Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the exchange between Joseph and his brothers, as the former wanted to keep Benjamin as a hostage as part of a ploy he planned to test his brothers. Judah spoke up passionately in defence of his brothers and also Benjamin, pleading for Joseph to release Benjamin. At that time, they did not know yet who Joseph actually was.

The brothers defended Benjamin who was accused of stealing from the Regent of Egypt, that is Joseph, and they showed concern that their father Israel would die if Benjamin was to be arrested and taken away, and they also kind of showed regret having sent Joseph off earlier on, abandoning him to the hands of the slavers of Midian. And Joseph was touched by all the love that the brothers showed to each other, so much so that he was overwhelmed by his emotions and eventually revealed himself to his brothers.

And in the end, the twelve brothers were united once again, and Joseph, the brother once thought lost, was reunited with his other brothers, and eventually this good news came to Israel who was left behind in Canaan. Ut was a happy ending for the bitter pain that the family had to endure, especially for Israel, who had to accept the painful fact of his beloved son’s death earlier on.

It is then for this same reason that God in our Gospel passage today, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, sent out His disciples to the many places He was about to visit, to prepare His way for him and to call on the people to repent from their sins and to be willing to accept the Good News and the truth of God. Through this, the Lord wanted to reconcile His people to Himself, and to gather them back from being scattered away in the darkness of the world.

However, at the same time, just as it was difficult for the sons of Israel to be reunited, the Lord also revealed to His disciples that they would encounter challenges and difficulties along the way, people who would reject them and refuse to believe in them, those who were stubborn and hardened in heart. But at the same time, He also reassured them that He would be with them, and those who refused to believe essentially had rejected salvation on their own volition.

All of us are therefore also called to go forth and be witnesses of the truth of God, by virtue of our Christian baptism and therefore membership of the Church. As members of God’s Church, all of us are called to be examples and role models in faith so that by our good examples and living faith, many others will also come to believe in God through us and our actions. There will indeed be challenges along the way, but we should not easily give up our efforts just because of those.

Today, let us be inspired by the good and faithful example of St. Benedict of Nursia, also known as St. Benedict the Abbot, who was famous for his inspiration for what would eventually become the Benedictine religious order, and also for his rigorous and disciplined rule, the Rule of St. Benedict, which became a model for many other religious orders and faithful communities in how they lead a life of faith.

St. Benedict of Nursia was a Roman noble who was intelligent and bright, and yet, was disappointed with the immorality he discovered when he went to Rome to further his studies. Eventually, he retired away from the city and found a place of solitude, where gradually he developed a hermit-like lifestyle of solitude and prayer, and more and more people came to join him. That was how the Benedictines first came to be, a gathering of men who wanted to seek God through prayer and internal peace.

The faith, piety and love which St. Benedict had for God is truly an inspiration to each and every one of us as Christians, for through his examples, many have been inspired to follow a better and holier way of life, turning away from sin and the temptations to sin, embracing instead the noble and true path of the Lord. Let us also be inspired by their examples and lead a better, more Christian way of life from now on in our own lives.

May the Lord be with us, and may He continue to guide us, through the inspiration and examples of St. Benedict, that we may grow ever closer to God and we may be more faithful in all things we say and do. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

“And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.”

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then YHVH sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons; till what he foretold came to pass, and YHVH’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him; set him free; the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 44 : 18-21, 23b-29 and Genesis 45 : 1-5

Judah then went forward and said, “My lord, allow your servant to speak. Do not be angry with your servant, although you are equal to Pharaoh himself. The last time you questioned your servants saying : ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ We said to my lord : ‘We have an aged father who had a child in his old age. His brother is dead and he is the only one left of his mother’s children. And his father loves him.'”

“Then you said to us : ‘Bring him down so that I can see him for myself, if your youngest brother did not come with you, you would not be admitted to my presence.’ All this we said to our father on returning there. So when he told us to come back and buy a little food, we said : ‘We cannot go down again unless our youngest brother is with us. We shall not be admitted to the lord’s presence unless our brother is with us.'”

“Then my father said : ‘You know that my wife had two children. One went away from me and has surely been torn to pieces since I have not seen him anymore. If you take this one from me and something happens to him you will bring my gray hair in sorrow to the grave.'”

Now Joseph could no longer control his feelings in the presence of all those standing by and he called out, “Leave my presence, everyone!” And only his brothers were with him when Joseph made himself known to them. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard and the news spread through Pharaoh’s house.

