Monday, 5 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to trust in the Lord and His words and promises to us, as He gave us all His reassurances, as He has given to His servants and people, such as what He has told Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, as He watched over him and guided him in his journey, and as He has done to the woman who was suffering from haemorrhages and the official synagogue whose daughter has passed away.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of Jacob, the younger son of Isaac, son of Abraham, who was at Bethel in the midst of fleeing from the wrath of his elder brother Esau. At that time, Esau who was the elder brother of Jacob was supposed to be the one to inherit Isaac’s blessings and grace as the heir of Abraham, but Jacob took those blessings and inheritance from Esau. Jacob flee away from Esau, fearing his wrath, but God was with Jacob, and He showed this reassurance as he lay sleeping in Bethel.

As we heard in our first reading today, Jacob received a vision of heaven as he lay sleeping, and God spoke to him, reassuring him that He would be with him and also with his descendants, remembering the same Covenant and promise which He had made with Abraham and Isaac. Jacob promised God that if He would guide him and help him to return to the land one day, he would raise a great altar in His honour and stay faithful to Him, he and his descendants altogether. And God did guide Jacob and eventually He brought Jacob and his family back to the land promised to him and his descendants.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the moment when the Lord healed two people from their troubles. There was a woman who had been suffering from bleeding and haemorrhages, and had sought for treatments without any success. She sought the Lord as she believed that the Lord would be able to to help her from her troubles. She touched the Lord’s cloak and was instantly healed. The Lord also reassured the woman for her faith, and strengthened her, reassuring her that she has been healed and made whole by her trust in Him.

Then, the Lord also raised the dead daughter of the synagogue official, who initially sought Him to heal her from her sickness. When she had passed on while the Lord was delayed on the way, the Lord reassured her father, the official, that he had nothing to worry about, and despite the ridicule and laughter from all others there who laughed at the Lord’s suggestion that the girl was only sleeping. The Lord raised the girl from the dead and restored her to life, showing to all the power and love of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard these things, are we still doubting the Lord and all that He can do for our sake, on our behalf? Are we still not sure of the things that we shall receive from Him, and all that we shall gain by putting our trust and faith in Him? We are all called to reflect on this, as we ought to consider what we can do in order to commit ourselves as good and faithful Christians in life. We should not just pay Him a lip service and live in manner that is against His laws and commandments.

Today therefore, we should follow the examples set by St. Anthony Zaccaria, a holy priest and dedicated servant of God, known as one of the leaders of the Counter-Reformation efforts and as the founder of the Barnabites order, who was remembered for his commitment and service to the people, especially to those who are poor and needy in the community, devoting much of his time and effort to serve the community of the faithful and encouraging devotions to the Lord such as the increasingly popular Forty Hours Devotion, among others.

St. Anthony Zaccaria did not live long as he passed away relatively young from the ravages of a disease, but he was credited with the foundation of several religious orders, through which his works and passion were continued on by all those who shared the same calling and missionary zeal. This is why we should also follow the examples and be inspired by the faith and dedication of St. Anthony Zaccaria, in how he spent his time and effort to serve the Lord, and to glorify the Name of the Lord among His people. After all, He has loved us so very much and given so much for our sake.

Let us all therefore do our very best and commit ourselves, to serve the people of God, to be inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters, by entrusting ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord from now on. Let us all turn towards Him and be the bearers of His light and truth in our community today, that through us, many more people may come to believe in the Lord as well. May God be with us and bless us all in our every efforts and good endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 5 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Monday, 5 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 90 : 1-2, 3-4, 14-15ab

You, who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who rest in the shadow of the Almighty, say to YHVH, “My Stronghold, my Refuge, my God in Whom I trust!”

He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions and give you refuge under His wings.

“Because they cling to Me, I will rescue them,” says YHVH. “I will protect those who know My Name. When they call to Me, I will answer; in time of trouble, I will be with them.”

Monday, 5 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Genesis 28 : 10-22a

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place the sun had set and he spent the night there. He took one of the stones that were there and using it as a pillow, he lay down to sleep.

While Jacob was sleeping, he had a dream in which a ladder stood on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and on it were Angels of God going up and coming down. And YHVH was standing there near him and said, “I am YHVH, the God of your father, Abraham, and the God of Isaac. The land on which you sleep, I give to you and your descendants.”

