Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the key message and the gist of today’s Scripture readings is really very simple, and yet it is at the same time, something very important for us all to take note of, as disciples and followers of our Lord. And that is the value and virtue of humility, and of rejecting pride and hubris, understanding that we mankind are not greater than God and His authority.

In order to understand fully the meaning and nuances behind what transpired between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, we have to appreciate and be able to understand the history of how it came to be as what it was like at the time of Jesus. By that time, the Jewish people, the descendants of Israel had had the Law revealed to them for over a thousand years, with many generations of peoples passing down the Law of God from mouth to mouth.

God made it clear in the beginning that He created mankind because of His love for all that He had created, and the greatest of which He reserved for us, the most perfect and beloved of all His creations, created in His very own Image. And because of that love, He has endeavoured to forgive them and rescue them from their own downfall, that is sin. Sin has entered into the hearts of men because of disobedience, and the reward for sin is death.

But God did not want such a fate for those whom He had intended to give His love to, and for the ones whom He had cared for, certainly He did not desire for them to perish, but to live and to rejoice together with Him. That was why He sent His messengers and servants among His people, to call them to repentance and to turn themselves to the loving and caring hands of the Lord, that He might take them up and bless them once more.

To that extent also, therefore, God sent Moses to rescue His people from their suffering and tribulation in the land of Egypt. They went out with the guidance from God’s own mighty Hand, and He showed His might before them. And in order to seal the promise He had made with them, He sealed it with the Covenant which He established through the Law that He passed down to Moses His servant, that His people would observe them forever.

These laws and commandments are love, brothers and sisters in Christ. If we read through the Ten Commandments, love the Lord your God and have no idols or false gods before Him, honouring His holy Name and the day of the Lord, all these speak of how we ought to have that love and dedication for God, just in the same manner as God has loved us first.

And the other commandments, exhorting us not to kill, not to steal, honouring one’s mother and father, all are speaking about how we ought then to show the same love we have shown to the Lord, in how we also love our brethren, our neighbours around us. This is what the Lord wanted from us all mankind, His beloved people, that we have love in us, His love, that we may love Him just as much as we have been loved by Him.

Yet, unfortunately, due to the obstinance and the rebelliousness of the people, they disagreed and doubted many times about the Lord, so much so that in order to keep them in check and to help ensure that they are able to restrain their negative desires and traits, God helped them by giving them rules and regulations to help them to manage themselves, that after having disciplined themselves, then they would be better able to find themselves on the right track towards the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, over time, the people of God forgot the intention of God why He established those rules and regulations in the first place. And as the Law was often transmitted from mouth to ear, and then from one to another again, over time, there were many misunderstandings and things that they had added into the laws, which then the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law zealously defended and imposed on the people.

These people saw themselves as superior to others, and they revelled in their pride knowing about their esteemed position and supposed greater piety and honour in the society, something which St. Paul clearly warned against in today’s First Reading, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth. He warned them about human pride and hubris, greed and desire for power which could easily takeover us mankind, and make us not faithful servants of the Lord, but instead as wayward people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians we should learn to be more like king David, whom Jesus mentioned in His words in the Gospel today. When his men were hungry, the king David cared for them and found food for them in the Temple of God, that they might be sustained and not suffer from hunger. That is the kind of love which our Lord also expects from each and every one of us, that we do not overlook the sufferings of others, or worse, by imposing our views and opinions on others.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were fixated on the wrong things. They were so blinded by their blind obedience to the laws of Moses, which was serious misunderstanding of the true intention of the Law of God, that is love. Instead of bringing mankind to love God more, they were making those people to fear Him, as the excessive obligations and rules ended up burdening the people, especially all those seeking to repent and to turn over a new leaf.

Rather, we should learn to be true disciples of our Lord, by not just having empty faith, but also through active participation and commitment of our loving works and deeds, that we show love in all that we do, in all that we say, and after all these, in not claiming the credit for ourselves, or be proud of our achievements and deeds, for all these we have done, all for the sake of the greater glory of our God.

