Saturday, 8 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we heard about how Moses reminded the people of Israel about how they ought to always remember about God their Lord and Master, who have cared for them so much, and who have provided so much for them in all that they need, so that they prospered and became great. This is necessary because they have often forgotten God’s great love and ended up worshipping the pagan idols and following their pagan neighbours’ ways.

In this we can clearly see that there is a lack of gratitude which the people of Israel, and by extension therefore, all of us as well, on the gratitude which all of us ought to show the Lord our God for His everlasting and continuous love for us, and for all the mercy He had shown us, for every grace and opportunities which He had blessed us with.

We should indeed ask ourselves, whether we have shown gratitude for all that God had done for us in our own lives. Moses reminded the people of Israel not to forget about the Lord for all that He had done, and for all the good things which we have received from Him. But we know how easily we forget Him when we have many goodness with us, and when we celebrate, how many of us truly give thanks to God first before anything else?

Worse still, many of us even attribute all the goodness to ourselves, refusing to believe that all things had been made possible because of the grace and the blessings which our Lord had shown us. We often become even haughty and proud of our own achievements, thinking many things had happened to us and good things had happened to us because of our own power, without realising that without God, all of our power and devices will be nothing.

And if during good times we forget about the Lord and did not give Him thanks, then on the opposite end, whenever we have trouble, then we are quick to worry. We are quick to look for Him whenever we have problem, but we forget to give Him thanks whenever we have good things and good times with us. And when we do not get what we need, we blame the Lord for not helping us, and we often become angry at Him, and even abandon Him.

This is exactly what I meant about a lack of gratitude, and even more importantly, a lack of faith, which we often do not realise. Indeed, we may profess to be faithful to God, but truly, how strong is our faith for Him? If we are truly faithful to Him, then we should have remembered Him at all times, be it at times good or bad, and be it when we are rejoicing or when we are deeply troubled.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of a great saint, namely that of St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic the Guzman, the founder of the Dominican religious order, or the Order of Preachers. St. Dominic was well known for his great and enduring faith in the Lord, and for all the dedication which he showed to the Lord his God. He served the people of God tirelessly and ministered to them.

And what made his order known as the Order of Preachers was because St. Dominic’s own passion and hard works to help many of the lost souls who have gone astray. And he went forth to show them God’s truth and love by preaching to them about this truth, and his words pierced deep into their hearts and minds, and many chose to repent from their past sins, and followed the Lord.

The examples of St. Dominic had shown us that indeed, if we just have more faith in the Lord, what we think is impossible would become possible, for we have to remember that what is impossible for men, is possible for God, for nothing is impossible in the eyes of God. If we just strive to have more faith, then surely we will be better able to see how God had impacted our lives in so many ways, and gave us so many blessings that we cannot count them.

And therefore, let us pray, so that we may be strengthened in our faith, that in all things we do and say, we may strive to be ever more faithful to the Lord our God, and follow Him in all of His ways. Let us all give Him thanks for all of His goodness, and seek His mercy and forgiveness when we have committed sin, and learn the grace to know that we have enough, for we have been provided with the Lord’s love and grace at all times. May the Lord our God, our loving Father be with us always. Amen.

Saturday, 8 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “You faithless and disoriented people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed.

The disciples then gathered around Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?” Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible to you.”

Saturday, 8 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 47 and 51ab

I love You, o Lord, my strength. The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

The Lord lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones.

Saturday, 8 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 6 : 4-13

Moses said, “Listen, Israel : YHVH, our God, is One YHVH. And you shall love YHVH, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today.”

“Repeat them over and over to your children, speak of them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign, and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates.”

“Do not forget YHVH when He has led you into the land which He promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; for He will give you great and prosperous cities which you did not build, houses filled with everything good which you did not provide, wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

“So when you have eaten and have been satisfied, do not forget YHVH who brought you out from Egypt where you were enslaved. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him and call on His Name when you have to swear an oath.”

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard clearly in the first reading which was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, on how God loves all of us mankind greatly, and how He has blessed the people of Israel again and again, bringing them out of Egypt and out of their painful slavery, and bringing them across the Red Sea and providing them with what they need for many, many years, so that even as they went through a great desert, they did not go hungry and thirsty.

And we have to understand the context and situation of the time in order to really understand what had happened at the time. The people of Israel, despite such a great treatment and blessing by the Lord, who gave them all that they needed, they continued to bicker and to complain against the Lord, and demanded all the more, even though they have been blessed beyond many others.

Thus, on this occasion, we witnessed how Moses, after journeying for many years in the desert with the people of Israel, he reminded all the people of the love and care which God had shown them, which no other peoples had experienced and which no other deities or false idols had done for anyone besides what God had done for His beloved ones, even considering their rebelliousness and refusal to believe.

