Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to follow the Lord and be His disciples in the most sincere way possible. We should commit ourselves to Him just as His disciples and followers had done, as we heard how the Lord’s disciples, the Twelve and the women who always kept the Lord company followed Him wherever He went, doing His will and all the works for His glory.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy of the reminder that St. Paul the Apostle gave to his godson, St. Timothy, one of the earliest successors of the Apostles as the first of the bishops with regards to the concerns on the false teachings and false guidance from those who had promoted their own distorted ideas, as there were, even then, in the earliest days of the Church, the seeds of divisions and dissensions placed by the devil and his forces, in trying to destroy the Church and the faithful people of God.

St. Paul spoke of how there were those who pursued their own agenda and promoted their own flawed ideas that did not have the fullness of truth or Divine inspiration as the Lord’s disciples, the Apostles and their fellow co-workers had received. They instead caused confusion and divisions for their own glory and worldly pursuit, masquerading as a teacher of the faith while being the agent of the evil one, who used them to spread these divisions and confusion, and strike at the most vulnerable among the Lord’s flock.

Hence, St. Paul through his words reminded us that we have to be vigilant against all those that sowed dissension and divisions among us, and all those who sought to have personal gains over that of the people of God. All of us should be careful and do not easily allow the devil to have his way over us. We must remain true to our faith and understand what we believe in so that we will not be swayed by those false teachings and ideas. And it is also a reminder for us that we should not be tempted by worldly desires and end up corrupting others for the sake of our own personal glory.

Today all of us are called to remember the commitment which all of us are called to make as the disciples and followers of the Lord. Looking upon the examples that the Holy Apostles and disciples of the Lord had shown, we can see how they had given their all in serving the Lord, in preaching the truth of God and in delivering His love to all, even at times disregarding their own safety and comfort. They laboured for many years in proclaiming the words of God and enduring many persecutions, and at times they also had to go against the false teachings and heresies as St. Paul himself had to contend with.

Nonetheless, they persevered and committed themselves to the Lord without hesitation, spending a lot of effort and time, keeping their focus on the Lord throughout. They might falter and fail, but with the help, strength and grace from God, they went up again, and again, never giving up the works and efforts for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of their fellow brothers and sisters. It is this spirit and faith that our holy predecessors had, which we all should also have in our own lives, in our own faith in God.

Today, we also remember the memory of two great saints and Doctors of the Church, whose lives have been exemplary and works great and numerous, in leading so many people towards the Lord. First of all, St. Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit Cardinal, as a great reformer of the Church, and had a great and immense contribution to the Church teachings and theology. As a great teacher of theology, he inspired and spearheaded a great part of the efforts of the Counter-Reformation against those who divided the Church with their false and heretical teachings.

His great knowledge, wisdom and intellectual understanding of theology and other aspects of the faith were very notable, and the Pope himself took note of his efforts and achievements, making him the Rector of the Roman College and eventually as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and as a Cardinal Inquisitor was instrumental in leading through many aspects of Church reforms and in maintaining the integrity of the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition of the Church amidst a period of confusion and division among the faithful.

Then, the other saint whose memory we remember today, namely St. Hildegard of Bingen was canonised just less than a decade ago by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and then declared as a Doctor of the Church in that very same year. Her feast was added definitively to the Roman Calendar this year by Pope Francis, to celebrate her great faith and piety, her deep spiritual relationship with God and numerous works through which she inspired many who came to read of her works in remaining faithful to God.

St. Hildegard of Bingen was remembered as a great mystic and a theologian, who received visions of God throughout her life, as a monastic nun, dedicating her whole life to God. Even since a very young age, St. Hildegard of Bingen had received her visions, and later on in life, she wrote of her visions and experiences, which were widely known later after her passing. In her visions, St. Hildegard experienced the vision of God, in her various senses, experiencing the Light of God, which she described as the Three Shades of the Light of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each of these two wonderful saints served the Lord in their own unique ways, and they followed in the path set by the Lord before them, and following in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. Are we also able to follow in their footsteps and examples, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to embrace the Lord in the same way that they had done, and giving our time, effort and attention wholeheartedly to God? Let us all reflect on this and discern how we can be better disciples of the Lord from now on, in our every words, actions and deeds.

