Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard again about the salvation of God passed down to us through Christ, the High Priest as we continue the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, reminding us yet again how the Lord had offered Himself as the perfect and worthy sacrifice for our sins. The Lord has blessed us with this wonderful grace, forgiving us our sins and leading us into assurance of eternal life through Him.

And now, all of us are called to remember that the Lord has revealed to us all these and therefore we are expected to make good use of all that He has given to us along with this revelation. To each and every one of us God has given us the gift of faith, the wonders of our various talents and abilities, the gift of hope and love as well. These are the seeds that God had sowed in us, and which is aptly summarised and shown through the parable in our Gospel today.

In that parable of the sower, we heard how the sower spread the seeds and those seeds fell on different places. Those different places in fact represent the different attitudes by which we receive and embrace the gifts of God, and how we respond to His call and His truth. Those seeds that fell by the roadside, those that fell on rocky grounds and those that grew amidst thorns and bushes were those who have not fully embraced God’s truth and love.

First of all, those seeds that fell by the wayside were seized and eaten up by the birds, which symbolised the failure of those who reject the Lord and their refusal to even listen to Him or to accept His words and teachings. As a result, those seeds of faith had no place in them, and the devil and all of his fellow forces of evil came and snatched these from them, leaving them barren and without grace.

Then, those seeds that fell on rocky grounds represent those that did receive the word of God, His truth and love, but they hardened their hearts and did not allow these to take root deep within them. Their faith were superficial and merely for appearances rather than genuinely believing in the Lord and in His truth. Thus, similarly those seeds could not grow properly and perished. They did not have the right attitude to welcome the words of the Lord into their hearts.

Those seeds that fell on among the thistles, bushes and brambles represent those who have been more willing to embrace the word of God, His truth and love, and yet they still loved the world more and sought pleasure and enjoyment from the world rather than to fully trust in the Lord. As such, they also failed to grow properly in faith and God’s grace, and they too fell just like the others. The temptations to sin are powerful, and they can bring us down if we are not careful.

Only those seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil grew well and multiplied in produce so much that they produced thirty, sixty and hundred-fold as many in produce as compared to the original. This represents those who embraced the Lord, His truth and love, and committed themselves wholeheartedly to Him, and allowed the Lord to perform His wonders through them. And this is what we are all called to be, brothers and sisters, to be fruitful in faith and to be filled with God’s love.

Are we willing to do so brothers and sisters? Can we commit ourselves to Him and do our best to follow Him and do His will? We can follow the good examples set by St. Angela Merici, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Angela Merici was a renowned religious and educator, who was essential in the founding of the now famous Ursulines Order. She dedicated much of her life and work to the advancement of education especially that among the girls, often neglected at the time.

St. Angela Merici spent a lot of time educating young girls and young women, and inspired many women to follow in her own footsteps, encouraging them all to follow the Lord wholeheartedly while remaining in the world, ministering to the needs of those who lacked basic education and proper guidance. As a result of her dedication and efforts, many people came to follow in her footsteps and their combined effort brought so many changes and impact to the society, a definition of what thirty, sixty and hundred-fold produce is all about.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can do the same with our own lives. We do not have to do great and wonderful things, but even with our small actions, we may impact the lives of others and touch them with the love and truth of God. This will in time cause a great ripple effect as those whom we touch will then continue to touch the lives of others on their own accord, spreading the impact far beyond what we ourselves can do alone.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to God, and spend time to do what the Lord has called us to do. May God be with us always in this journey and may He strengthen us that we may always strive our best to bear fruits in our faith, at all times. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus began to teach by the lake; but such a large crowd gathered about Him, that He got into a boat and sat in it on the lake, while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through parables. In His teaching, He said, “Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path; and the birds came and ate it up.”

“Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately, because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burnt it, it withered, because it had no roots. Other seed fell among thorn bushes; and the thorns grew and choked it; so it did not produce any grain.”

“But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; some seed produced thirty times as much, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.” And Jesus added, “Listen then, if you have ears.”