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” And his brothers could not answer because they were terrified at seeing him. Joseph said, “Come closer,” and they drew nearer. “I am Joseph your brother, yes, it is me, the one you sold to the Egyptians. Now do not grieve or reproach yourselves for selling me, because God has sent me before you to save your lives.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the first reading taken from the book of the prophet Hosea first of all about the sins which Israel and their kings have committed with their wickedness and pagan worship, the abandonment of the laws and commandments which have been given to them through the prophets of God.

And we also heard how the Israelites and their country were humbled and thrown to the worst of situations, as their cities were razed and destroyed, and their populace carried off into slavery and became a stigma and outcast among the nations. That was what happened to them, when the Assyrians destroyed Israel and carried off most of the population to exile in faraway lands.

And after such a terrible state, the Lord was calling on His people to return to Him, and to worship Him once again, as in the end, He did not despise them for who they were, but rather, for the sins and wickedness that they had committed. God did not create us mankind in order to see us destroyed and humiliated, but instead, our own failures to resist the worldly temptations of pride, greed and desire have led us to utter humiliation of our noble soul and existence.

But God never gave up on us, and He gave us chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity to repair our relationship with Him. He sent prophets after prophets, messengers one after another to Israel, His beloved and chosen people. And even though they rejected and persecuted many of His faithful servants, but God continued to open the doors of His mercy and love, in case His people came to Him repenting from their sins.

And He sent us His own Son, to be the messenger of the Good News of His salvation. He freely offered pardon and forgiveness to all those who have sinned against Him and disobeyed Him. All that He asked them, is for a change of heart, and for an openness of the mind and our being, so that He may be able to enter our existence and being, and inside us, transform us from people of darkness into children of the Light.

Then, in today’s Gospel passage, we heard how the Lord Jesus selected twelve among His followers and disciples, whom He made to be His Twelve Apostles, those to whom He entrusted the growth of the mission and the good works that He had begun in this world, in the saving of souls and calling of sinners to repentance. He sent them all out to go before Him, and proclaim the message of the coming of the kingdom of God.

It was through the courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, and the hardships they encountered which had brought so many souls away from the brink of destruction and eternal damnation, because they preached the Good News of God and called many to turn away from their sins before it was too late for them. And although many refused to listen to them and rejected them, but there were also quite a few who were stirred in their hearts and accepted the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. There are still much work to be done, and there are in fact still many souls out there, who are in great danger of eternal damnation, as they continue to live in sin, either through ignorance of the truth or through deliberate intention to disobey God.

I am sure that many of us would feel unworthy of such a monumental task. After all, we are talking about the state of someone’s soul here. Yet, should we fail to do anything or to continue the good works that the Apostles have started, then many more souls will fall into hell forever. Now we should perhaps reflect on the life and the work of the famous St. Benedict the Abbot, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Benedict the Abbot, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was the inspiration for the foundation of the Benedictines, one of the largest religious and monastic order present today. St. Benedict was remembered for his great dedication to God, his exemplary faith and his reform of the livelihood and way of life of many Christians, by turning away from the sins of the world, and rejecting the temptations of worldly pleasures and the wickedness of human greed.

He lived at a time where decadence was rampant among the middle and rich classes of the people, into which St. Benedict was born. He was born a noble and was destined into a life of greatness, going through extensive education and preparation for life. Yet, he was dissuaded from all the wickedness he experienced and encountered in life, and instead, sought to deepen his relationship with God by becoming a hermit.

The rules for ascetic and hermitic Christian life written by St. Benedict, later known as the Rule of St. Benedict, would eventually be followed by many later monastic orders and congregations, with thousands and many more following the examples of St. Benedict, deepening their spiritual relationship with God, and resisting the worldly temptations that had led so many people to sin.

The examples shown by St. Benedict and the inspiration he had given to so many others, who in turn, inspire even more people and might have turned countless souls from the edge of damnation, show us that for us to do what the Apostles had done, does not require incredible feats of faith. Indeed, we must in fact remember that the Lord had called the Apostles from humble and the most unlikely of origins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what matters is our willingness to listen to God’s calling, for us to be His disciples, and to act and work like one of those whom He had called. And this requires us to practice our faith through real action, by showing love in all of our actions and deeds, and by deepening our relationship with God, just as St. Benedict has shown us.

It is often times that we do not need to utter grandiose words in order to convince others to be faithful, but rather through our concrete actions and sincerity of heart. That is how true holiness came about, and how we can convince many others to follow us, just as we followed the Apostles, on our way together to the Lord, to be worthy of the salvation and eternal life He has promised all those who are faithful to Him.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the intercession of St. Benedict of Nursia, many more will be able to discover the Lord and His love through us. May each and every one of us be holy instruments of God, in all the things and actions we do in our daily lives. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 1-7

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the Twelve Apostles : first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray Him.

Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.