May God be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us with His truth that we may always remain true to Him, and remain committed to His truth, and do not fall into the trap of falsehoods and lies that the devil placed all around us. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Psalm 48 : 6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers ring me round – those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

For no ransom avails for one’s life; there is no price one can give to God for it. For redeeming one’s life demands too high a price, and all is lost forever. Who can remain forever alive and never see the grave?

Fear not, when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great; for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

1 Timothy 6 : 2c-12

Teach and stress these things. Whoever teaches in some other way, not following the sound teaching of our Lord Christ Jesus, and true religious instruction, is conceited, and understands nothing. This one is crazy about controversies and discussions, that result in envy, insults, blows and constant arguments between people of depraved minds, and far from the truth. For them, religion is merely for financial gain.

In reality, religion is a treasure, if we are content with what we have. We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us, then, be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps. A lot of foolish and harmful ambitions plunge them into ruin and destruction.

Indeed, the love of money is the root of every evil. Because of this greed, some have wondered away from the faith, bringing on themselves afflictions of every kind. But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life, to which you were called, when you made the good profession of faith, in the presence of so many witnesses.

Monday, 13 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop 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 readings from the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded to entrust ourselves to the Lord, through Christ Himself as the Moderator of the New Covenant between us and God. Christ our Lord has reunited us and the Lord, our God, and by His most loving sacrifice and death on the Cross, He has done all these because He loves each and every one of us without exception, and we should be inspired to follow His loving examples.

St. Paul elaborated on all of these in his Epistle to St. Timothy as mentioned in our first reading passage today. We heard the Apostle telling his godson and fellow servant of God, St. Timothy that God wanted the reconciliation of the whole entire world and for all of mankind to be reconciled with Him in love. To this extent, He has shown us all His enduring love, by His coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, whom St. Paul specifically mentioned in His act of ultimate loving sacrifice on the Cross, as He gave His life for the salvation of all.

If it was not for the love of God, all of us would have perished, and God could have erased us from existence with the mere simple will of His mind alone. Yet, He did not do that, and we may be wondering why. That is because He created each and every one of us out of love, of all races and origins, of all of our various communities and nations, of our uniqueness and diversity, all of us are equally beloved by God, no matter our background and our histories. God cares for us and has made us all to share with us His love. St. Paul mentioned all these as he reminds us all also to show God’s love in our own way of life.

Then we also heard from our Gospel passage today of the story from the time when the Lord Jesus encountered the Roman military officer, likely a centurion who had a servant who was very ill and near death, and the officer hoped that the Lord could heal his servant from his condition, and made him whole again. He came to seek the Lord and beseeched Him humbly to ask for His help and assistance. And this is something that is very significant because for someone of his stature and position, it is unprecedented for the Roman centurion to come and seek someone like the Lord Jesus.

Why is that so? That is because the Romans were the elites and the ruling people of the reigning superpower of that time, the Roman Empire, and for a Roman citizen, a truly privileged class at that time, and an army centurion no less, to come and meet with a Jewish teacher of the faith and miracle worker, as how Jesus was known at that time, was indeed unusual. The expectation would have been that the Lord ought to have come to the Roman officer instead to provide His services. And on the contrary, as we heard, not only that the Roman centurion came to the Lord, but He trusted in the Lord so much and had such faith in Him, that he humbly asked Him to command that the disease be driven away from his dear servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that Roman officer had greater faith than many of the Israelites of that time. He was truly a man of God and someone filled with true love, as he was willing to go all the way to seek help and healing for his ailing and dear servant. If he had not loved or cared for his servant, he would not have done so, or bothered to spend the time to look for the Lord, and he would not have humbled himself so before the Lord, being a high ranking Roman officer that he was.

