Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded that all of us must be vigilant at all times, for the coming of the Lord will come suddenly without warning, and even without signs or forewarning. It will catch and surprise many who are not ready for His coming, because all of them have been distracted by the many idols of this world.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, it was described how the people who worshipped the idols, pagan idols representing natural forces and wonders, such as worship of the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the seas and the rivers, deserts, and many more of others, prevalent in numerous civilisations and cultures, have been preoccupied with the marvels of creation, and yet fail to recognise the Author of all of them, that is God.

That was why, instead of properly giving thanks or focusing to the One Who deserves all praise and honour, we mankind ended up being distracted by the marvels of the created things. And if we think that all these problems happened only in the past, then we are wrong. In our present day, the same issues still exist. If in the past it was the wonders of nature and creation, now we end up being distracted by our own human creations and worldly goods.

For example, our attachment to money and worldly possessions will end up distracting us from our faith, and turning us into immorality and greed. Many of us are distracted by our career and in that, our pursuit for more money, status, fame, worldly glory and possessions, that we have forgotten about the Lord our God. We spent so much time trying to gather for ourselves all these things that we end up spending little or no time for God.

That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is no different from the way how the people in those days worshipped the pagan idols and forgot about the Lord their God, as was evident in many occasions throughout the Old Testament. And that was why the Lord was angry at His people, because they have abandoned Him for those pagan idols, and many of us did not do any better with our own modern day idols.

What do we all, as Christians, need to do then? All of us need to reflect on each and every one of our lives, and what we have done, and how we have lived every single day. Have we been distracted in our way to the Lord by the many temptations in life? Have we done what we need to do in order to prepare for the Lord? In the Gospel today, we heard about how in the past, many people had been caught unprepared and unaware in sin, from the time of Noah to the time of Lot.

Those people who lived at the time of Noah and Lot lived wickedly, committing sins before God by immoral behaviours and by corrupting themselves with sinful acts, the worship of false and pagan idols, and many more. They rejected the Lord their God and settled for worldly pleasures and corruptions. That was how they met their downfall, when the great flood came at the time of Noah, and when the flames and sulfur rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying all who refused to repent.

Having learnt of all these examples, how can we then avoid the fate of those who have gone to their just fate because of their sins? As Christians, all of us must put God first and foremost in our lives, to give our whole heart, love and attention to Him, and to no other. We cannot let the temptations of the idols present in our lives from distracting us in our journey towards God.

That said, money, power, fame and many other things I have mentioned are on their own not wicked or evil by their nature. These can be used for either good or evil purposes. Rather, it is our unhealthy attachment to them, our greed for them that led us to idolise these things and forget about the Lord our God. This is why many of us faltered in our faith, because we were not able to resist those temptations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us strive to reorientate our lives and rethink our life choices and priorities. We should devote our time and effort towards God, and not to be too attached to worldly temptations of money, possessions, fame, glory and many others. And we should also perhaps follow the example of today’s saint, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a renowned princess turned into a devout servant of God towards the end of her life.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary led a very virtuous and holy life, dedicated to God and to her family. Yet, she lost her husband at a relatively young age, and she became a widow. She encountered many difficulties and harsh treatments after that, and yet she persevered through all of them and continued to be charitable throughout the remainders of her life, caring for the poor and the sick, building hospitals and care houses for them.

The examples of St. Elizabeth of Hungary should be inspiration to all of us, that no matter what prestige, honour, glory and fame, monetary wealth or other things we have in life, we must first and foremost give our hearts to God, and love Him with all of our strength. Then, we also have to love our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are in need of our help.

Let us all do our best, therefore, to become ever more devoted disciples of Our Lord, by practicing our faith with commitment throughout the rest of our lives. May He empower all of us to live courageously in His presence, and may we draw ever closer to Him. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us sinners as well. Amen.

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever gives his life will be born again. I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding meal together, one might be taken and the other left.”

Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Wisdom 13 : 1-9

The natural helplessness of humans is seen in their ignorance of God. The experience of good things did not lead them to the knowledge of Him Who is. They were interested in His works, but they did not recognise the Author of them.

