Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the need for us to consider the path going forward in our lives, on whether we want to follow the path that the Lord has set before us, or whether we rather choose the alternative path of this world and not following the Lord and His ways. All of these have been given to us freely to choose, and we have been given the wisdom and free will to decide.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples and the people using a parable in which He described the actions of kings and rulers of nations who were about to go to war with each other, as well as builders and architects who wanted to build a house. The Lord used these as examples to show that no matter in what situation, everyone’s actions are often likely planned and well-thought of beforehand.

Yes, definitely there will be unforeseen circumstances and changes along the way no matter how well we have planned for everything. Yet to go and enter into something, or to act without any plans at all often leads to not just negative, but even disastrous outcomes and consequences. And the Lord linked all these to what He said before He told them the parable.

The Lord said that no one who loves their fathers, mothers, family members, spouses, relatives and friends, or anyone else more than they love Him can have any share in His kingdom, and unless they carry the burden of their crosses and follow Christ, they cannot be His disciples and consequently have no part of the grace and inheritance God had promised them through Christ, His Son.

What the Lord told the people did not mean that He asked them to abandon everyone and love Him alone, as what some people would have easily misunderstood the true meaning and purpose of what He had said. In truth, through these words, the Lord is reminding each and every one of us His faithful, that we must not forget that God must be first of all and first in our focus, attention and love. And if we love God, then we naturally will also love all those whom God had loved, that is our brothers and sisters.

We should not love something or someone greater than our love for God, but we are called to love everyone as greatly as how we have loved God and ourselves. This is the true intention and meaning of His words and the parable He mentioned, in presenting before us, the truth that He has unveiled before us, and the clear choices that we have to make if we are to be faithful disciples and followers of the Lord. We cannot treat our faith as a mere formality alone.

We know that the path that we follow in the Lord will lead us to eternal life and glory with God, for it is what He Himself has revealed to us. And yet, we often rather chose to follow different paths in life, refusing to follow the Lord and indulging in our own personal desires and selfish agendas. Truly, we know that doing so will lead us to ruin and yet we still carry it out nonetheless. Truly, we have been fools more often than we are not!

That is why today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by St. Charles Borromeo, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan and great Reformer of the Church, a paragon of faith and virtue in his many contributions especially in his efforts in spearheading the Counter-Reformation within his diocese and beyond as an influential adviser to the Pope and the Roman Curia. St. Charles Borromeo, despite his great influence and power at that time, was however a humble person, who cared for the people of God and spent his life in reaching out to them.

St. Charles Borromeo loved God above all things, and at that time, when many of the clergy and also laypeople were corrupted by the excesses of worldly wealth and glory, he worked hard to purge the corruptions from within the Church, reforming the way the Church and the priests and its laypeople lived, to distance themselves from sin and evil, and to embrace fully the way of the Lord. Clearly, St. Charles Borromeo had chosen the Lord’s path to be his path, and we too should do the same.

St. Charles Borromeo dedicated himself to the people whom God had entrusted to him, showing just how he loved God first and greatest of all, and then he showed the same love to his brethren as well, and not putting or allowing his selfish desires and the temptations to sin to distract him. It was told that he tried his best to feed his flock when a great famine struck Milan and its surroundings, and the holy man of God devoted much of his effort to care for the most needy.

Are we able and willing to follow in the footsteps of St. Charles Borromeo, brothers and sisters in Christ? As mentioned earlier, we have given the choice to make, to choose between God and His righteous path, or the path of the world and personal self-satisfaction and indulgence. Shall we choose consciously with faith, the path that we are going to take in life, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all commit ourselves to God anew as Christians from now on, in each and every moments of our lives, that by our every actions, words and deeds, we will always glorify God in all things. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 25-33

At that time, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, He turned and said to them, “If you come to Me, unwilling to sacrifice your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not follow Me, carrying his own cross, cannot be My disciple.”

“Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete it? Otherwise, if you, have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you : ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”

“And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become My disciple, if he does not give up everything he has.”

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Philippians 2 : 12-18

Therefore, my dearest friends, as you always obeyed me while I was with you, even more, now, that I am far from you, continue working out your salvation “with fear and trembling.” It is God Who makes you, not only wish but also, carry out what pleases Him.

Do everything without grumbling, so, that, without fault or blame, you will be children of God, without reproach, among a crooked and perverse generation. You are a light among them, like stars in the universe, holding to the word of life. I shall feel proud of you, on the day of Christ, on seeing that my effort and labour have not been in vain.