Today we also commemorate the feast of the great and renowned Pope, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was well known for his great devotion to God, in his efforts to live a truly Christian life. Even though he had been elected to such an important role and position in the Christian world, but he remained humble and was very dedicated to the mission which he had been entrusted with by the Lord.

Pope St. Gregory the Great helped to reform the Church and the lives of the faithful, bringing greater discipline to the Church and to help the people of God to learn how to live as a faithful disciple and follower of the Lord. He helped the poor and the weak in his areas of jurisdiction, improving the livelihood of those who once lived in squalor and filth, showing genuine Christian love to everyone who saw him.

And he also sent many missions to convert many Pagans and all those who still lived in the ignorance of the salvation of God, that through these courageous missionaries, the word of God, that is the love I have mentioned earlier, the desire of the Lord to have all of His beloved children to return to Him, may reach all the ends of the earth, and as many souls as possible could be saved.

In his short earthly life, we can already see how he embodied what we Christians have to do, and how we ought to do it. Can we all devote ourselves to God and to our fellow brethren in the same way that Pope St. Gregory the Great and many of the other holy saints had done, brethren? Are we able to commit ourselves to the Lord fully and wholly without being distracted by the temptations of worldliness, power and all others?

Let us all pray now, brethren, that we may be given the gift to discern carefully how we are to do our actions in life, that wherever we are, we will always be ready to show love where it is needed, to care for the life and wellbeing of others when they were under threat, and to stand up for our needy and poor fellow men who were unjustly oppressed. May God help us in these endeavours, and may He keep us all always in His everlasting grace. Amen.

Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through the corn fields, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the sabbath.”

Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 144 : 17-18, 19-20, 21

Righteous is the Lord in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

He fulfils the wish of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. For those who love Him, the Lord has compassion; but the wicked, He will destroy.

Let my mouth speak in praise of the Lord, let every creature bless His holy Name, forever and ever.

Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 4 : 6b-15

Learn by this example not to believe yourselves superior by siding with one against the other. How then are you more than the others? What have you that you have not received? And if you received it, why are you proud, as if you did not receive it?

So, then, you are already rich and satisfied, and feel like kings without us! I wish you really were kings, so that we might enjoy the kingship with you! It seems to me that God has placed us, the Apostles, in the last place, as if condemned to death, and as spectacles for the whole world, for the Angels as well as for mortals.

We are fools for Christ, while you show forth the wisdom of Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are honoured, while we are despised. Until now we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and badly treated, while moving from place to place.

We labour, working with our hands. People insult us and we bless them, they persecute us and we endure everything; they speak evil against us, and ours are works of peace. We have become like the scum of the earth, like the garbage of humankind until now.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn you as very dear children. Because even though you may have ten thousand guardians in the Christian life, you have only one father; and it was I who gave you life in Christ through the Gospel.

Saturday, 13 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings today spoke to us about what we ought to be doing in order to find righteousness and salvation in our God. And that is for us to abandon our sinful ways and our wicked past, just as what the Lord told His people through His prophet Ezekiel, telling them that while the righteous enjoy the favour of the Lord, but the wicked and those who refused to obey Him, shall receive punishment due for them.

And in order to find righteousness and justice in God, we will have to learn to distance ourselves from all the things that are wicked and that are against the Lord’s ways, as God Himself announced to the prophet Ezekiel, that His faithful people ought to distance themselves from things that can cause fornication and corruption of the body, heart, mind and soul. That means, we should avoid unjust attitudes and behaviours, avoid greed and unbridled desires, avoid all the things that bring us into the trap of sin and thus into our downfall.

Why is this something so important for us to take note of, brethren? That is because, by our nature, we have that tendency to be swayed by our needs and wants, by our desires and by our attachments to the world and its goods. It is easy for us to lose our way going forward as we are presented with many options, many of which lead not to the Lord but instead towards the devil and his false ways.

