Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the love that God has given us all, which He has lovingly reminded His people in the first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, of the love which He has shown them in taking care of them like a father taking care of his children, protecting them, guiding them to the right path and treating everyone equally.

And there is a parallel to what we have heard in that passage to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in our Gospel passage today, when the tax collectors of the Temple came to the disciples of the Lord and asked them on the matter of paying the Temple taxes. For the context, all the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites living in the land of Judea, Galilee and other parts of the land of Israel at that time, they had to pay the Temple tax as part of their contribution and obligation.

And the Lord mentioned using a comparison, how only strangers and aliens are taxed and obliged to pay a fee, while the sons and daughters of the kings and rulers are free from such fees, as they were considered as the family of those same kings and rulers. How can those kings and rulers expect the members of their own families, those who were dear and beloved to them to pay taxes and to be subjected to the same treatment as strangers?

By using this comparison, in fact, the Lord once again stressed to us how loving and compassionate He has been to all of us, that He has not treated us all like strangers and aliens, but rather, treating us as His own children. For truly, we are children of God, not just because He has created and made us from nothingness, and out of love, but also because through Christ, we all have shared in the relationship that the Lord Jesus has with His heavenly Father.

For the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, but also at the same time the Son of Man, because His Divinity has descended into this world and embracing the fullness of humanity through His mother, Mary, becoming fully Man but yet remaining fully Divine at the same time, having the two distinct natures of Man and God united and being inseparable in His person, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It was by His act of ultimate sacrifice on the Cross then that Christ has sealed a new Covenant between God and mankind, a new and everlasting Covenant that will never be broken again, for the Precious Blood of the Lord Himself sealed that Covenant, as it poured down from the Cross of our salvation. And through that, He united all of us to Himself, and brought us all together to be reconciled to God, His heavenly Father.

Now, all of us having heard this, we should appreciate just how much God has loved us all as His own children, as those whom He loves very dearly. But many of us have not loved Him as we should have, and we have often wandered off away from His path, many times. And because of that, we have fallen into sin and darkness, and yet, God continues to love us and wants to be reconciled with us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of His glorious saints, whose life should become an inspiration for us in how we should live our own lives as well. St. Jane Frances de Chantal was the wife of a wealthy nobleman who became a widow early in her marriage and had to take care of her children on her own. She was known for her great piety and generosity to the poor and the needy.

Initially, she was unable to forgive the person responsible for her husband’s death, but after a life-changing experience of having listened to a sermon on the matter of forgiveness and the love of God, she changed her mind and wanted to devote herself totally to God as a religious nun. Eventually, she did become a religious and established a new religious order especially for those who had not been able to join the religious life due to health or age.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal truly loves God, and she devoted her whole life to serve Him, by loving Him and spending time with Him through prayer, and even more importantly, by loving all those whom the Lord has loved, that is her fellow brothers and sisters, those who were unloved, rejected and unwanted by the society. Are we able to love God in the same way that St. Jane Frances de Chantal had done? And ultimately are we able to love God just as He Himself has loved us first?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves, our time, effort and energy from now on to the Lord with all of our hearts and minds. Let us all turn towards God with love, and let us be ever more faithful to Him from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 17 : 22-27

At that time, when Jesus was in Galilee with the Twelve, He said to them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. But He will rise on the third day.” The Twelve were deeply grieved.

When they returned to Capernaum, the temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, “Does your Master pay the temple tax?” He answered, “Yes.” Peter then entered the house; and immediately, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or tribute to the kings of the earth : their sons or strangers and aliens?”

Peter replied, “Strangers and aliens.” And Jesus told him, “The sons, then, are tax-free. But, so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook, and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it. Take the coin and give it to them for you and for Me.”

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Deuteronomy 10 : 12-22

So now, Israel, what is it that YHVH, your God, asks of you but to fear Him and follow all His ways? Love Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Observe the commandments of YHVH and His laws which I command you today, for your good.

See : the heavens, those that are seen and those that are unseen, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to YHVH, your God. Nevertheless, it was on your fathers that YHVH set His heart. He loved them, and after them, He chose their descendants – you – preferring you to all the peoples, as you can see this day.

Purify your hearts, then, and do not be defiant towards YHVH because YHVH is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is the great God, the strong and terrible God. When He judges, He treats everyone equally; He does not let Himself be bought by gifts. He renders justice to the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him bread and clothing.

Love the stranger then, because you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him, follow Him and call on His Name when you have to make an oath. He is your pride and He is your God, Who has done those amazing things for you. When you went down to Egypt, your ancestors were no more than seventy persons, but now, YHVH, your God, has made you as many as the stars of heaven.

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.