Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard just how the Lord had loved us mankind so dearly and yet, He had to face rejection and stubbornness from His people, from those to whom He had tirelessly and constantly sent messengers one after another, servants and prophets to proclaim to them the love of God and His faithfulness.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah the words of the Lord’s sadness and anger at His people for their ingratitude and lack of faith, their constant disobedience and sinfulness, as they proved again and again to be rebellious and unwilling to embrace God’s love and His path, right up to the end of the kingdom in Judah, as how it was in the time of the prophet Jeremiah, who ministered to the people at the end of the southern kingdom just before its downfall.

God has ever shown His patience and kindness, His mercy and compassion through the generations, but the people abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him for the comfort and the false allures and pleasures of worldliness, putting their trust instead in the pagan idols and foreign gods like Baal, Ashtaroth among others. They had forgotten the wonders and the love that God had showed their ancestors, and allowed the devil to tempt them and sway them to the false paths.

Thus then it was also how the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel today stated that even till then, the people were still stubborn in refusing to believe in God, and held on to their flawed and sinful ways. This was when the Lord’s disciples asked Him on why He was often teaching them in parables and speaking in metaphorical terms especially when describing and explaining many of the concepts of the truth He had revealed.

And the Lord told them essentially how the people’s stubbornness and closed hearts and minds truly prevented them from being able to listen, appreciate and understand the love and the truth of God, blinding them to that truth and reason and made them to harden their stance against the Lord and His followers, as showed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the Sadducees, many of whom often confronted and opposed the Lord in His works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today through all of these each and every one of us are reminded of just how pride, ego, stubbornness, hubris and greed, all of these can be very great stumbling blocks and obstacles in our journey of faith towards God, His love and salvation. As all these prevented our ancestors from seeing reason and listening to the truth, and instead, leading many of them further down the path towards damnation.

Today, all of us are therefore reminded to turn away from this same path, and instead, embrace the path of renewal and forgiveness, the path of being loved by God and accept wholeheartedly the Lord’s compassionate mercy, and to grow ever more faithful in Him with each and every moments of our lives. And we should therefore look upon the good examples of our good and holy predecessors to help and guide us in our journey.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, a great and renowned holy woman and servant of God, known as one of the Patron Saints of Europe remembered for her great piety and commitment to the Lord. And although she was born into one of the richest noble families and could count kings and nobles among her relatives, but she remained humble and committed to the Lord.

Throughout her life, St. Bridget of Sweden worked tirelessly to care for the poor and the sick, and also championed life of prayer and purity, establishing religious orders and congregations that inspired many people to follow her example and faith. By her dedication and commitment, St. Bridget inspired many to turn once again to God and abandon their past, sinful way of life, and this is something that all of us can also aspire towards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able and willing to follow the good examples of St. Bridget of Sweden in our own lives? Are we willing to seek not for the pleasures of the world and for the glory of this human existence, but rather to grow ever stronger in faith, charity and hope, in our devotion towards God and in our virtues in life? Let us all discern these and think carefully of how we should proceed forward in life, especially in how we are going to act towards one another.

May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Bridget of Sweden and innumerable other holy saints, martyrs and holy servants of God, constantly bless us all and strengthen us, that each and every one of us may grow ever stronger in faith and in our commitment to follow Him and to serve Him with all of our strength. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 35 : 6-7ab, 8-9, 10-11

Your love, o God, reaches the heavens; Your faithfulness, to the clouds. Your justice is like the mighty mountains; Your judgement, like the unfathomable deep.

How precious, o God, is Your constant love! Mortals take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. In Your house they find rich food and they drink from Your spring of delight.

For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Bestow on Your faithful, Your love; and give salvation to the upright of heart.

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Jeremiah 2 : 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

A word of YHVH came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is YHVH’s word : I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to YHVH, the first fruits of His harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them – it is YHVH Who speaks.”

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat of the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled My land and dishonoured My heritage! The priests did not ask, ‘Where is YHVH?’ The masters of My teaching did not know Me; the pastors of My people betrayed Me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal.”

