Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the prophet Elijah being taken up into heaven, which we have also heard yesterday in the account taken from the Book of Kings. Today it is the prophet Sirach’s recollection of the events surrounding the last moments of the prophet Elijah on earth, before he was taken up on a flaming chariot into heaven.

The many works of the prophet Elijah was highlighted, how he had faced up even the powerful but wicked kings of Israel, Ahab and his sons, and his wife, Jezebel. He had to face many difficulties and challenges throughout his journey and mission, and he had to flee into the desert for the safety of his life. But God was with him, and he was well taken care of in the desert, and in the hands of the widow of Zarephath.

Yet, as mentioned by the prophet Sirach, despite the many successes Elijah had performed, in how he helped to bring down the wicked kings of Israel of the house of Ahab, and also ended the threat of foreign nations on Israel, and in anointing his successor, Elisha, to carry on his works, but many of the people of God still remained in sin and rebellion against God.

That is why the Lord sent His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to bring into the world the completion of the works which He has begun in His prophets and messengers. He delivered into the world the message of love from His Father, and then, in today’s Gospel passage, we heard of Him teaching the disciples and the people how to pray to God, in the Lord’s Prayer.

We may be wondering what is the significance of the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples to our first reading and also to our own daily lives. However, first of all, we must understand and realise that prayer is central to all Christians’ life. Without prayer, and meaningful prayer that is, our Christian faith and life is likely empty and meaningless. This is what many of us have failed to realise.

That is because we do not truly understand what prayer is. Prayer is not just series of words and supplications, litanies of words to be uttered and said in churches and in our own homes. If we do not mean what we say in our prayers, and if we do not understand prayer and how we can use it appropriately, then we will end up having faith like the Israelites during the time of Elijah, and the faith of the Pharisees.

The Lord’s Prayer shows us what true prayer is all about. First of all, a prayer is a means of communication between us and God, where we open ourselves, our hearts and minds to God speaking to us, just as we also speak to Him. And prayer is not about making demands to God, as what we often would have done. Instead, it is about thanking God and praising Him for all that He has done for us, in times of good and in bad times.

Prayer is also about knowing what God wants us to do in our lives, by listening to His will being spoken in the depth and the silence of our hearts and minds. But too often, we are too preoccupied and busied by the many concerns and worldly things we have in life, in our career, pursuit for money, wealth, power, fame, influence and others, that we have not been able to listen to God speaking to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in that case, let us all follow the examples set by a holy servant of God, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born as the eldest son in the influential Gonzaga family, where he was destined to inherit his father’s great wealth and influence. He was brought up with the best training and education to be successful in the world.

However, he experienced many of the excesses and wickedness of the Renaissance era lifestyle, and went through a conversion experience to the faith, especially under the guidance of St. Charles Borromeo, then Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. He went through a life of prayer and chastity, and desired even to become a priest and missionary. His father in particular was furious at the decision taken up by St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

But St. Aloysius Gonzaga eventually had his way, and renouncing all worldly titles, inheritance and rights, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and began his study to become a Jesuit. He was well known for his great piety and asceticism, and his prayerful life was an inspiration to many others in the community. And one day, when a deadly epidemic came to the city, St. Aloysius Gonzaga insisted to help out with the victims, and he fell sick from the epidemic, and died at a young age.

Yet, as we can see, St. Aloysius Gonzaga has shown us what being a true Christian is all about. He gave up everything for God, and followed God’s calling in his life. He devoted himself through deep and living prayer life, and loved his fellow men, caring for others who were sick and dying, at the cost of his own life. He should be our inspiration, brothers and sisters, in how we should live our own lives.

Now, let us pray, that God will continue to inflame in us the love for Him, and the sincere and strong faith, just as what St. Aloysius Gonzaga has shown in his own life. Let us all devote ourselves more faithfully to the Lord from now on, and turn towards Him with all our hearts, minds and love Him with all our might. Amen.

Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

Fire goes before Him, burning His foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth watches and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

Shame on worshippers of idols, on those proud of their worthless images. Let all spirits bow before Him.

Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Sirach 48 : 1-15 (Greek Septuagint – Sirach 48 : 1-14)

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? By the word of the Most High you brought a dead man back to life; you brought kings to destruction and thrust famous men from their beds. You heard a rebuke at Sinai and sentences of punishment at Horeb; you anointed kings to be avengers and prophets to succeed you.

