Monday, 1 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the words of God’s truth and the sufferings that we may have to face as those who faithfully follow and obey God. We are all reminded that the Lord is always and will always be with us, but often we may have to endure difficulties and challenges along the way if we are to follow Him. God shall provide what we need, and if we trust in Him and believe in His providence then in the end, we shall be triumphant with Him, and will share in the glory that He has promised to all of us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah of the clash and competition between that of Jeremiah and Hananiah, one of the false prophets in the court of the king of Judah. Before the assembly of the people of Judah, Hananiah proclaimed that God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon which the latter had imposed on them, and that God would return everything that the people had lost, a happy resolution of their then predicament. Back then, the kingdom of Judah was in its last days, threatened from all sides, and especially from the forces of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah was the only one who had consistently and persistently spoke the truth of God, reminding the people of the upcoming calamity and destruction, as the sins and disobedience of the people had led them into that fate. Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed and conquered, and the people would be exiled to Babylon, just as the prophets before Jeremiah had foretold, and which Jeremiah himself had also spoken of. But that did not mean that God did not love His people. Rather, they still had to suffer the just consequences of their own choices and actions, in persistently and continuously disobeying God and living wickedly for so long.

Hananiah was not speaking the truth when he was speaking about what would happen to the kingdom and people of Judah. He was pandering to the popular sentiments and desires, and like that of the many other so-called false prophets and officials, they all tried to please the king and the people as naturally nobody liked to hear any bad or negative news or prophecies. Historically, there was also pressure by those people to push the king and the people to side with the Egyptians in the regional power struggle between Egypt and Babylonia, in which the people and kingdom of Judah were caught right in the middle of.

That was why Jeremiah was sidelined, ostracised and persecuted against as most of the officials and the people favoured siding with the Egyptians in their struggles against Babylon, instead of listening to God and repenting from their sinful ways. They trusted more in man’s ways and worldly means to resolve their problems and troubles. They deluded themselves into thinking that they could do anything they want, and that they could imagine life and everything the way they wanted it to be, and not heeding the Lord’s words and reminders, His constant calling and persistent desire to be reunited and reconciled with His people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord’s famous miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of other women and children with merely just five loaves of bread and two fishes. In that occasion, the Lord showed His great providence and love for His people, caring for the needs of those who had chosen to follow Him and devoted themselves to Him, and who had become hungry after following Him. He also wanted to highlight to us that despite our many infidelities and lack of faith in Him, our constant rebelliousness and disobedience, but He has always cared for us and for our well-being.

The Lord fed His people with His own hands, and gave them sustenance both in physical and spiritual manner, strengthening them with miraculously multiplied loaves of bread and fishes, as well as with the words of His wisdom and truth. He calls on us all to follow Him, the Bread of Life and the Hope of all mankind, so that we do not delude ourselves anymore with false expectations and temptations of the world, but instead, turn towards the Lord, our Saviour and King, with full and genuine faith. All of us are called to return towards the Lord and to trust in Him once again, rather than to allow ourselves to be deluded and swayed by worldly temptations and concerns.

Today, all of us should be inspired by the examples of faith and dedication which our holy predecessors had shown us, the saints, the holy men and women of God, and especially that of St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Alphonsus Liguori was the famous founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as the Redemptorist Order. He was a committed bishop and loving shepherd to his flock and community, who dedicated himself to his mission which he later on shared with his Redemptorist Order, to go and brought the truth of Christ and to teach this to the people, guiding them amidst the heretical teachings and ideas that were rampant at that time.

Much as the prophet Jeremiah had laboured against those who brought about false prophecies and messages in the kingdom of Judah, St. Alphonsus Liguori and his fellow Redemptorists spent a lot of effort in reaching out to the people of God, especially those who have been falling off the path towards God’s redemption, with the particular focus towards the marginalised and all those who had no means to reach out to God and His salvation. The charism and the efforts of the Redemptorists were focused in particular towards revealing God’s most wonderful redemption and His mercy to all His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having been reminded of God’s ever patient love and His great mercy and compassion towards us, let us all therefore renew our commitment to Him. Let us all draw ever closer to God and seek Him with ever greater conviction and love from now on. May God be with us always and may He bless us always with His love. Amen.

Monday, 1 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 13-21

At that time, when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, He set out by boat for a secluded place, to be alone. But the people heard of it, and they followed Him on foot from their towns. When Jesus went ashore, He saw the crowd gathered there, and He had compassion on them. And He healed their sick.

Late in the afternoon, His disciples came to Him and said, “We are in a lonely place and it is now late. You should send these people away, so that they can go to the villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.” Jesus said to them, “Bring them here to Me.”

Then He made everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, raised His eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves, and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And they all ate, and everyone had enough; then the disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. About five thousand men had eaten there, besides women and children.

Monday, 1 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your Law.

Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for I would also lose my hope in Your word.

Let those who fear You, turn to me; they will understand Your statutes.

May my heart be blameless in Your decrees, that I may not be ashamed.

The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I look to Your word for salvation.