“Be aghast at that, o heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled – it is YHVH Who speaks – for My people have done two evils : they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!”

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the trust and obedience that each and every one of us must have in our lives towards God, our loving Father and Creator, the One Who loves each and every one of us, and by Whose hands we have been brought to freedom from sin, through the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, the people of God, the sons and daughters of Israel were brought out of the land of Egypt by God’s own great power. Those who were saved enjoyed God’s saving power because they obeyed the Lord and His commands, which He made through His servant Moses. They followed the Lord’s instructions, on the Passover and what they ought to do, smearing the blood of the Passover lambs on their house doorposts.

Those who did not do what the Lord has commanded them to do, and refused to believe in the Lord and obey Him, like the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as the latter constantly refused to let the people of Israel go free until the very end, all of these suffered because of their disobedience and stubborn refusal to listen to God. They rejected God’s truth and love, and therefore, received the wrath of God as a result.

In our Gospel passage today, this message was reiterated once again by the Lord Jesus Himself, as He mentioned before His disciples and the people, that all those who do the will of God, His heavenly Father, obey Him and follow His ways, are all those who will be considered as His brothers, His sisters and His mother. This happened when the relatives of the Lord came to see Him, and those were waiting while the Lord was busy teaching the people.

It may seem that the Lord Jesus was being rude in rebuking His own relatives and refusing to acknowledge them in such a public manner before His own disciples and so many of the people. But if we look at it more carefully and understand the context and purpose in which the Lord made that comment, then we will realise that the Lord was making a point, calling on the people to be truly faithful to the Lord.

And it also showed how the Lord would not be limited by the boundaries of societal norms and familial relations, which often caused people to be divided and grouped together, to the exclusion of others. What the Lord has done was to show that God’s love is extended to all the people equally, with no favourites and cliques. All those who has obeyed the Lord and done His will shall be considered as God’s own beloved ones.

That is precisely because of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has assumed our humanity in the flesh, the Divine Son of God Who has willingly taken up our human existence and essence to be His own, that in His person is perfectly united and yet distinct, two natures, fully Divine and fully Man at the same time. Through His humanity, and by His sacrifice on the Cross, He has made a new Covenant between us and God.

And by this Covenant, each and every one of us have been made worthy of adoption by God Himself, to share with Christ and through Him the status as the beloved children of God. But are we willing to be part of this great inheritance? More often than not, we are distracted and prevented from finding our way because of the many temptations present in this world, because of sin.

Today, perhaps, all of us should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Bridget was born into a noble family and was a devoted mother of a large family. She was remembered for her great piety and generosity in helping the poor and the needy, in being generous for all those who were in need.

St. Bridget devoted her life to the Lord, especially after her husband passed away early, and began the foundation of a religious order eventually named after her, the Brigittines, also known as the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, gathering men and women from many backgrounds to dedicate themselves to the Lord in prayer and service in monasteries. She went on a pilgrimage to Rome and stayed on there, performing many more good works throughout the rest of her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the piety and commitment shown by St. Bridget of Sweden should become a great inspiration and example for each one of us to follow, in our own lives, that we may also do the same and may also grow ever closer to God, in our obedience and wilful following of God’s will in each and every single days of our life.

May the Lord continue to guide us all in our journey of life, and may He strengthen us all to live courageously with faith from now on, for the sake of His greater glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 15 : 8-9, 10 and 12, 17

At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, the surging waters stood firm in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, “I will give chase and overtake, I will divide the spoil and make a feast of it. I shall draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.”

A breath of Yours and the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance, the place You chose to dwell in, o YHVH, the sanctuary prepared by Your hands.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 14 : 21 – Exodus 15 : 1a

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant. Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : “I will sing to YHVH, the Glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.”

Monday, 23 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the anger of God being directed at the Israelites as He spoke it through His prophet Micah. At that time, the prophet Micah was ministering to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, whose people and king were disobedient and rebellious against God, worshipping pagan gods and idols instead of their loving God and Master.