You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live. Such was Elijah, taken up in a whirlwind, and Elisha was filled with his spirit. During his life no leader could shake him, no one dominated him. Nothing was too difficult for him and even in death his body prophesied. In life he worked wonders, in death his deeds were amazing.

Despite all this, the people were not converted and did not turn away from sin; not until they were deported far from their country and scattered over the earth.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture reminding us to be faithful and to have courage in the midst of difficulties and challenges that we may have encountered as we lived our lives filled with faith in God. In the first reading today, we heard of how the prophet Elijah stood up against the king of Israel, Ahab, and his four hundred and fifty priests, all serving and worshipping Baal, the pagan god of Canaan.

At the Mount Carmel, Elijah stood alone against those multitudes of people arrayed against him and against God, as the people of Israel have followed their kings and rulers into error and into worship of pagan idols. Only a handful remained in their faith in God, including the prophet Elijah, whom God had sent to call the people back to Him, and to reconcile those who had wandered away from His path.

Yet, despite all the persecution he had faced, having to flee many times for his life, and despite all the difficulties and the odds stacked against him, the prophet Elijah continued his ministry with zeal, and in a sense, it culminated in that great showdown at Mount Carmel, where before the people of Israel and their king, God showed His majesty and truth before them, against their false gods and idols.

Even though there were four hundred and fifty of them, none of the prayers of the priests of Baal were heard. There was no fire provided to them, to burn their offerings on the altar, showing to the people how false and useless their pagan worship had been. On the contrary, although Elijah was alone, but God was with him. And despite having poured a lot of water on the offerings and the altar, fire came down from heaven, so powerful and intense that it consumes everything including the water and the stones.

From this, we can see just how God is always faithful to His Covenant with us, and He will never abandon those who have always walked in His presence. He will always be with those who are faithful to Him, even during difficult and challenging times. In the end, despite all the sufferings, persecutions and difficulties, God will always triumph against those who have made themselves to be His enemies.

That is why, He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the fulfilment of His long promised salvation to us, to be the One to fulfil the entirety of the Law He had given to us mankind. Unfortunately, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, and as we can see throughout the entirety of the Gospels, we see how the Lord Jesus was treated much in the same manner as how the prophet Elijah and the other prophets had been treated.

They had not been obedient to the true Law, and instead, twisted the Law to their own desires and to their advantage. They made use of the Law to serve their own selfish greed and pride, and as a result, they were no different from those priests of Baal who worshipped the devil and Baal, and not God, as they put their own selfish needs and desires ahead of their obligation to God, to the point that they opposed the Lord Jesus and made His works difficult.

But the Lord pointed out their errors and reemphasised how He came to fulfil the Law and complete what the Lord had promised His people, the salvation which He had vowed to give them. He still persevered regardless of the challenges He faced, just as the prophet Elijah had done. And today, another faithful servant of God is also remembered, that is St. Anthony of Padua, the renowned priest and Doctor of the Church.

St. Anthony of Padua was born into a wealthy and influential Portuguese family, but was attracted to the way of life of the consecrated religious orders, and eventually ordained to the priesthood and later on, joined the Franciscan order. He devoted his life to the service to God, and to a life of prayer and preaching the faith before the people. His sermons and preachings were so eloquent and inspired by the Holy Spirit, that many people came to hear him and were converted to the truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring stories of faith from these faithful servants of God, and from the Lord Himself, in what they had done, let us all reevaluate our own lives, and seek to turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and do our very best to be faithful to God in the same manner, by living our lives filled with love for God, as well as love for one another, even if we face challenges for who we are, as Christians, as God’s own people.

Let us all stand up together for our faith in God, and let us not let challenges and difficulties to hinder us or keep us away from loving God as we should. May the Lord be with us, and may He continue to watch over us, and bless all of our endeavours and good works of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 17-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.”

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a, 4, 5 and 8, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to YHVH, “You are my Lord.”

Those who run after foreign gods only have their sorrows multiplied.

Let me not shed blood for them, nor their names be heard on my lips.

O YHVH, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot. I keep YHVH always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence, the fullness of joy, at Your right hand, happiness forever.