And if I am being poured out, as a libation over the sacrifice, and the offering of your faith, I rejoice and continue to share your joy; and, you, likewise should rejoice and share my joy.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are called to be generous to one another just as our Lord Himself has first been very generous to us from the beginning. He has always been generous to us, in providing for us all that we ever need in life and in giving us first of all the gift of life as well as then many opportunities for us throughout life to be reconciled to Him.

Despite our constant and persistent disobedience, rebelliousness and wayward behaviours, we have always received the fullness of God’s mercy and compassion, as He loves us all very much and wants us to be saved and freed from our fated destruction. By our sins we have been made unworthy of God and we should have faced destruction and eternal damnation if not for God’s enduring love for us.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard the Lord exhorting His disciples and the people to be generous in giving, to be kind and loving to one another, by using the analogy of giving a feast or dinner, in which the custom of that time and I am sure which we are still doing today is that we invite all those who are close and dear to us, and we expect our invitation and kindness to be repaid in kind.

Take for example our current wedding and feast traditions. When we are hosting a banquet, in quite a few cultures and traditions we are expecting the guests to bring gifts or put in their monetary contributions to show that they are contributing to the expenses that we have incurred in hosting and preparing for the banquet and celebrations. But then, if our guests do not give us as what we expect them to give, we then end up feeling bitter and unappreciated.

Then this precisely brings us to wonder about why we even bother to invite the guest we have invited in the first place. Did we invite them because we care about them and we also know that they care about us too and are important to us? Or have we instead thought of our guests and invitees as mere means to an end, or as a return in investment and as something that we can gain from for our own benefits?

That is why many of us mankind failed in building up good and meaningful relationships in our lives. We often do not realise that we have put our selfish desires, our pride and greed ahead of the needs of others. That is why many of us have not been sincere in living our lives with faith, and many of us have hurt one another, or manipulated each other just so that we can benefit and gain from whatever we want.

This is where we need to look at the Lord’s generosity again as He continues to give and very generously give, even after He has already given so much for us all these while. And we must not forget that He has given us the ultimate gift in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom He sent into this world in our midst, that He willingly bore the heavy burden of our sins and suffered for our sake on the Cross, that by His suffering and death, by His ultimate loving sacrifice, He can give us the everlasting reprieve from sin and death.

Today, we also should reflect on the example and life of St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Charles Borromeo was a holy man, a dedicated bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church who as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan and one of the most prominent and important leaders of the Church of his time was a crucial and very important figure in the Counter Reformation and also the reforms of the Church and the faithful.

Although he was a very high ranking and influential prelate, St. Charles Borromeo remained humble and dedicated himself to the service of the Church, avoiding the corruptions and scandals that affected many other members and prelates of the Church of his time. In fact, he was known to enforce strictly his reforms aimed at rooting out all the vices and bad practices of the Church within his Archdiocese and encouraging similar developments elsewhere.

St. Charles Borromeo gave his all in service both to God and also to the flock whom he had been entrusted with, dedicating himself, his time, energy and efforts to care for the needs of the faithful and in purifying the Church from all sorts of corruptions and wrong practices. He shows us just what a faithful Christian can do, in being generous with his efforts to love God, just as God has generously loved us first.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing to be generous in using our time and efforts for the good purpose of the Lord? Are we willing and able to dedicate ourselves with faith, doing our best to serve Him and be generous with our love towards one another? Let us all challenge ourselves to love ever more and to be more faithful all the days of our lives from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus also addressed the man who had invited Him, and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives, or your wealthy neighbours. For surely they will also invite you in return, and you will be repaid.”

“When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.”

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 30-31, 33-34, 36-37

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.

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. His people shall dwell in the land and possess it. The children of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His Name will dwell in it.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 11 : 29-36

Because the call of God, and His gifts, cannot be nullified. Through the disobedience of the Jews, the mercy of God came to you who did not obey God. They, in turn, will receive mercy, in due time, after this disobedience, that brought God’s mercy to you. So, God has submitted all to disobedience, in order to show His mercy to all.

How deep are the riches, the wisdom and knowledge of God! His decisions cannot be explained, nor His ways understood! Who has ever known God’s thoughts? Who has ever been His adviser? Who has given Him something first, so that God had to repay him? For everything comes from Him, has been made by Him and has to return to Him. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures in which first of all we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, speaking about the matter between the salvation of the Jews and the pagan peoples. It was mentioned how the Jews stumbled so that the Lord might be able to save the pagan peoples, and through that, the Jews themselves might be saved.