And that is exactly what the Lord Himself had done for us, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are so beloved and precious to God, that He was willing to humble Himself and to go all the way to seek us, to be reconciled with us and to see our healing and redemption. He did all these by offering Himself as the perfect offering and sacrifice for the atonement of all of our sins. We are all therefore reminded of the great and infinite love that God has shown us, and how each and every one of us should respond to Him with faith and love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we not embarrassed and ashamed at the attitude that we have for the Lord as compared to the attitude showed by the Roman army officer? Many of us have not truly loved the Lord sincerely and many among us have treated the Lord with nothing but disdain and ignorance, refusing to commit ourselves to Him and not having the faith that we should have in Him. Instead, we placed our trust more in worldly things and matters, that led us further and further away from Him.

This is where we really should reflect upon the faith that the Roman centurion had in the Lord, and in the love which he has shown to his fellow men, his dear servant whom he cared for and loved. Are we able to follow the Lord and have faith in Him in the same manner? Today, we should also look upon the examples set by yet another great role model of faith, namely that of St. John Chrysostom, a great Doctor of the Church and a truly inspiring saint and servant of God, whose love for God and dedication to Him and His people should be our inspiration.

St. John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople, then the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire, under the reign of the Emperor Arcadius. He was an ascetic earlier in his life, dedicated to the study of theology and other aspects of the Christian faith before becoming a deacon in Antioch and was remembered for his great and eloquent sermons, for which he was honoured as ‘Chrysostom’ which means the ‘golden-mouthed’ and became more and more famous at the time. Many pagans and unbelievers came to believe in God because of his sermons and piety, and many fellow Christians turned away from their sins and erroneous ways through his works.

St. John Chrysostom as the Archbishop of Constantinople presided over a period of great reform and purification of the Church from the excesses of worldly influences, especially from that of the corrupt practices of the Roman Empress Aelia Eudoxia. His reforms gained him the ire of the Empress and her powerful supporters, which led to more confrontations and eventually St. John Chrysostom publicly denounced the activities of the Empress and her associates. His enemies plotted against him and managed to get him exiled and banished away from his See, which led to a great revolt by the people and an earthquake which signified the signs of Divine displeasure at such a heinous act against God’s holy servant.

He was banished again after criticising the placing of a silver statue of the Empress near the Cathedral, and while he remained in exile, his steadfastness in defending the faith, the purity of morality and Church teachings were well-remembered and became great inspirations for many of those who came after him. St. John Chrysostom showed us all how one can commit oneself to the Lord and how we can dedicate ourselves to His cause. His love for the Lord, his dedication for the flock of the Lord entrusted to him and his other inspiring life examples should be inspiration for us to follow in our own lives.

May the Lord continue to be with us and strengthen us in our journey of faith, so that hopefully we may find our way to Him and be blessed in our every good works and endeavours, following in the faith and examples of the virtuous Roman centurion, St. John Chrysostom and many others of our holy predecessors. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 13 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 7 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 13 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 27 : 2, 7, 8-9

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your innermost Sanctuary.

YHVH is my strength, my shield; my heart was sure of Him; I have been helped and my heart exults; with my song I give Him thanks.

YHVH is the strength of His people, the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, be their Shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday, 13 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Timothy 2 : 1-8

First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for rulers of states, and all in authority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life, in godliness and respect. This is good and pleases God. For He wants all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth.

As there is one God, there is one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human, Who gave His life for the redemption of all. This is the testimony, given in its proper time, and of this, God has made me Apostle and herald. I am not lying, I am telling the truth : He made me teacher of the nations regarding faith and truth.

I want men, in every place, to lift pure hands, in prayer, to heaven, without anger and dissension.

Friday, 3 September 2021 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the Word of God from the Scriptures, we are all called to remember that we are part of God’s One Church, the One Body of Christ, which is made from the unity of all those who are faithful to God and believe in Him, and with whom God Himself has established a New Covenant through Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, His Son. He has united us to Himself through Christ, Who became the Mediator of the New Covenant and the Head of the living Church.

In our first reading today, that was what St. Paul highlighted in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Colossae on Christ being the Head of the Church and the One through Whom the Lord had endeavoured to save His people, by His suffering and death on the Cross, His Passion and then His Resurrection, risen from the dead, so that all of us who share in His humanity, and who believe in Him wholeheartedly shall receive from Him the assurance of eternal life and true joy and glory.