Fire, wind, air, the sphere of the stars, rushing water and the lights in the sky were held as the rulers of the world. If, charmed by such beauty, they took them for gods, let them know how far superior is their sovereign. And if they were impressed by their power and activity, let them understand from this how much mightier is He Who formed them. For the grandeur and beauty of creatures lead us to ponder on their Author, greater and more magnificent.

No doubt these people are not to be blamed severely, for possibly they strayed though they searched for God and desired to find Him. They pondered over the created things that surrounded them and were captivated by the sight of such beauty. Even so they are not to be excused, for if they were able to explore the world, why did they not discover first the world’s Sovereign?

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us celebrate together the great Solemnity of All Saints, all the holy men and women who have gone before us, and whom the Church has officially recognised as those who have deserved and are worthy of the glory of heaven, by the virtue of their lives on earth, their exemplary and inspiring life examples, and their commitments to the Church, to God and His people.

And all of us have to realise that, the saints and all the martyrs of God who have left this earthly existence before us are still as much as part of the entire Universal Church with us, together with the holy souls that are now in Purgatory. Therefore, the Church does not consist just of the physical Church that we see now in this world, but also the spiritual Church that is in heaven and in Purgatory, constantly praying for one another.

We are all parts of the Church in this world, the Church Militant, all those who are still struggling daily to remain true and faithful to the Lord, sinners who are called to conversion and change of life, to be true disciples of the Lord. Meanwhile, the holy souls in Purgatory, those who were deemed to be worthy of the Lord, not counted among the wicked, but not yet worthy of the fullness of God’s glory because of the venial or minor sins they still had, belong to the Church Suffering.

Therefore, tomorrow, on All Souls’ Day, we will remember these holy souls who are suffering in Purgatory, to atone for the remainders of their sins. But today, we rejoice together celebrating with the Church Triumphant, the holy saints of God, those deemed worthy by the Church to merit immediately the glory of heaven. Thus, we believe that they are now in heaven, in the presence of God, praying and interceding for our sake.

There are still many who misunderstand the practice of the veneration of the saints in the Church, including those who have fallen into certain heresies and rejected this venerable practice. The veneration of saints begun as a practice beginning from the days of the saints and martyrs of the early Church, when those who were martyred for their faith were remembered for their staunch and steadfast faith in God.

In fact, the practice of celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar in which the relics of saints and martyrs had been deposited, began from those years, when Christians had to gather and meet in secret, celebrating the Holy Mass in catacombs or graveyards underground, where the tombs of the saints and martyrs were located. The Holy Mass would be celebrated above those tombs, linking to what we practice now.

And through this, we also can see the clear link between the life of those saints and martyrs, with the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, which is celebrated during every single celebration of the Holy Mass. The life, virtues and holiness of the saints cannot be separated from the One from Whom the saints drew the source of their strength, and from Whom came the holiness that was reflected on their lives.

Contrary to what some accused wrongly of the Church and our faith, we do not worship the saints in any way, or give them the adoration that is reserved to God alone. However, we venerate them and honour them because of their exemplary life, which the Church deems that each and every one of us can also follow in our own daily lives. Through the veneration of the saints, it is hoped that we too can be touched in our hearts by their holiness, and become holy ourselves.

The saints intercede for our sake, praying for us before God, that their prayers, being close to God, will be heard more by the Lord our God. We do not pray to the saints asking them to do what we want, or perform wondrous and miraculous deeds, as this is a common misconception of what we Christians believe about the saints and holy men and women we venerate. Rather, we ask them to pray for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then, we also have to remember that no one was born a saint, except for Mary, the mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, because of her special role in our salvation, to be the new Ark of the Covenant, bearing God Himself in her. And therefore, God made her to be special, conceived without the taints of original sin, and remaining Immaculate through her life. I will discuss her in a moment, but now let us turn our focus back to the saints.