This is related to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, the familiar words of the Lord Jesus in which He related the story about the people who were clamouring and fighting over places of honour, using a wedding banquet or event as an example. He related to the people how it is often that many are seeking for the most important places, desiring prestige and honour, but only later humiliated because even more important guests came and took over their seats.

How does this relate to what we heard in the first reading? The Jews or the people of Israel were the ones whom God had first chosen and called from among all of mankind. He called their forefather Abraham and made a Covenant with him. As a result, the Israelites became a race that God had chosen to be His own, especially from the time when He directly intervened to bring them out from slavery in Egypt and into the land He has promised to them.

The Jews took great pride in this and they were always ready to boast that they were chosen by God to be His people, to the point that they actually looked down on the pagans and the non-Jewish people, whom they deemed to be less worthy of the Lord, because they were not chosen by God. Yet, they themselves were blind to their own shortcomings and faults, and through their constant disobedience and lack of faith, they have been punished many times.

And God did not intend to just call the Israelites and exclude all the other races and peoples. Ultimately, God wants everyone, every mankind to be reconciled to Him, for He created each and every one of us out of His great love for us, and because of that great love, He does not want any of us to perish in sin and in the darkness. Rather, He wants that each and every one of us can come into the light.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. They prided themselves in obeying the tenets of the Law, and as Jesus mentioned, they liked to the praised and to be honoured. They were the epitome of those who came to the wedding banquet and sought the first and most important place in the room. Yet, the room and the place has not been given to them, because they have no God in their hearts, and in their pride, they have placed their own interests ahead of God’s interests.

That was why the Lord Jesus chided them and rebuked them, and saying that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were going faster towards the kingdom of heaven than them, even though these people were often seen and labelled as sinners and unworthy people, least of all those who were thought to be worthy of God and the heavenly glory He promised to all His faithful ones.

Why is that so? That is because, those people as we witnessed throughout the Gospels, were willing to listen to Jesus and His teachings, and many of them, in tears, turned themselves to the Lord in repentance for their old ways of sin, and recognising their sinfulness, they desired to be forgiven by God. They have been the last ones, but because of their humility and willingness to listen to God and to obey Him, God had raised them to greater glory.

As I have just mentioned earlier, the great problem that we now can see as the great obstacle preventing us mankind from reaching out to God, is pride. Our human pride, our ego and ambition makes us to be non-receptive to God’s love and mercy, and many of us had ended up hardening our hearts against Him, closing Him out of our hearts and minds, not letting Him to speak to us that we might know His will. Instead, often it is always about ‘I’ or ‘Me’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look at the examples of the holy predecessors, particularly, St. Charles Borromeo, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, as role models for us to follow, that we may know how to live a good and virtuous Christian life, and not engulfed by our pride and ego. St. Charles Borromeo was renowned as a great reformer of the Church, a Cardinal of the Church, as well as the influential and powerful Archbishop of Milan, perhaps second in its importance as compared to Rome.

Yet, St. Charles Borromeo, who was born to one of the most influential noble families in the region, who enjoyed close relationship with both the Church and the ruling class, did not let all these things to corrupt him or to make him proud of his lineage and position. When he was made a Cardinal and entrusted with the role of managing the Roman Curia, or the governance of the Universal Church in Rome, he lived in austerity and ordered the members of the Curia to do the same.

He helped to organise the great reforms of the Church through the Council of Trent, which helped to rejuvenate the faith in the Church and destroy or remove the impurities and excesses of the previous decades and centuries when the Church was filled with many corrupt individuals seeking for power, wealth and influence through the Church. And later on, as the Archbishop of Milan, he was also credited with the enforcement of the reforms among the clergy and laity in his Archdiocese.

He cared for the poor and the sick in his Archdiocese of Milan, and it was told that in one occasion, when the governor and the ruling class of Milan fled the city because of a great pestilence that struck it, St. Charles Borromeo remained behind to care for the people who were sick and provided for their needs. He was also known for leading a procession barefooted through the streets of Milan with a rope around his neck, as a sign of penitence and humility before God, asking Him to forgive the sins of His people.

The examples of St. Charles Borromeo should be an inspiration for all of us Christians today, that in all of our actions and deeds, we should be humble and not to listen to the voice of our ego, pride and human ambition. Let us all seek to be the last in worldly matters, but the first in the eyes of God, as the Lord Jesus reminded us in the Gospel passage today. Let us also not build for ourselves a temporary treasure in this world, but instead seek the eternal glory of heaven. St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us! Amen.

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 1, 7-11

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for He had noticed how they tried to take the places of honour.

And He said, “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited; and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you, ‘Please give this person your place.’ What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat!”

“Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that you host may come and say to you, ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honour for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”