God saw the disobedience in His people, which had led them to fall into sin. But yet, God ultimately still loved them all, and that was why He sent them His servants, Moses, Aaron as mentioned by the prophet Micah, as well as the many prophets who were sent, including Micah, to the people of Israel. They were sent to guide them to the right path, to get out of their sinful attitudes and works.

But they still refused to believe the prophets and the messengers sent to them to remind them. Instead, they hardened their hearts against God and rebelled all the more, from time to time, again and again. They persecuted the prophets and made life very difficult for them. But God still wanted to give them a chance, and therefore, He sent them the promised Messiah, Our Lord Jesus, His own begotten Son, to be our Saviour and Lord.

In the Gospel passage today, we see yet again another instance of the people doubting the Lord and His works among them. They have seen His miracles and signs, and yet, they continued to doubt Him just as they have refused to listen to the prophets and the messengers of God. The people have seen and heard all the wonders of the Lord directly, and the Messiah Himself was in their midst, but they did not recognise Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am sure that many of us are wondering why that is so. That is because many of us are so filled with pride and with self-centred attitude in our hearts and minds, that all of us are unable to allow God to enter into our hearts and minds. We are so preoccupied and so busy, with all the distractions present in our daily lives that we end up failing to realise God performing His works among us.

God is always present in our midst and He is always doing something in our lives, for our benefit, according to His will. And indeed, He wants to speak to us, to communicate with us, and to be with us, having a good and deep relationship with us. But more often than not, we did not want to listen to Him, and we preferred to occupy ourselves with other activities and things that we enjoy more, because to us, they provide us with pleasures of the body and the flesh.

That was why, we revel in the praise of people, when they praise our achievements, intellectual and physical marvels and greatness. And we become even more filled with pride and arrogance, as well as with greed and desire for more of those worldly pleasures and enjoyments. And in that preoccupation, we end up being lost in our own world and forget about the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we among those who have fallen into this category of people? Have we lived our lives with ignorance of God’s presence in our lives and failing to recognise just how much God has loved us, cared for us and provided for us all these while? Perhaps we should imitate the examples shown by St. Bridget of Sweden, a renowned holy woman and one of the patron saints of Europe.

St. Bridget of Sweden was born into a noble and relatively rich family, who was a devout believer and devoted herself to the poor and the less fortunate in the community. She eventually inspired the foundation of several religious orders, which were devoted to the spiritual well-being and development of those who decided to devote themselves to the Lord inspired by the holy saint’s examples.

St. Bridget herself carried out a famous pilgrimage to Rome amidst a plague-stricken Europe in order to gain permission from the Pope to start her religious order. She would remain in Rome henceforth, ministering and caring for many in the community with genuine faith, always with a smiling face and gentle disposition, inspiring many more people to turn towards the Lord and repent from their sinful ways.

St. Bridget reminds us all that in order for us to be able to realise God’s presence in our lives, first of all, we must be humble and generous in giving, as St. Bridget herself had shown us. We cannot be so full of ourselves or so prideful and haughty, that we spare no place for God in our hearts and minds. Naturally, we will end up so self-centred that others have no place in us.

Let us all therefore follow the examples of this holy woman, and learn to direct ourselves, our energy, effort and attention towards the Lord. Let us all seek to renew our faith and our commitment to live our lives filled with love for God, realising for ourselves, just how much He has loved us, despite all of our rejections and stubbornness. Let us all turn our hearts, minds and our whole being to Him, and be worthy of Him once again by living our faith in our daily lives. Amen.

Monday, 23 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 12 : 38-42

At that time, some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus answered them, “An evil and unfaithful people want a sign; but no sign will be given them except the sign of the prophet Jonah. In the same way, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

“At the judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise with this generation, and condemn it; because they reformed their lives at the preaching of Jonah, and here, there is greater than Jonah. At the judgment, the Queen of the South will stand up and condemn you. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon.”