He chastised them for their stubborn hearts and minds, which had refused all the love which God had poured unto them with great care and tenderness. He taught them that they ought to be thankful and be grateful to the Lord for all that He had given to them. And they ought to live according to the Law which God had given to all of them, a set of rules and regulations to be followed, that they all may remain forever in the grace of God.

This is very linked and related to what we heard in the Gospel reading today, where Jesus spoke of how we have to die to ourselves and to take up our crosses and follow Him, if we are to live righteously and justly in the grace of God. He spoke of this, because for many of us, just as it was for the people of Israel, it was very difficult for us to let go of many worldly things, which entanglements often prevented us from finding our way to God.

How many of us often find it difficult to resist the temptations of the flesh? How many of us have been greedy for the many goods of the world, for the allure of money and possessions, for the pull of sexual gratification and the desires of our heart? Indeed it is not easy for us to resist all of them, but if we give in to them, and do nothing about it, then we truly ought to fear for the sake of our souls.

We are reminded yet again on this day, that we should go forth and seek the treasure that lasts forever, that is the true treasures of heavenly grace, found only and given only by our Lord for those who are faithful to Him. This surpasses all other things of this world, the false and impermanent treasures that is plenty in this world, but which can be destroyed by fire, by rot, by the interventions of men, and are not eternal.

Thus, we ought to resist all the temptations and challenges that come our way, and live faithfully to the ways which God had taught us, and which we have learnt through the Church, where we are together as one people, facing all the oppositions and challenges from all those who rejected Him and followed Satan instead, and this is our cross to bear, that is the cross of our own temptations and sins.

Let the examples of the saints whose feast we celebrate on this day be an inspiration to all of us. Pope St. Sixtus II was the Bishop of Rome and Leader of the entire Universal Church in the early Church, and he was a very devoted servant of God who cared for all those entrusted under his care, as the shepherd appointed by God to be the one to lead all of his people to Himself.

He worked hard together with many other holy men of his time, many of whom were arrested together with him during the great persecution against the Church and the faithful by the Roman Emperor Valerian. They refused to recant their faith in God and continued to stand firm in their faith in God, and their examples inspired many others to stand by their faith, despite all the temptations and offers by the authorities that if they recanted their faith, they would be rewarded handsomely and enjoyed many good things.

This is exactly what Jesus meant by gaining the world and losing your soul, for if they had accepted the offers, then indeed they would not suffer grievous death that the holy martyrs had suffered, but then, they too would lose forever the grace and salvation which had been promised to them, and for a temporary respite and moment of goodness in this world, they have lost forever the promise and surety of eternal life.

St. Cajetan, the other saint whose feast we celebrate today, was a priest known for his great piety and holiness, and with his works to bring back many of the people who have gone astray from the Church to return to the Holy Mother Church, and to repent from their sins. He established together with another Saint, St. Jerome Emiliani, a religious congregation devoted to the care of the people of God.

Therefore today, inspired by the examples of these holy saints, let us all ourselves walk in the path of the Lord, removing from ourselves the taint of sin and corruption of the world, and instead focus on the Lord and in His ways, carrying our cross together with Him, giving Him thanks for all He had done for us, and together reach out to the everlasting life and inheritance He had promised all of His faithful. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for My sake will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys his soul? There is nothing you can give to get back your soul.”

“Know that the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some here who will not die, before they see the Son of Man coming as King.”

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Psalm 76 : 12-13, 14-15, 16 and 21

I remember the deeds of the Lord; I recall His marvels of old. I meditate on all Your work, and consider Your mighty deeds.

Your way, o God, is most holy. Is there any god greater than You, our God? You alone are the God who works wonders, who has made known His power to the nations.

With power You have redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. You led Your people as a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Friday, 7 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Deuteronomy 4 : 32-40

Moses said, “Ask of the times past. Inquire from the day when God created man on earth. Ask from one end of this world to the other : Has there ever been anything as extraordinary as this? Has anything like this been heard of before? Has there ever been a people who remained alive after hearing as you did the voice of the living God from the midst of the fire?”

“Never has there been a God who went out to look for a people and take them out from among the other nations by the strength of trials and signs, by wonders and by war, with a firm hand and an outstretched arm. Never has there been any deed as tremendous as those done for you by YHVH in Egypt, which you saw with your own eyes.”

“You saw this that you might know that YHVH is God and that there is no other besides Him. He let you hear His voice from heaven that you might fear Him; on earth He let you see His blazing fire and from the midst of the fire you heard His word.”

“Because of the love He had for your fathers, He chose their descendants after them, and He Himself made you leave Egypt with His great power. He expelled before you peoples more numerous and stronger than you, and He has made you occupy their land : today He has given this to you as an inheritance.”