When the crowd went away, some who were around Him with the Twelve asked about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But for those outside, everything comes in parables, so, that, the more they see, they do not perceive; the more they hear, they do not understand; otherwise they would be converted and pardoned.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How, then, will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path, where the seed fell, are people who hear the word, but as soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”

“Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy. But they have no roots, so it lasts only a little while. No sooner does trouble or persecution come because of the word, than they fall. Others receive the seed, as seed among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hope of riches and other desires. All these come in and choke the word, so that finally it produces nothing.”

“And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce : some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.”

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 109 : 1, 2, 3, 4

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your foes Your footstool.”

From Zion the Lord will extend Your mighty sceptre and You will rule in the midst of Your enemies.

Yours is royal dignity from the day You were born in holy majesty. Like dew from the womb of the dawn, I have begotten You.

The Lord has sworn, and He will not take back His word : “You are a Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Hebrews 10 : 11-18

So, whereas every priest stands, daily, by the Altar, offering, repeatedly, the same sacrifices, that can never take away sins, Christ has offered, for all times, a single sacrifice for sins, and has taken His seat at the right hand of God, waiting, until God puts His enemies as a footstool under His feet. By a single sacrifice He has brought those who are sanctified to what is perfect forever.

This also was testified by the Holy Spirit. For after having declared : This is the Covenant that I will make with them in the days to come – says the Lord – I will put My Laws in their hearts and write them on their minds. He says : Their sins and evil deeds I will remember no more. So, if sins are forgiven, there is no longer need of any sacrifice for sin.

Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the beginning of David’s reign over the whole kingdom of Israel as described in the first reading today and how he managed to conquer the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites who lived there and made it the capital of Israel. And then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the tension and conflict that happened between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who criticised Him and His works.

In our first reading today, the context of what happened was that David was finally accepted as king over all the people of Israel after for seven years, he was only the king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron. The other eleven tribes of Israel chose to side with the family of Saul after Saul was killed at the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. Ishboshet or Ishbaal, one of the surviving sons of Saul was made king over the eleven tribes and for years, division and conflict occurred between the two opposing kings.

However, God was not with Ishbaal despite him having the support of the much larger portion of Israel, as God has earlier on chosen David as His rightful king and as the rightful successor of king Saul. This is something that Saul himself had tacitly accepted and acknowledged towards the end of his reign, but the supporters of Saul probably pushed on to prevent the ascension of David as king and thus placed Ishbaal on the throne.

As God was with David, it was recounted in the passage of the Scripture that David became more powerful and beloved over time, while the support towards the house of Saul gradually declined. Eventually Ishbaal was killed by two of his own captains, and the whole community of Israel eventually agreed to overcome their disagreements and chose David to be the rightful king and ruler over all of them.

This part here will be very important as we should then link it to what we have heard in our Gospel passage just now, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus publicly as they deemed that His miraculous powers and works were nothing else but the works of the evil spirits, done in collaboration with Beelzebul, one of the chief princes of demons.

The Lord then spoke up strongly against what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had said and thought that He has done everything by the power and in collusion with the prince of demons. He spoke of how a kingdom and nation that is divided will be destroyed and will not be able to stand, alluding to how first of all, that if the Pharisees had been right, then Beelzebul was himself divided against the other demons and evil spirits. Had that been the case, they would have all been too busy arguing, bickering and fighting among themselves to be able to threaten us.

That is as far as it was from the truth. The devil and all of his wicked forces are in fact more united than ever in trying to bring about our downfall, and that is why his favourite tactic is in fact to sow the seeds of dissension, disagreement, anger, jealousy, and all sorts of things that cause us to strike at another person. And when we are divided among ourselves, it will be easy for the devil and his fellow fallen angels and wicked spirits to come in for the kill.

Like the supporters of the house of Saul who were divided among themselves, culminating in the two trusted captains of Ishbaal who killed their own lord and king, those who are divided among themselves will be weakened and will be truly vulnerable. And unless we realise this, then the devil is really going to have a very good time at bringing about the downfall of many, many souls in this world, all those who are vulnerable to his lies and coercions.