“Your descendants will be numerous like the specks of dust of the earth and you will spread out to the west and the east, to the north and the south. Through you and your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. See, I am with you and I will keep you safe wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land and not leave you until I have done what I promised.”

Jacob woke from his dream and said, “Truly YHVH was in this place and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How full of awe is this place! It is nothing less than a house of God; it is the Gate to Heaven!” Then Jacob rose early and took the stone he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He named that place Bethel although before that it was called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, “If YHVH will be with me and keep me safe during this journey I am making, if He gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then YHVH will be my God. This stone which I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house.”

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on the love and dedication which God has shown each and every one of us, as we are reminded of the great love with which He reached out to us sinners, as what we have heard in our Gospel reading today ought to remind us of this fact. In that passage, we heard how the Lord Jesus called a tax collector named Levi, who would later on become one of his chief disciples, St. Matthew the Apostle.

In order to appreciate better the significance of what we have heard in today’s reading, we should understand the context and the historical norms of that time, when the tax collectors were in particular seen as people who were sinners and unworthy of God, looked down and reviled upon, often ridiculed and hated because they were seen as willing agents of the conquering Romans who then ruled over Judea.

They were even treated like traitors, as those who were considered to have sold out the Jewish people and nation to the Romans. And this compounded by the fact that no one likes to pay taxes for their living and land, makes the tax collectors truly among the most hated group of people at that time. They were considered as people who were greedy and wicked, sinful and selfish, and therefore were shunned by the general society.

Yet, the Lord reached out to them and called to them, as what He had done to Levi, calling him to be His follower, not withstanding his occupation as a tax collector. He reached out to Levi and to the other tax collectors, just as He had done with the prostitutes, who were another group of people reviled and rejected by the society as they were cast out and considered as lost cause and terrible sinners.

The Lord made it plainly clear to the teachers of the Law who doubted and criticised Him and His actions, that He did what He had done because He was seeking those who had been sick and afflicted by the dangerous sickness of sin. And yes, sin is a form of sickness that affects the body and the mind, and unless the people afflicted by these sins are cured from their sins, they will be lost forever from God.

And we must always remember that God loves each and every single one of us without exception, mankind great or small, whether their sins were significant or insignificant, whether they were great or small, He loves each and every one of us without exception, to the best that He has given us all. And this great love He has shown us, He gave to us through nothing less than His own ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.

He cared for us all, that He provided for all, including what we heard in today’s first reading, from the Book of Genesis, relating to us of the time when Sarah, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac passed away. God took good care of Isaac by providing him someone to love despite the grief that he must have endured and faced at that time, giving him Rebecca to be his wife, and at the same time, fulfilling the promise that He has given to him and his father Abraham, that their descendants will be great and numerous.

God has been so loving and so generous to us, and He wants to love us all the more, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of His saints, who have embraced this love which God has given him, and became a great role model for many of the faithful through the ages. St. Anthony Zaccaria, was a renowned priest and hardworking servant of God, who worked extensively among the people, and was known in particular for the Forty Hours Devotion that he popularised among the people.

Through this popular devotion, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed before the faithful and including other practices that St. Anthony restored and encouraged, such as the ringing of bells at 3 pm on Fridays to remind the people of the moment of Crucifixion, of God’s ultimate love, St. Anthony Zaccaria had made tremendous impact on the faith and the salvation of many souls throughout the years of his works and beyond.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, after we have heard of the extent of Our Lord’s great and vast love for each and every one of us, and of the commitment and dedication shown by St. Anthony Zaccaria, let us all follow in his footsteps and dedicate ourselves ever more to God, for His great love and merciful compassion towards us. Let us all abandon our old ways of sin, and seek to be reconciled to Him, just as He reaches out to us, regardless of how great a sinner we are.

May the Lord continue to love us and may He show His generous mercy at all times, and may all of us draw ever closer to Him and be worthy to receive the salvation which He has promised to all of us, who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from where He healed the paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 105 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, for His love endures forever. Who can count YHVH’s mighty deeds, or declare all His praises?

Blessed are they who always do just and right. Remember me, o YHVH, when You show favour to Your people.

Rescue me when You deliver them; let me see the triumph of Your faithful; let me share the joy of Your nation; and join Your people in praising You.