The saints themselves were sinners, and some were indeed great sinners. Some were murderers, like St. Vladimir of Russia, prince of Kiev, who was a pagan before his conversion, leading a very immoral lifestyle, and killing many people during his reign, including his own father and children. But, the Lord called him to the light, and by embracing the Christian faith, St. Vladimir had a total change of heart, dismissing his old pagan and immoral life, and became a great Christian ruler from then on.

Some others were unrepentant sinners for many years, like St. Augustine of Hippo, now known as a great Doctor of the Church and well-known for his many works and writings that still heavily influences the Church up to this day. Yet, at that time, early in his life, he practiced many immoral behaviour, having a child outside of marriage with his mistress, as well as many other sins he committed. But through the ceaseless efforts and prayers from his mother, St. Monica, St. Augustine eventually repented and changed his life from a life of sin into a life of holiness devoted to God.

What does this tell us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must not see the saints and the holy men and women of God, the Blesseds and the Venerables, the Servants of God, and many more people who have led virtuous and righteous lives as people who were impeccable and unblemished. Indeed, now they have been made clean by the Lord, as St. John saw in the Book of Revelations, in his vision of the multitudes of holy men and women in pure white garment, washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord has purified us all from our sins, from His loving sacrifice at Calvary. Thus the same Blood has purified all the saints, by either the virtue of their lives, or by their courageous defence of their faith to the point of martyrdom, and many other ways by which these saints have glorified the Lord.

I like to compare the saints to the stained glasses in our churches. Indeed, this comparison is good because we use stained glasses in the churches in order to show to the people first of all, the life of our God, His mission on earth and the important events that occurred throughout the Old and New Testaments. Yet, there are also many others that depict the life of God’s saints.

In the past, many people were uneducated and illiterate, and they were not even able to read the Bible as we are today. It is often that we take our literacy and the easy availability of the Bible for granted. But at that time, the people could not read the Bible because they could not read at all, and in the even earlier days, before the Bible was codified by the Church, and at times of great persecution, it was through drawings and sketches on the walls of the catacombs and the churches.

And this practice continued with the stained glasses. What is beautiful about stained glasses is that, in the old times, the interior of the church building would be dark without any source of light. Candles are used to provide these lights at night, but natural light from the outside during daytime are allowed to enter the church building, through the stained glasses.

The stained glasses on their own shine no light, and stained glasses in the darkness cannot be seen. In truth, they seem so beautiful because of the light that passes through them. And we can see the light made more beautiful through the scenes depicted on the stained glasses. It is the same with God and His saints. The saints have no merit on their own except through the Lord. They are holy and honoured because God’s light can be found in them, shining through them.

Therefore, just as the stained glasses make the light passing through them more beautiful, God is glorified through the deeds of His saints, and all of us can also learn from their good examples, by following their footsteps and practicing what they have done and apply these in our own respective lives. We are called to be saints just as those who have gone before us received the crown of heavenly glory.

We may be apprehensive and think that through our sins, we have not been worthy of God, but as we have discussed just earlier, saints themselves were born not as saints, and all of them have been sinners before. What matters is the conversion of the heart, mind, body and indeed our entire being, that we turn our backs to our sinful past and all the wickedness we have committed in life. What matters is that we change our ways, following the examples of the saints, our role models.

And the greatest role model we can have is Mary, the mother of our God, the greatest among all saints. For she is indeed in heaven, closest to the throne of her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. She is always praying for us, her adopted children, because by entrusting her to us, God has made her to be our mother as well. Let us model ourselves based on the model of Mary, in her faith and dedication to God, and remind ourselves each and every day that all of us have the potential for holiness.

Let us all therefore today be encouraged by the examples of the saints, shedding from ourselves all the darkness and the dirty sins and wickedness covering our beings, that through God’s light in us, realised through our faith and actions, we may shine brightly with the light of God in our lives. Let us be the beautiful stained glasses of the Lord, shining with God’s light and showing forth God’s glory through our actions.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the intercession of His saints, each and every one of us will be brought ever closer to our loving God, and we hope that one day we will share the eternal joy of heaven with them. O holy saints of God in heaven, pray for us always, and pray for our brethren who are now suffering in Purgatory as well. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.