted all of us to be reunited and reconciled with Him, as He fulfilled His promises made through the prophets, promising all of us that salvation would come in His Messiah, Whom He later revealed to be none other than His own Son, Himself descended in the flesh and taking up the form and existence of Man. In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, God has extended to us the loving hands and outreach of His ever generous love, compassion and mercy. Despite our constant stubbornness and delinquency, our persistence to sin and disobey Him, God still wants us to come back to Him.

That is why in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking to the people using the parable of a father and his two sons, reminding all of us that what is important for God is for us to follow Him, in not just words but also actions, as there is no point for us to speak of faith in the Lord and yet in our actions, we are not doing what someone faithful to God should be doing. And without God being truly present in our hearts, without true and genuine love for the Lord, then our faith is dead, meaningless and empty. We are no better than hypocrites.

Today, all of us should follow the great examples set by St. John of the Cross, whose feast day we are celebrating this day. St. John of the Cross was a famous co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites together with St. Teresa of Avila, another great saint of the Church. They worked together and did their best to reform the then corrupted and divergent Carmelite order, to return to the original designs and aims of the order’s founders and eliminate the excesses and creeping worldly corruptions.

St. John of the Cross was also a great figure in the Counter Reformation, in his efforts and works to bring many of those who have fallen to the sway of heresy and false teachings to return to the Mother Church. Through his writings, numerous theological works, sharings of his mystical experiences, preaching and tireless dedication, gradually more and more of the faithful began to be touched by his great piety and devotion to God, and many others who have erred and lost their path came back to the Lord with repentance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired to follow the Lord, to be faithful and obedient to Him as St. John of the Cross had done, that is with genuine faith and devotion, and not with false and empty promises and merely superficial faith. Let us truly love the Lord, our most compassionate, loving and patient God, Who has done everything to reach out to us and to save us all from our fated destruction because of our many sins. Let us all look up to His love and generous mercy, and dedicate ourselves anew to Him, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 21 : 28-32

At that time, Jesus went on to say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said to him, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ And the son answered, ‘I do not want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went.”

“Then the father went to his other son and gave him the same command. This son replied, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what the father wanted?” They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you : the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came to show you the way of goodness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.”