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Genesis 23 : 1-4, 19 and Genesis 24 : 1-8, 62-67

Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years. She died at Kiriatharba – that is Hebron – in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to weep and mourn for Sarah. Abraham left his dead one and spoke to the Hittites, “I am only a stranger among you; give me a burial place among you, so that I may bury my dead.”

After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. Abraham was now old and well on in years, and YHVH had blessed him in every way. Abraham said to his senior servant, who was his steward, “Put your hand under my thigh and you will swear to me by YHVH, God of heaven and earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom we live; rather it is to my country and my kinsfolk that you will go to choose a wife for my son, Isaac.”

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not want to follow me to this country. In that case should I take your son to the country you came from?” Abraham said to him, “In no way will you take my son back. For YHVH, God of heaven and God of earth, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, spoke to me and swore to me that He would give this country to my race.”

“He will send His Angel before you, that you may find a wife for my son. But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be free of this oath. In any case you are not to take my son down there.”

Now Isaac had come from the well of Lahai-roi, for he was living in the Negeb. As Isaac went out in the early evening to meditate in the field, he looked up and saw camels coming. Rebekah also looked up and when she saw Isaac she alighted from her camel and said to the servant, “Who is this man in the field coming to meet us?”

He replied, “It is my master!” She then covered her face with her veil. The servant related to Isaac all that he had done, and Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of Sarah, his mother. He made her his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture, showing us the kind of opposition and difficulties that we, as the servants and followers of God may face in our life, over our faith, dedication and commitment to God, in doing His will and in performing His works, just as the prophet Amos and just as the Lord Jesus Himself had experienced.In the first reading today, we heard of the experiences of the prophet Amos, who was sent by God to the northern kingdom of Israel. To put everything into context, this happened during the time when the northern kingdom, called Israel, just broke off, not too many years previously, from the united kingdom ruled by kings David and Solomon. Solomon had disobeyed God and therefore, his kingdom was torn apart from under his heirs.

But Jeroboam, the king which God appointed over Israel’s northern portion had disobeyed God as fast as he was secure in power over his domains. In his fear that he would lose his kingdom and power because the people continued to go to the Temple and House of God in Jerusalem, he built two golden calves in his kingdom and ordered the people to worship them as their new gods instead of the One and only True God.

Thus, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel mentioned in the first reading today was the priest of this new pagan idol, who opposed the work of the prophet Amos, sent by God to chastise His people and call them to repentance. And instead of repenting or listening to God, they hardened their hearts, as what we can witness from the attitudes shown by Amaziah and the king of Israel, Jeroboam.

It was just the same attitude that was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in our Gospel passage today, as they criticised the Lord for having healed a paralysed man and said that his sins has been forgiven. They argued that God alone could forgive sin, and that the Lord Jesus had committed a blasphemy by uttering such words. They were in fact angry at Him and wanted to arrest Him, but they could not do so immediately because of the crowd.

The Lord was exasperated at their indignant attitude and refusal to listen to the truth, despite the miraculous deeds He had performed before them. Only God alone could have done what the Lord had done, and yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law hardened their hearts and minds, and even accused Him in another occasion of having colluded and worked with the prince of demons, Beelzebul.

Thus, as we have witnessed, there are just so many challenges and obstacles facing those who are faithful to God, the servants and messengers of God, as well as all of us. There will be lots of challenges and opposition, which can end up making us to give up the fight and lose the faith. But are we doing something in order to resist the temptation to do so?

Perhaps we should look at the examples of St. Anthony Zaccaria, a holy and devout priest, who was renowned for his great role in the early years of the Counter Reformation efforts against those heresies and rebels at the time, threatening the unity and the survival of the Church. St. Anthony Zaccaria instituted many efforts to strengthen the faith and commitment among many of the faithful, including the popular forty-hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Anthony Zaccaria was also known for the practice of ringing the bells at three p.m., as a reminder of the Lord’s crucifixion and death on the cross. His many other contributions helped to rejuvenate the faith during a challenging time, when people were slipping away from the Church and from God’s truth. St. Anthony Zaccaria also established several congregations of the devout servants of God, who continued the good works which he had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of this good and holy saint? In the face of difficulties and challenges, are we easily overwhelmed by our fears and doubts? Or are we trying our best to persevere despite the difficulties? The choice is ours, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we want to be a faithful follower of God, or be merely swayed by the tides and currents of the world.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with faith, and help us all to persevere through our daily challenges and difficulties, all sorts of troubles and obstacles that are in our way. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.

”Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.