Monday, 13 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scriptures made a reference to the two sons of Abraham, who was each born of a different mother. Ishmael, the elder son, was born from the union between Abraham and her slave, Hagar, at the insistence of Sarah, his wife, who insisted to Abraham to bear a son with Hagar the slave, who will then legally be known as her own son.

It was common in the past, and even still until today, that a surrogate mother, usually a slave, to produce an heir to a wealthy and influential person, and whose heir will be adopted by the wife of the person, when the wife is unable to bear a child on her own. But in the case of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar the slave, Sarah was taking a shortcut to her problem of not being able to bear a child. God had promised Abraham that He would give him a son through Sarah, for it is nothing impossible for God, even for someone to bear a child at old age.

The younger son, Isaac, born from Abraham and Sarah was the child promised by God, and the blessings which God had given to Abraham in His covenant, was passed on to Isaac and his descendants. Meanwhile, Ishmael, while still blessed by Abraham, he had no part in his inheritance, and both him and his mother Hagar the slave was sent away by Abraham from his house.

The idea here is to separate two occasions in our own lives, the children of God, the children of our father in faith, that is Abraham, the faithful servant of God. The elder son, Ishmael, born of Hagar the slave represented our old lives, the lives of slavery, when we are enslaved by the power of sin and Satan’s works, that we are chained to this world and all of its darkness.

If we think that we are not chained or enslaved, then think about this, how our ancestors were cast out of Eden, the gardens of God filled with all wonderful things and perfections, because they disobeyed the Lord and preferred to follow Satan and their own desires than to listen to God, who had told them and taught them what they need to follow and obey, as well as what they need to avoid.

God did not create us to enslave us, or to make us like His slaves. Rather, we were created in love, for love and for our own good. God who is perfect and complete in everything truly had no need for anyone or anything to satisfy Him, and He did not need anything to be happy or to be joyful, as He is perfect and self-sufficient in everything, in love and joy.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, He created all things, and last and greatest of all, mankind, so that He may share that love He has with all of us. And we were created in perfection, meant to enjoy all the things God had created. He even entrusted all creations on earth to us, that we were meant to be the stewards of all creations, to live our lives in bliss, joy and perfect harmony with God.

But alas, we choose our lot with the evil one, who tempted us, and by accepting his temptations and lies, from our ancestors on, until the coming of the Saviour, all mankind had been enslaved, that is enslaved and chained by sin, the sins of our actions which corrupted us and brought us away from the promise of eternal life and happiness which God freely gave us and intended for us.

And that brought us under the slavery of our sins, that we are no longer free but bound under the consequences of sin, which ultimately is death. Death is the punishment and consequence of disobedience, and that is why mankind suffered from death, which was once without hope, and we feared death. But all was not lost, for God gave His help to us all, through Jesus Christ His Son, who is our Lord and Saviour.

That through Christ, we may be made anew, and transformed from the child of the first generation, represented by Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, to be like the other child, that is Isaac, the son promised by God to Abraham, the son of the free woman, and hence is free. This represents how we mankind had been made free, and through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, this was made true by God.

But this freedom is given only to those who want to believe in Christ, and not to those who continue to stubbornly refuse His offers of freedom. Yes, there are many indeed today who continues to refuse to follow the Lord and listen to Him, and they prefer to continue to live under the slavery of sin, and keep their chains of sin, which continue to chain them to death and destruction.

This was exactly the same kind of attitude which Jesus encountered as He taught the people, who were stubborn and persistent in their rebelliousness. They doubted Jesus, even after seeing what He had done, and asking for even more signs and miracles. They were not able to look beyond the veil of their doubt and unfaithfulness, and instead, they languished in sin, refusing to see the light until the day when the judgment comes upon them.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as today we also celebrate the anniversary of the last of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, let us all look at the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, and chief of all, that of our Lady of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And let us look at the examples of Abraham our father in faith, and finally the examples and the actions of our Lord Jesus Himself.

All of them followed the Lord, obeyed the Lord and listened to His will, as contrasted to Adam and Eve, our ancestors, and the people whom Jesus confronted in the Gospel today. We have a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ. We can choose to follow the Lord and obey all of His commands and will, and walk righteously in His path, or to choose to instead listen to Satan and his lies, and obey our own whim and our own desires. It is up to us to make a difference in our own lives.

Thus, do we all want to choose life or death? Do we all want to be free from sin and its slavery, or do we want to remain bound to sin and be enslaved? Thus, let us all take conscious actions, to show that we want to be indeed free from all forms of the bondage of sin, and rebuke Satan who had enslaved us with them. Let us say courageously to him, that we do not want to have any more part in this slavery of our body and soul, but rather that we may be free in the Lord.

May Almighty God be with us, guide us and bring us into the freedom from our slavery, the slavery of our body and soul to sin, so that we may truly be righteous and just, and be found worthy of His grace and inheritance. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said, “What comparison can I use for this people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not eat bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next came the Son of Man, eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”

Tuesday, 5 August 2014 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast in the Church of Rome, commemorating the dedication of one of the four great Basilicas of Rome, or also known as the Papal Basilicas. And this Basilica is the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known in its Italian name of Santa Maria Maggiore. This is an important patron saint of the city of Rome, the mother of our Lord also known as the protector of the city of Rome and its people.