The Lord also spoke up so strongly against those who criticised Him falsely because they have doubted the work of God among His people, which clearly and definitively could not have been the act of the forces of evil. What the Lord had done was genuinely for the good of His people, and even though the devil and his forces were very good at deceiving us with many lies and tricks, but he cannot hide his true nature, and he will not be able to show true love, compassion and genuine care for us, like what the Lord Himself had done for us.

When the Lord spoke of the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ as sin that cannot be forgiven, that is because although God is indeed loving and merciful, but to doubt and to disregard, to belittle and to blatantly make a lie against the obvious works of the Lord through His Holy Spirit, by which the Lord Jesus has performed His works and miracles, is a great sin that is borne out of voluntary and stubborn rejection of God’s constant offer of love, mercy and compassion.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were jealous and fearful of Jesus, Whom they saw as a great threat to their status, privileges and honour within the community of the people of God. They were afraid that everyone would flock to Him instead of listening to them and they then would lose everything they had gained thus far, all the honour, respect, privileges and authority they had. That was how the devil worked through them, through their words and actions, causing divisions and disagreements to enter the hearts of the people of God.

Having heard all of these, let us now then reflect on our own lives and how we have lived up to our faith thus far. Have we acted in the way those Pharisees had been, in sowing dissension, distrust and preventing God’s good works from being done for whatever reasons we have? Have we been telling lies, making gossips and doing things to create division and disagreement within our communities? Have we been doing things for our own selfish gain and desires, causing others to suffer in the process?

I am sure that all of us, in one way or another, in one part of our life or another, have erred before and fell into this trap of the devil, causing us to be divided against each other, being angry and jealous that led us into actions that cause us to be hurt, to hate and to make others suffer. And because of that, we need to heed what we have just discussed earlier on, how the devil is using this as an opportunity to bring us down. How do we then get out of this situation?

It is by putting our focus in life once again on God, meaning that in everything that we say and do, God should be at the heart of everything. If God is the focus of our life, the likelihood for us to be tempted or misled by the devil will be less, and through God, if we allow Him to help us and transform our lives, our strong relationship will keep us firmly rooted in Him no matter what obstacles the devil and his allies are always trying to put in our path forward in life.

Today, we can also heed the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Angela Merici, a holy virgin who dedicated her life to God and who had a difficult life in her youth, being orphaned at the age of fifteen and having to lose her sister who passed away in her teenage years. She was noted to be very beautiful, and many men wanted to suit her, so St. Angela Merici purposefully dyed her hair with soot to detract her suitors as she wanted to devote herself to God completely.

She gathered like-minded women who then called themselves as the Company of St. Ursula, which eventually would become the modern religious order of the Ursulines. St. Angela Merici inspired the growing group to consecrate themselves to God and to serve Him by devoting their time and attention to the needs of those in the community, particularly in the area of education of girls. St. Angela Merici kept her faith and dedication to God and did not allow herself to be tempted by worldly desires, as we heard earlier how she voluntarily give up her physical attractiveness to devote herself totally to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in God and put Him once again at the very centre of our existence and trust Him with all of our heart as St. Angela Merici and also king David had done. Let us not be distracted and be divided anymore by the machinations of the evil one, and resist him and all of his lies from now on. May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Angela Merici, give us the strength and courage to be ever more faithful to God, at all times. Amen.

Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.”

“No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin forever.”

This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 25-26

In the past, You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and, with My holy oil, I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him; and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him; and, by My help, he will be strong. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.

Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

2 Samuel 5 : 1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your bone and flesh. In the past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel. And YHVH said to you, ‘You shall be the shepherd of My people Israel and you shall be commander over Israel.’”

Before YHVH, king David made an agreement with the elders of Israel who came to him at Hebron, and they anoint him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years : he reigned over Judah, from Hebron, seven and a half years; and over Israel and Judah, from Jerusalem, for thirty-three years.

