Tuesday, 23 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, speaking about the Lord Who has brought about the end of the divisions and categorisations between the communities of God’s faithful, as the Lord united them all, regardless whether they were Jewish people or whether they were Gentiles or non-Jews, regardless whether they were Greeks or Romans, regardless whether they were freedmen or slaves.

The essence of what St. Paul spoke to the faithful of Ephesus must be understood in the context of the dynamics of the community of the people at the time, in a world dominated by the Romans, a multicultural, multilingual and multiracial world, where there was a relative freedom of movement between the different parts of the Roman Empire. And this is a continuation of the history of about three centuries of intermingling between the Greeks and the local population of the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the preceding Hellenistic era.

The Romans, as the new elite and people in power and influence became a new addition to the mix of peoples, and also coupled with movement of populations from the other parts of the Empire. And at that time, there were also plenty of slaves being sold all around the Empire, as a result of warfare and conflict, when people could easily lose even their basic rights and freedom just by being at the wrong side of the war or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Therefore, the population in many parts of the Empire, especially in places like Ephesus, a thriving metropolis and centre of trade at that time, were highly heterogenous and divided along cultural, linguistic, racial and many other classifications and divisions. There were frequent prejudices, disagreements, conflicts and problems that arose because of all these differences and divisions that existed.

Therefore, St. Paul exhorted to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, as he also did in various other places, that all of the people who believe in God must look beyond and indeed overcome their differences, all sorts of categorisations, groupings and kinds of divisions that had divided the community all these while. Since they have all been saved by the Lord Jesus, through the same sacrifice He had made on the cross, then we must also love everyone equally without bias or prejudice.

After all, the Lord Himself loves everyone, every single one of us, without so much as dividing His attention unequally or favouring any one of us based on any of our worldly backgrounds and things. Therefore, now it is important for us to reflect on what we have heard and allow God to influence us and to change our lives. We must allow God to enter into our hearts, minds and our whole being.

Rather than focusing on what divides us or on what differentiates us, we should instead be the sources of unity, and this unity comes about because of Christ, in our shared and common belief in the Lord Jesus as the One Master, God and Saviour of all of us. The unity of the faithful is important, as when the people were divided, one against another, as what truly happened during the time of St. Paul, the Church was not only just unable to accomplish its mission, but even worse, they scandalised the faith and made others to be unwilling to follow their way.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke of a parable regarding servants whose master had gone on a journey, and how the master could return just at any time. And as the servants were expected to continue in what they have been assigned to do during the time when the master was away, should some of them slacked or failed to work properly when the master suddenly came back from his journey, would be caught in a bad condition.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted His disciples to be ever ready and to be ever prepared for the Lord. And more importantly, He wanted everyone to be awakened from their slumber or from their distractions, and do what He has commanded and willed for them to do. And as St. Paul mentioned to the people in Ephesus, many of the people were burdened and distracted by all the divisions that existed among them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, within our Church today, there are often divisions, disagreements and conflicts, even among ourselves, who are supposed to be brothers and sisters, children of the same loving God. Instead of working together for the good of the Church and for the salvation of more souls, we have instead brought about even more divisions and conflict among each other.

Today, perhaps we should reflect on the life of St. John of Capestrano, a famous Franciscan friar and priest, who was remembered for his great commitment to the Lord, and in his hard work among the faithful, committing himself, his time and much effort trying to bring the word of God, and the truth of God to the people, and calling them to leave behind their ways of sin and disobedience.

St. John of Capestrano devoted himself to the Lord, spending time again and again to convert the people to the truth, and to bring them closer to the salvation in God. Instead of being distracted by the many worldly concerns and desires, by the many temptations and allures of worldly things, perhaps we should be more like St. John of Capestrano and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us, in their exemplary holiness and way of life.

Let us all renew our desire to love God, without the divisiveness and the conflicts that we have endured thus far, even within our Church communities and groups. Let us all turn our hearts, minds, and our whole being towards God, and draw ever closer to His love and mercy, which He willingly gives us, if only we ask Him and are willing to come to Him, as one people, belonging to Him, our One and only God. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 12 : 35-38

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Be ready, dressed for service, and keep your lamps lit, like people waiting for their master to return from the wedding. As soon as he comes and knocks, they will open the door to him. Happy are those servants whom the master finds wide-awake when he comes.”

“Truly, I tell you, he will put an apron, and have them sit at table, and he will wait on them. Happy are those servants, if he finds them awake when he comes at midnight or daybreak!”

Tuesday, 23 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Ephesians 2 : 12-22

At that time, you were without Christ, you did not belong to the community of Israel; the Covenants of God, and His promises, were not for you; you had no hope, and were without God in this world.

But now, in Christ Jesus, and by His Blood, you, who were once far off, have come near. For Christ is our peace; He, Who has made the two people, one; destroying, in His own flesh, the wall – the hatred – which separated us. He abolished the Law, with its commandments and precepts. He made peace, in uniting the two people, in Him; creating, out of the two, one New Man.

He destroyed hatred and reconciled us both to God, through the cross, making the two, one body. He came to proclaim peace; peace to you who were far off, peace to the Jews who were near. Through Him, we – the two people – approach the Father, in one Spirit.

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus.

In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy Temple, in the Lord. In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Monday, 22 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Word of God in the Scriptures reminding each and every one of us to be centred on God and to be faithful to Him, and not be distracted by the many temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, wealth, money, happiness, all sorts of conveniences, possessions, fame, influence, and all sorts of other things that are indeed, obstacles in the way of our faith.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable told by the Lord Jesus, referring to a rich man who had plenty of possessions and goods, who was not satisfied with what he had received and wanted to gain even more. He had big plans for himself and his riches, wanting to tear down the barns that he had, so that he could build even bigger barns to store even more of the possessions he had.