In the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to His disciples to point out to them that very simple fact which we often forget in life. That if we want to follow the Lord our God, then our focus cannot be on other things beside Him. We have too many attachments and concerns in life, and that is a singular most important reason why so many of us were incapable of being devoted and committed servants of our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to heed what Jesus our Lord said to us in the Gospel, that we have to be like that of little children if we are to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And no, it does not mean that we should become childish in our actions and way of life, but rather, we must be as children are when they believe in something and be like them in our faith towards the Lord.

If we have seen children before, talking to them and working with them, we should realise that they are truly clean slate, pure and innocent, untainted by the many concerns and attachments to the world. And these are exactly the very reason why many of us met our downfall and falter on our way to the Lord, as our burdens, the burdens of our attachments weighed us down and held us back.

Are we able to believe in the Lord just as the children had believed? The faith of a child is pure and true, and when they believe in something, they will hold on to that faith and to that belief. Whereas many of us are easy to turn away our beliefs and faith, for something else, just as what many of us did, ditching the Lord behind for the gain of our own flesh, the pleasures of that same flesh, and for the tempting gains of money, fame, possessions and worldly glory.

Let us then look at the examples of the two holy saints and servants of God whose feast we are celebrating on this day. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were renowned elders and leaders of the Church at the time of the early Church, during the time when the Church was still under the persecution and attack from the Roman Empire and its government.

Pope St. Pontian was the leader of the Universal Church at that time, while St. Hippolytus was supported by some segments in the Church to become the Bishop of Rome in opposition to Pope St. Pontian. The struggle and tension between the two of them were quite bad for some time, with both sides accusing each other of trying to divide the Church and the faithful.

But in the end, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus agreed to lay down their differences for the sake of the faithful and the Church, and it also happened during the time of a particularly vicious and cruel persecution of the Church by the Roman Emperor Valerian. They were both arrested and put into great suffering and were exiled, where eventually they were martyred for their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the example of these two saints, we can see how our human desires and wants can become great obstacles on our journey and path towards the Lord. These can cause divisions and intrigue to arise among the faithful and in the Church. And certainly, from what we have learnt, we should also endeavour to reject the temptations of the flesh, the allures of the world, and instead, do what we can in order to help one another to find our way to the Lord and to His salvation.

Let us all cultivate and strengthen our faith, so that it may grow stronger in us, and with stronger faith, may all of us be united ever more closely and intimately with our God, and in all the things that we say and do, let us do them for the greater glory of God. Amen.

Saturday, 13 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 19 : 13-15

At that time, little children were brought to Jesus that He might lay His hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them.

Jesus then said, “Let them be! Do not stop the children from coming to Me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to people such as these children.” So Jesus laid His hands on them and went His way.

Saturday, 13 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs (Psalm)

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

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing Spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it.

Saturday, 13 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs (First Reading)

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

Ezekiel 18 : 1-10, 13b, 30-32

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Why are you applying this proverb to the land of Israel : ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge?'”

“As I live, word of YHVH, this proverb will no longer be quoted in Israel. All life is in My hands, the life of the parent and the life of the child are Mine. The lives of both are in My hands, so the one who sins will die. Imagine a man who is righteous and practices what is just and right.”

“He does not eat in the mountain shrines, or look towards the filthy idols of Israel, does not defile his neighbour’s wife, or have intercourse with a woman during her period; he molests no one, pays what he owes, does not steal, gives food to the hungry and clothes to the naked, demands no interest on a loan and does not lend for interest, refrains from injustice, practices true justice, man to man, follows My decrees and obeys My laws in acting loyally.”

“Because such a man is truly righteous, he will live, word of YHVH. But perhaps this man has a son who steals and sheds blood, committing crimes which his father never did. Will such a man live? No, he will not! Because he has committed all these abominations he will die : his guilt will fall upon him.”

“That is why I will judge you, Israel, each one according to his ways, word of YHVH. Come back, turn away from your offences, that you may not deserve punishment. Free yourselves from all the offences you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, Israel? I do not want the death of anyone, word of YHVH, but that you be converted and live!”