The king and his men set out for Jerusalem to fight the Jebusites who lived there. They said to David, “If you try to break in here, the blind and the lame will drive you away,” which meant that David could not get in. Yet David captured the fortress of Zion that became the “city of David.”

And David grew more powerful, for YHVH, the God of Hosts, was with him.

Saturday, 27 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Scripture passages, telling us first of all, the anger of God directed to His servant David, king of Israel, because of his disobedience and waywardness, when he plotted the killing of Uriah, the husband of a woman who he desired to be his own wife. The Lord delivered His words through the prophet Nathan, who severely rebuked the king for his sins.

However, unlike his predecessor, king Saul, David regretted his sins and immediately humbled himself before God, recognising how unworthy he was because of what he has committed. And this made a great difference between him and Saul, and one of the many qualities which made the Lord to be pleased with David, and confirmed him in his role as the king and leader of His people.

Nonetheless, he still committed a serious sin before the Lord, and for that, as the prophet Nathan mentioned, the son born of the relation between David and Bathsheba would die. David implored the Lord and begged Him to spare the life of his son, even to the point of fasting and humbling himself all the more before Him. But God did not relent, for it was just punishment that He had inflicted on David, and the king accepted that fate.

David’s moment of weakness is something truly extraordinary, considering that he was such a faithful servant of God, devoted wholeheartedly to Him, and was exalted by God as His great servant. But we must not forget that David was still a man, just like each and every one of us, and therefore a sinner. All man are susceptible to sin and to fall into temptation, and David did fall in that one occasion and another.

That is a lesson for all of us, that we must be ever vigilant in our lives, that we do not allow the devil any opportunity for him to tempt us or to persuade us by his false promises and persuasions, so that we will be less likely to fall into his trap and sin against God. The Gospel passage today is yet another reminder for this, that we should put our trust in God and not be swayed by the worries of the world.

We heard about the moment when the ship boarded by Jesus and His disciples in the Lake of Galilee was hit by a great storm, with strong winds and waves battering on the ship, threatening to sink the ship. But Jesus remained calm and did not panic, unlike the disciples, who were filled with fear. They could have chosen to abandon the ship and jump into the water in order to save themselves, but thankfully, they did not.

Brethren, do you know that the Church is often portrayed and compared to that of a big ship? The Lord in the ship actually represents Him as the Head of the Church, and all of the disciples in that ship represent all of us who belong to God’s Church. And that storm, the winds and the waves represent the difficulties, challenges and the temptations that many of us have to face day after day, one after another in our respective lives.

But if we abandon the Church and the Lord, just because we think that we can save ourselves, we will end up sinking just as if those disciples were to jump into the water, thinking they could save themselves. If we put our trust in the Lord, He will guide us and protect us, and in the end, even though we had to suffer and face difficulties, we will be triumphant with Him and share His glorious inheritance.

Today, we happen to celebrate the memory of a holy saint and a dedicated virgin, St. Angela Merici, who dedicated her life to the Lord, a renowned educator and founder of a society of like-minded individuals who committed themselves to the education of young Christian girls, especially from those who were poor and did not have the opportunity to have a proper education.

St. Angela Merici and her fellow religious sisters also opened up many schools and orphanages to support their work and mission, caring for many of those who have none to take care of them, and giving them the love which they lacked before. And this should inspire each and every one of us as Christians, to live our lives with faith and commit ourselves to the Lord by our loving actions to one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the Lord continue to strengthen in us our faith, so that we will always persevere through the many challenges and difficulties in life. May we find our way to the Lord, by our commitment and dedication, following the examples set by our predecessors in faith, especially that of St. Angela Merici and her contributions to the faith and the salvation of many. St. Angela Merici, pray for us. Amen.

Saturday, 27 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 4 : 35-41

At that time, on that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they left the crowd, and took Him along in the boat He had been sitting in, and other boats set out with Him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat, so that it was soon filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

They woke Him up, and said, “Master, do You not care if we drown?” And rising up, Jesus rebuked the wind, and ordered the sea, “Quiet now! Be still!” The wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

But they were terrified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”