“Therefore, try to be convinced that YHVH is the only God of heaven and earth, and that there is no other. Observe the laws and the commandments that I command you today, and everything will be well with you and your children after you. So you will live long in the land which YHVH, your God, gives you forever.”

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the Church, where we celebrate the great event on the mountain on that day, when Jesus was glorified and revealed the fullness of truth about Himself to the three of His Apostles, Peter, James and John. This is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when Jesus revealed His divinity to His people for the first time.

On this feast, there are several things we all ought to take note of. First of all, the symbolism shown in this event of the Transfiguration truly revealed to us the great truth about Jesus our Lord, who He is, what His mission was, and what He would do in order to achieve that mission. Then we should indeed begin to understand them one by one.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured, and two figures from the Old Testament came, appeared and spoke to Him. They were Moses and Elijah, the greatest of God’s servants, and who symbolised the works which Jesus was to accomplish in this world as part of His messianic ministry. Moses represented the Law which God had revealed to the people through Him, while Elijah represented the Prophets through whom God had made His will known to the people.

This represented the role of Jesus who came to fulfil and complete the Law in its perfection, and He would reveal to all mankind the true meaning and purpose of the Law which God had revealed to them, but which they had often misunderstood in the practice and in its purpose. And then, Jesus also was a Prophet, the One who made clear God’s words and intentions to men. It was through His words, His teachings and parables that He called upon many people to return to the Lord.

In Jesus the role of Priest, Prophet and King was united as one, for He is indeed the High Priest of all, by His role in delivering all of us through the sacrifice which He had offered for the sake of our sins and unworthiness, that is His own Body and Blood which He offered up from the Altar of Calvary from the cross. And as Prophet, He revealed to us all the truth about God, and taught us the Law.

And we know that He is King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, and the Good Shepherd of us all, who leads us from the darkness of this world, gathered from all over the world, once scattered now brought together as one people into the unity of His Church, that He may bring us to the salvation which He has promised those who are faithful to Him.

In this we see how the Transfiguration of our Lord had revealed to the disciples, and also to all of us, who Jesus is, that is none other than God Himself, who had been willing to descend upon us and assume our humble human form, to be born in the flesh, and to later suffer for our sake, bearing our sins and punishments for those sins as He made His way to Calvary and as He hung between the heavens and the earth on the cross. He died for us, so that we all may live.

But in this, we also should realise that the Transfiguration itself also revealed to us, what we are to become, when we remain faithful to the end, and at the end, receive the just reward for our faith and devotion from the Lord. Just as Jesus revealed His true self to His disciples, then all of us should also reveal who we truly are to one another, and discard all the falsehoods and the lies with which we have covered ourselves and hid our true selves with thus far.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because God had created all of us good and perfect, just as He is good and perfect. But it was because of sin and disobedience which since the days of the first mankind had entered into our hearts and beings, we have been made imperfect and tainted, and our true selves had been hidden under layers of guilt, disobedience, and all other sorts of wickedness that prevent our true selves from being revealed.

For we are the children of God, who is Love, who is Light and goodness. If we are therefore His children, then certainly all of us should have imitated Him in how we behave and act in this life. It was our sins and our disobedience, and our human weaknesses and tendencies to sin that have made us such beings that had strayed far away from where we were and what we were intended to be.

Therefore, on this day, we have to heed what the Lord had shown us, and we all have to also listen to the Lord’s word, that we indeed have to listen to Jesus, the Word of God, through whom God made clear all of His will and desire for us. What then He had said to His Apostles Peter, Janes and John should be a good lesson for all of us.

For the Apostles must have been so awed and mesmerised by the glory and the greatness, and the great joy that they ought to have felt to be in the presence of God on that mountain. And they wanted to make three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, so that they could stay there and not to leave that state of joy. But Jesus reminded them that, in order for them to move on, they must also at one point go down the mountain and face the challenges of the world.

Jesus Himself, even though He was glorified and honoured in today’s commemoration of the Transfiguration, but He knew that He had to forgo all of the glory and even empty Himself, descending down the mountain of glory, to come towards the ultimate test and challenge He would face, that is to be rejected and humiliated by the very people whom He had been sent to, to be saved.

In the same way therefore, all of us should shake ourselves from our comfort zones, that we may be able to realise that we have been too long and too deep in our slumber, where our true selves of love and righteousness had been buried deep within the layers of our laziness, our indifference, our apathy and our inability to see the opportunity for us to rise up and to give glory to God through our actions.

May our Transfigured Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all from now on, that in all things that we do, we may also do things to aspire for that same goal, that our old selves and the veils of our own sinfulness and evils may be replaced by the true beauty of our inner selves, the beauty of the love and faith which our Lord had given us by His Spirit. God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 9 : 2-10

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say : they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.