I have not departed from Your decrees, for You, Yourself, have instructed me.

Monday, 1 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 28 : 1-17

Early in the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah spoke to me.

Hananiah son of Azzur from Gibeon proclaimed in YHVH’s house in the presence of the priests and the people, “This is what YHVH the God of Hosts and the God of Israel says : I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the objects that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from YHVH’s house and carried to Babylon.”

“I will likewise bring back Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all who were taken from Judah and deported to Babylon. For I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon – word of YHVH.”

Then Jeremiah replied to Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people, “So be it! May YHVH fulfil the words you have spoken and bring back from Babylon to this place the objects taken from the house of YHVH and all the exiles. Yet hear now what I say in your hearing and the hearing of all the people.”

“The prophets who came before you and me continually prophesied war, disaster and plague to many nations and great kingdoms. So the prophet who prophesies peace will not be recognised as truly sent by YHVH, until his predictions are fulfilled.”

Then Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah and broke it. Hananiah proclaimed in the presence of all the people, “YHVH says this : In the same manner, within two years, will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar from the neck of all the nations.” Then Jeremiah the prophet went on his way.

Some time later, a word of YHVH came to Jeremiah, “Go and tell this to Hananiah : This is what YHVH says : You have broken a wooden yoke but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. For this is what YHVH the God of Hosts and the God of Israel says : I am placing a yoke of iron on the neck of all the nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.”

Then Jeremiah said to Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, you have not been sent by YHVH and yet you have deceived these people, giving them false hope with your lies. That is why YHVH says with regard to you : I am removing you from the face of the earth. You will die this very year because you have counselled rebellion against YHVH.”

And in the seventh month of that year Hananiah died.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the message from the Sacred Scriptures in which we are again reminded to abandon sin and evil, to turn away from the path of disobedience and instead embrace God’s path. We heard how our predecessors had refused to listen to the Lord and His messengers, the prophets, and instead succumbed to temptation that led them to sin more and more against God.

In our first reading today we heard of the prophet Jeremiah, continuing from the narrative of the previous few days, as he was accused of fear-mongering and even treason for his words, which was in truth the words of the Lord Himself warning that unless the people all changed their way of life, reject sin and evil, be reconciled with God, they would suffer the consequences, which included the destruction of their nation and city, the desecration of the Temple and House of God.

But the people accused him of slandering and treason against the king, nation and the people and refused to listen to the words of the Lord. Yet, as we heard in today’s first readings, just as Jeremiah left himself and his fate at the hands of those who were up against him, speaking that he had spoken whatever the Lord had commanded him to say and presented his case to them, there were still some of those who took Jeremiah’s side and protected him from harm’s way.

Although this saved Jeremiah from death, but in the end, this did not change the fate of the kingdom of Judah and the people, who were crushed by the Babylonians, had their city and Temple destroyed, and most of them sent to decades of exile in Mesopotamia and Babylon. And the words of Jeremiah was therefore proven to be correct, and it was unfortunate that the people had been stubborn and allowed themselves to be affected by their ego and pride in refusing to believe him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard about the story of king Herod of Galilee, who was admonished by St. John the Baptist for his wicked and adulterous behaviour with his own brother’s wife, Herodias, while his brother was likely still alive. This immoral action constituted adultery and grave sin, and as a king and ruler of the people, all the more it was unbecoming for the king to have committed such a sin.

Instead of listening to the words of wisdom and truth from St. John the Baptist, reflecting and correcting his way, king Herod chose to arrest and imprison the man of God, and later on, by the plotting of Herodias who despised the saint for his opposition to her adultery, Herod ended up being forced to execute St. John the Baptist by beheading, and therefore, the innocent blood of the saint stained his hands and those who have plotted against him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore all of us are reminded that we need to look at our lives and how we have acted thus far. Have we been following God and His ways, listening to Him and obeying His precepts and laws? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the temptations of power and glory, of pride and greed, of material wealth and worldly matters? Have we been blinded by our obsession with all these things that we have lost our way like the people of Israel of old and also king Herod?

That is why today, as we reflect on these matters, we should also look up at the examples shown by our saint whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known better as the Redemptorists, was a truly holy man and a role model that we can emulate in our own lives. St. Alphonsus Liguori was remembered for his great piety and dedication to serve the people of God.

At that time, St. Alphonsus Liguori dedicated much of his time serving the poor and the needy in his community, as a priest caring for the spiritual needs of the people, being engaged and in touch with their plight and troubles. He was notable for his simple and yet effective homilies, his courageous and loving outreach to those under his care and the people in his community. St. Alphonsus encouraged the people to spend more quality time with God, caring for their spiritual needs and organising prayers and activities to support that. Many people converted and became more active again in living their faith through his efforts.