However, in order for us to be His true disciples, and to be able to wholeheartedly believe in Him, all of us need to heed what He Himself had mentioned to His disciples as we heard in the Gospel passage today, when He taught them using the parable of the wine and the wineskins, and the cloth and the patches. Through that parable, the Lord wanted to make it clear that following Him would require a fundamental change of heart and attitude, and we have to embrace His truth and teachings with true sincerity and devotion.

Just as the people at that time knew that old wineskin cannot be used to store new wine, and neither can new wineskin be used to store old wine, as they are incompatible, and just as old torn cloth cannot be repaired by new patch of fabric and vice versa, therefore, the Lord’s path and His truth is something that is not compatible with our sinful and wicked ways, the path that the world has shown us. As long as we continue to act in ways that are aligned with the excesses and wickedness of our old, sinful ways, then we cannot be truly worthy of the Lord.

And how is this then related to what we have heard in our first reading today? As the Lord is the Head of the Church and we, as Christians, we are all members of the same Body of Christ, this very Church, then it is imperative that we have to align and harmonise ourselves with the Lord. Otherwise, if we profess to believe in the Lord and yet act in a totally contradictory manner, then are we not causing a scandal for the Church, and not only that, but we are even besmirching the good Name of the Lord? That is why each and every one of us must do our best, as we are reminded today, to be faithful in all things.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all willing to embrace the Lord and His path wholeheartedly? Are we willing to commit ourselves to Him and be united with Him not just in mere words or formality, but truly sincerely from the deepest parts of our hearts. Are we willing and able to commit our effort, our time and attention to Him and do whatever we can, even in the smallest of things, to be good and faithful disciples, embracing God’s truth and love in all things, that we may be ever exemplary in our Christian living.

Today, all of us can get the inspiration from a great servant of God whose feast we are celebrating today. Pope St. Gregory the Great was a very well-known Pope, a great Leader of the Universal Church, and a great Reformer of the Church and the faith. The Lord has shown us in this faithful servant of His, what it truly means for us to follow the Lord with all of our hearts, and through his life, Pope St. Gregory the Great also showed us what it means for us to walk faithfully in God’s presence, to be obedient to Him and to be exemplary in our own way of living.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was remembered for his many and immense efforts in advancing the cause of the Church, in reaching out to the pagans and the many peoples who have not yet heard of God, in his many works, writings and letters to various members of the Church and the faithful. He sent many missionaries to places like England and Germany, which helped to establish a firm foundation of the Church and the faith in those places. He was also remembered for his leadership and guidance of the local Roman Church just as he was well-respected for his leadership of the Universal Church.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was also remembered for his role in reforming the Church, its administration as well as its way of worshipping God, by regulating the liturgical practices of the Church, and he was often credited as the one who laid the foundation of the Church music especially in the Western Christendom, of what would be known later on and today as the Gregorian Chant. He helped to reform many other aspects of the Church and helped many parts of the Church to develop and grow spiritually, and through his many efforts and contributions, the Lord’s Church grew greatly and prospered.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope St. Gregory the Great has shown us all what it means to be a faithful and dedicated Christian, to be committed to the path of the Lord and to adapt a way of life that is compatible to the Lord. Are we willing and able to follow him and his examples? Let us all ourselves this question as we discern how we are going to live our lives from now on. And may the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, that we may always strive to do our very best, in whatever we do, to be God’s holy and worthy people. Amen.

Friday, 3 September 2021 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 33-39

At that time, some people asked Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and say long prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why is it, that Your disciples eat and drink?”

Then Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them. But later, the Bridegroom will be taken from them; and they will fast in those days.”

Jesus also told them this parable : “No one tears a piece from a new coat to put it on an old one; otherwise the new coat will be torn, and the piece taken from the new coat will not match the old coat. No one puts new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and be spilt, and the skins will be destroyed as well.”

“But new wine must be put into fresh skins. Yet, no one who has tasted old wine is eager to drink new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”