She was also known by the appellation of our Lady of the Snows, because of an apparition and miracle which happened right at the site more than a thousand years ago, showing that Rome, the centre and heart of Christendom is under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. This happened when a devout Roman couple prayed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, for a way that they may bestow their property to her honour as they were without child and heir.

The prayers was heard, and on this very day, on the fifth day of the month of August in the middle of the fourth century, at the height of summer, snow fell on the top of the Esquiline hill, the very site where the Basilica of St. Mary Major would then be built. The Pope at the time, Pope Liberius also received a vision and dream, leading him to the site where the snow fell during the height of summer. Consequently, a great basilica was built there.

This basilica was built in the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary recently after the completion of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431AD, which is the Council that definitively settled the issues on, and honoured the Blessed Virgin with the title of the Mother of God or Theotokos, which had been accorded since the Council of Nicaea a century earlier, but opposed by many schismatics and heretics after that.

An icon representing the Mother of our Lord was then crafted and enshrined in that Basilica, which remained standing until this very day. That holy icon is revered as the image of St. Mary Major, the patron saint of the city of Rome, the See of St. Peter and St. Paul and the heart of Christendom. It would in time grow to become one of the most important shrines of Christendom, reflected in its status today as one of the four Papal Basilicas to exist.

This celebration today ultimately comes together to point out one thing, and only one thing most important over all else, that is God loves us, and He will give us everything that He has, if only that we also love Him the same way that He had loved us. And in order to love Him, we have to listen to Him and follow His will. As Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today, those who followed the will of God and walked in His ways are the ones truly blessed.

This means that our interior disposition and our spiritual development must be foremost in all things. We cannot ignore our own hearts and souls, that these must be clean and pure, and all must be in accordance with the will of God. God loves us, and He wants us back into His presence, but it is only we who have the decision whether to do as God wants us, or whether we should walk our own paths to doom.

In the Gospel Jesus also pointed out the futility of those who sought the purity of the externals, and the purity of appearances without care and attention to the purity of the heart and soul. This is what happened to the Pharisees, the elders of the people and the teachers of the Law who followed the Laws of God in the Mosaic laws so strictly that they forgot the true meaning of those laws, and what they were intended for.

They kept themselves outwardly pure and they could boast to the people and showed them how pure and holy they were, but the truth is that on the inside, they were thoroughly dirty and unclean. Their hearts were not filled with God’s love, but with their own pride, ego and human desires. They did not love God and His people, but instead they love themselves and all of their worldly desires.

This is why keeping strict religious dietary laws and habits, as well as any proscriptions or prohibitions against certain kind of food or things that we fear may ‘defile’ us is foolish and stupid. It is pointless to do so as Jesus Himself had said, that nothing dirty from outside can dirty and affect us permanently, if it is not accompanied with the internal corruption of the soul and the heart.

What is important is therefore, that we have to ensure that our actions, deeds and words, namely everything that come out from us, from our mouth, from our heart, mind and soul be clean, pure and free from evil and deceit. It is indeed what comes out from within us and not what enters into us, be it food or whatever that causes us to be defiled.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves to God anew, and strengthen our faith ever stronger in Him. And let us all ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother of our Lord, that she who is the protector of the city of Rome, may also come to our aid, protecting us and guiding us, that our faith may grow stronger and stronger. May Almighty God bless us and keep us in His love always. Amen.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Jeremiah 2 : 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

A word of YHVH came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is YHVH’s word : I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to YHVH, the first-fruits of His harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them – it is YHVH who speaks.”

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled My land and dishonoured My heritage! The priests did not ask, ‘Where is YHVH?’ The masters of My teaching did not know Me; the pastors of My people betrayed Me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal.”

“Be aghast at that, o heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled – it is YHVH who speaks – for My people have done two evils : they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!”

Sunday, 20 July 2014 : 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Bible Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 24-43

Jesus told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”

“When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then the servants of the owner came to him and said, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Jesus offered them another parable : “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches.”

He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast that a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise.”

Jesus taught all this to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. So what the Prophet had said was fulfilled : I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.

Then He 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 burned 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 in 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.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

Jesus told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”

“When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then the servants of the owner came to him and said, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Saturday, 19 July 2014 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Psalm 9 : 22-23, 24-25, 28-29, 35 (1-2, 3-4, 7-8, 14)

Why, o Lord, do You stand afar? Why hide from us in times of distress? The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes.

Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God. In their pride the wicked say, “There is no God.” They see no further.

Their mouths are filled with cursing, deceit and threats; spite and mischief are under their tongues. They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim.

But You see those in misery, o God, and You take it in hand. The unfortunate commits Himself to You; the orphan turns to You for help.

Saturday, 19 July 2014 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Micah 2 : 1-5

Woe to those who plot wickedness and plan evil even on their beds! When morning comes they do it, as soon as it is within their reach. If they covet fields, they seize them. Do they like houses? They take them. They seize the owner and his household, both the man and his property.

This is why YHVH speaks, “I am plotting evil against this whole brood, from which your necks cannot escape. No more shall you walk with head held high for it will be an evil time.”

On that day they will sing a taunting song against You and a bitter lamentation will be heard, “We have been stripped of our property in our homeland. Who will free us from the wicked who allots our fields.”

Truly, no one will be found in the assembly of YHVH to keep a field for you.