And eventually St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorists as a religious order, gathering people with like-minded intention to follow his drive to seek the lost souls and all those who have been distanced away from God. The emphasis on the loving Most Holy Redeemer, the call for repentance and conversion is the cornerstone of the Redemptorist order charism and work. Over the many years, St. Alphonsus Liguori, his followers and many other Redemptorists touched countless people that they brought back from the brink of damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, to devote our time and effort to serve the Lord and to inspire more and more people to be faithful to God in all of their ways. The Lord has given us all His love and He has always been patient with us all these while, but we are the ones who have often ignored Him and rejected His efforts in reaching out to us.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Alphonsus Liguori, opening our hearts and minds and allowing God to lead us that through our lives, sanctified and blessed by His love, we may be inspiration for others just as how St. Alphonsus Liguori inspired many people to turn back to faith instead of being stubborn like that of the Israelites and king Herod. May the Lord bless us all in our every endeavours and good work, now and always. And may St. Alphonsus Liguori intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 15-16, 30-31, 33-34

Rescue me, lest I sink in the mire; deliver me from the storm and the deep waters. Let not the flood engulf me, nor the deep suck me in, let not the pit close its mouth upon me.

But I myself, am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 26 : 11-16, 24

Then the priests and the prophets said to the leaders of the people : “This man must die for he has spoken against the city as you have heard with your own ears!”

Jeremiah replied, “I have been sent by YHVH to prophesy against this House and this city all that you have heard. Hence, reform your ways and your deeds and obey YHVH your God that He may change His mind and not bring upon you the destruction He had intended.”

“As for me I am in your hands; do with me whatever you consider just and right. But know that I am innocent; and if you take my life you commit a crime that is a curse on yourselves, on the city and the people. In truth it was YHVH Who sent me to say all that I said in your hearing.”

Then the leaders, backed by the people, said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve death; he spoke to us in the Name of YHVH.” As for Jeremiah, he was befriended by Ahikam, son of Shaphan, and was not handed over to those who wanted him put to death.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about the establishment of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as prescribed by the Law of God and instructed by God Himself. The Holy Tent of Meeting was the precursor of the Temple of God, which was the centre of the entire community of the faithful, where the Altar of God was placed at, and where the whole community revolved around.

The Lord was with His people at all times, gathering them all together, guiding them along the entire journey in the form of the great pillar of cloud at daytime and as a great pillar of fire at night. He was the focal point of the entire journey, and Moses acted as the mediator between God and His people, as he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with God and to deliver His will and revelations to the people of Israel.

This Holy Tent of Meeting and the community of the people of Israel, if we also then recall what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, on the parable of the kingdom of God represented as a great fishing net gathering many fishes of various kinds, are in fact representations and prefigurements of how our Church today looks like. For the Church of God is just like Israel of old, the community of the entire faithful people of God.

Just as the entire community of Israel was gathered around the Holy Tent and were included within the boundary of the entire camp, thus the whole Church of God is centred and focused on the Holy Presence of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is truly present in our midst in His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, as the tangible focus of our whole lives, the very centre of our Christian faith.

There is also parallel to what happened in the old times of Israel and our Church today, as while in those days, people who were deemed to be unclean were cast out of the camp into the wilderness until they were able to prove themselves to be clean before they were allowed to join the camp once again, in the Church, we also have what is called excommunication, when this most severe of penalties is reserved for those who have acted in a most unfaithful way, with the intention of helping the person to reflect on his or her errors and repent from his or her sins.

The significance of what we have heard in today’s readings cannot be understated, as the Gospel parable also reminds us that those who are wicked and unjust, unfaithful and evil shall have no part in God’s kingdom and inheritance. They will be rejected and cast out forever just as they have willingly and consciously rejected God and refused to follow His laws and commandments.

Do we want to be included or counted among those who will be condemned to eternal damnation? Or do we rather stay on the Lord’s good side? The choice is completely in our hands, and indeed we have been given many opportunities to make our conscious choice. God has given us the free will to choose between good and evil, between obedience to God and disobedience against Him, between righteousness and wickedness.

Today, all of us celebrate together the feast of the Founder of the Redemptorist religious order, or the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Alphonsus Liguori is a great figure filled with faith, sincerity and devotion to God, who can be a great example to each and every one of us in how we ought to live out our lives with faith, and not just any faith, but a living and genuine faith in God.

St. Alphonsus Liguori was once a great lawyer, but after having spent quite a few years in that profession, he found his true calling in serving God and chose to abandon his former life and embraced the call to priesthood and service. And as a priest, he reached out to the poor and the marginalised in the society, gathering all of them and managed to gain many people to return to the faith.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, his dedication and hardwork, his dedication to the Lord and to the people, his efforts to bring the lost souls and sheep of the Lord are things that can inspire us all to live ever more faithfully as true Christians from now on. Are we able to follow in his footsteps in being good examples of faith for one another? All of us have been given the same mission from the Lord, that is to gather His people, our fellow brethren, in the Church that He has established in this world.

Let us all together as one people, one community of the faithful people of God, one Church, serve the Lord with all of our hearts and believe in Him wholeheartedly from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to guide us all throughout this journey of life. May St. Alphonsus Liguori also intercede for us all sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 47-53

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the Angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.”

Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. So He said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old.”

When Jesus had finished these parables, He left that place.