This means that the man had the desire in his heart for even more, and not being satisfied by what he already possessed. And this is natural to us man, to have this greed inside our hearts and minds, and if we indulge in allowing our greed to overtake us, then eventually we will end up like that rich man, who thought of nothing else either than to gain more for his own desires and wants, for earthly riches and pleasures.

And in doing so, like the rich man, we will end up forgetting that all of these worldly things, items, objects and possessions are merely temporary, illusory and fleeing in nature. None of these, our money, our wealth, our material possessions, branded goods, cars, vehicles, and all things will be retained with us when we are called to give the account of our life before Our Lord and Master.

In what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, God has given us a far greater and more tremendous gift, that is the gift of His eternal and infinite love. His mercy and love has been given to us freely, and made it evident and tangible to us through Christ, His Son, Our Saviour. There is no greater gift than this, and there is no greater love than what Our Lord and Saviour has shown us, not by mere action, but through what He had borne upon Himself, the suffering of the Cross.

We must realise that our greed and our inability to resist the temptations of the devil have become the source of our failures and our downfall, from the very moment that he caused our ancestors to sin by disobeying God. The devil knows exactly where to strike, and how to strike at us, especially by taking advantage of our predisposition and vulnerability to pride and greed. And by these, he had lured many souls who did not know that they had fallen into the trap of the evil one.

But the Lord did not remain silent and neither did He show any apathy to our fallen state. And that was exactly how He gave us the source of our new life and deliverance through the giving of His Son, by Whose death on the Cross, the Precious Blood that flows down from that Cross, then our faults and sins are washed away and we are cleansed and made anew. This is in truth, the selfless and perfect love that God desired to shoe us.

The Lord Himself was also tempted by the devil as shown in the three temptations Satan made to the Lord in the desert right after He was baptised by St. John the Baptist. We can see here just how persistent the devil is, in trying to prevent us mankind from being saved, and the method by which he did all these, was mentioned clearly in the Gospels, that he played along with our human desires, for power, for glory, for wealth, for satisfaction of the body and the flesh, which includes that of gluttony and many more.

But the Lord Jesus showed us how we should live our lives as Christians, that is the total surrender and giving of oneself to the will of God, Our Lord and loving Father. The Lord Jesus did not allow Himself to be tempted or swayed from His mission, and remained true to the calling which the Lord, His heavenly Father has given Him. He resisted the devil’s efforts to undermine His works and mission.

Indeed, He was tempted, to the very end, and in His humanity, He agonised over the upcoming suffering and pain, at the time when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He persisted on, and by His love and generous will to forgive us our sins, He willingly took up our sins and faults, and bore it upon Himself, as He went on to His crucifixion, suffering and death.

As Christians therefore, we are called to follow the Lord’s example, in how He gave everything for the sake of His love for us, even to the point of laying down His own life for us. His surrender to the will of the Father was so complete and total, that indeed, all of us ought to learn from Him, in how we should also surrender ourselves to the will of God, Our Lord and loving Father.

Today, we all celebrate the feast of a great saint and servant of God, Pope St. John Paul II, whom many of us must have been quite familiar with. He was a very renowned figure in the Church, having reigned as the Supreme Pontiff and Successor of St. Peter the Apostle for twenty-seven years, achieving many significant milestones and important breakthroughs in the history of the Church and the salvation of God’s people.

And Pope St. John Paul II devoted himself totally to the work and the mission which the Lord had called him to, as shown in his motto, “Totus Tuus”, which means, “All is Yours”. This motto embodies exactly what Pope St. John Paul II believed in his life, in how he carried on performing his mission as a devout servant of God. He who has experienced bitter losses of family, friends and others he knew early on in his life due to sickness and war, gave everything he had to God, and entrusted himself completely to the Lord and to the guidance of His Blessed Mother Mary.

Many of us are aware of the many achievements and good works that Pope St. John Paul II had done throughout his life and throughout his reign as the Pope, as leader of the Universal Church. But this is an important lesson and reminder for all of us that each and every one of us can also do the same, if only that we learn to remove from ourselves all the attachments to worldly desires and pleasures, which have become obstacles and chains that kept us away from being able to give our very best effort.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all renew our effort to love the Lord and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly again towards the Lord. Let us all give ourselves and love the Lord with a renewed spirit and zeal, from now on, that we may truly be able to receive the fullness of God’s mercy and love, and be worthy of the eternal life and glory He has promised to all those who are faithful to Him. May the Lord bless us all and our works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 22 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 12 : 13-21

At that time, someone in the crowd spoke to Jesus, “Master, tell my brother to share with me the family inheritance.” He replied, “My friend, who has appointed Me as your Judge or your Attorney?” Then Jesus said to the people, “Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life.”

And Jesus continued, “There was a rich man, and his land had produced a good harvest. He thought, ‘What shall I do, for I am short of room to store my harvest? Alright, I know what I shall do : I will pull down my barns and I will build bigger ones, to store all this grain, which is my wealth. Then I will say to myself : My friend, you have a lot of good things put by for many years. Rest, eat, drink and enjoy yourself.'”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be taken from you. Tell Me, who shall get all you have put aside?’ This is the lot of the one who stores up riches for himself and is not wealthy in the eyes of God.”

Monday, 22 October 2018 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.