Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, from the first reading in which we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, we heard of the words of anguish spoken by the prophet on behalf of the people highlighting their frustrations and desperation seeing how those who were righteous and faithful suffered and endured bitter trials while those who were wicked seemingly managed to live on without harm or trouble.

But the Lord reassured His people and told them that He will never abandon them no matter what, and that everything will happen as it has been deemed by God, and everything will happen in due time. When we think that why is it that those who were wicked rejoiced and lived while the righteous and the faithful suffered, then we must remember that every bits of sin, no matter how small, will be left untouched, when the Lord judges all of His people at the time of the Last Judgment.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His interaction with a man who approached Him begging on Him to heal his son, who had been afflicted with epileptic activity, which at that time was also one of the signs of the demonic possession. The man said that although he had sought the disciples, but they were not able to heal the child from his condition, and he therefore asked the Lord to help him.

The Lord rebuked His disciples and those who followed Him for their lack of faith, and after immediately healing the man’s child without issue, spoke of just how little faith they truly had in Him, that they doubted Him and doubted the ability and power by which He could have saved the child. We may indeed be a bit confused by everything that happened, but contextually, it was likely that first of all, the disciples thought that the miracles they performed were because of their own power and might, and not by God’s power.

And it was also likely and possible that the disciples themselves had doubts in their hearts and minds, and they had not yet trusted the Lord completely, as what the Apostle St. Thomas frequently showed during the days of his ministry with the Lord, as he constantly spoke out showing his doubt and disagreements with the Lord, in the midst of the other disciples. The other disciples, although they might not be as skeptical as St. Thomas had been in those days, but they were likely to have their doubts as well.

This is just like what the prophet Habakkuk, speaking the sentiments of the people as included in our first reading today, was exactly speaking about. The prophet’s words was a representation of the people’s doubts, and how those doubts in fact became themselves obstacles in the path of the people in realising that God truly cared for each and every one of them. God reassured His people and showed His love, that no power on earth or beyond earth, are capable of standing between us and Him.

Just as the Lord spoke of the coming of reckoning for Assyria and all the enemies of the faithful, thus, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed before all those who doubted Him, either intentionally or unintentionally, those with weak and wavering faith, that He is truly faithful to the Covenant He had made with us, and He will always uphold His words, as He liberated and healed the man’s son from his troubles, from whatever demonic possessions or other shackles he had been troubled with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we still doubt the Lord and do we still lack the faith that God is always with us and by our side even in our darkest times and in our most challenging moments? Especially as many of us suffered during these past weeks and months, losing our jobs and livelihood, suffering in health, in body or in mind, and as we endure the continuing and depressing impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic, the associated economic collapse and troubles, among other things.

Are we still having faith in God, and believe that even in the midst of great challenges, that God is still there with us? If we do not, then perhaps it is because our relationship with God is not strong and good enough as it should have been. As unless we are deeply committed to God, and live in the midst of His love and grace, and appreciating His daily blessings, it is unlikely that our faith in God will be strong and enduring.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why this day as we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints in the Church, namely St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic the Guzman, the Founder of the Order of Preachers, also famously known after their founder as the Dominicans, we ought to look upon St. Dominic as our great example and inspiration in faith. St. Dominic was remembered for his tremendous zeal and commitment in serving the Lord, his great piety and dedication he showed in serving the Lord and His Church.

St. Dominic had been renowned for his piety even from a very young age, when he was still very young and famine ravaged the lands. It was told that St. Dominic donated part of his possessions to help the poor and feed those who had been terribly afflicted by the great hunger. St. Dominic then dedicated himself to be a holy and devout priest, and dedicated his time to preach to the people, especially in his efforts to convert the Cathar heretics who have abandoned the true faith in the region now part of southern France.

As St. Dominic began his efforts in trying to convert the heretics, he began gathering the effort to establish a religious order of like-minded men who would reach out to those who have erred and fell away from the right path, as what the charism of the Order of Preachers is all about. St. Dominic led the efforts of the Dominicans as they were all came to be known for, in preaching the words of truth to the people and calling them to embrace once again the truth and love of God.

St. Dominic also helped the faithful to renew their faith and commitment in God through the deepening of their spiritual lives, most well-known being through the popularisation of the use of the rosary as a prayer, which eventually would become one of the most popular of devotions in the Church, helping to connect countless souls throughout the ages to the Lord, with the assistance of His blessed mother, Mary.

Through his many great contributions and his establishment of the Dominicans, St. Dominic showed us all that God can do so many great deeds before us, if only that we allow Him to act through each and every one of us just as He had done with St. Dominic. And this is only possible if we lead a life of virtue, faith and love as St. Dominic had done, and all of us are called to follow in his footsteps, in putting our trust and faith in God, and in obeying His will at all times, in our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Him, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 9 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

But YHVH reigns forever, having set up His throne for judgment. He will judge the nations with justice and govern the peoples in righteousness.

YHVH is a rampart for the oppressed, a refuge in times of distress. Those who cherish Your Name, o YHVH, can rely on You, for You have never forsaken those who look to You.

Sing praises to YHVH, enthroned in Zion; proclaim His deeds among the nations. For He Who avenges blood remembers, He does not ignore the cry of the lowly.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Habakkuk 1 : 12 – Habakkuk 2 : 4

But You, are You not YHVH from past ages? You, my holy God, You cannot die. You have set these people to serve Your justice and You have made them firm as a rock, to fulfil Your punishment. YHVH, Your eyes are too pure to tolerate wickedness and You cannot look on oppression. Why, then, do You look on treacherous people and watch in silence while the evildoer swallows up one better than himself?

You treat human beings like the fish in the sea, like reptiles who are nobody’s concern. This nation catches all on its hook, pulls them out with its net and piles them up in its dragnet. Pleased and delighted at their catch, they offer sacrifices to their net and burn incense to their dragnets, since these supplied them with fish in plenty and provided them with food in abundance. Will they continue, then, to constantly empty their nets, slaughtering nations without mercy?

I will stand in my watchtower and take up position on my battlements; I will see what He replies, if there is an answer to my question. Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deferred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture by which each and every one of us are reminded to put our trust in God and have complete faith in Him, the One Who alone is the source of our strength and our lives, and also the one and true firm foundation of our lives. We must not allow the forces of those who seek our downfall to have their way with us.

What do I mean by this, brothers and sisters in Christ? The reality of our world is that there are plenty of forces out there seeking our destruction, namely Satan and his fallen angels, all those who have rebelled against God and planted the same seeds of disobedience and rebellion that we too will end up falling into the same damnation and suffering that they are to suffer for eternity for having rejected God.

In our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we heard of the rebellion of Israel against God at the place called Meribah, when they complained and grumbled against God for having led them through the desert to such a desolate and undesirable place, arguing that they would have been better had they remained in Egypt even though they would have remained under slavery there.

And all of these happened despite God having cared for them, protected them, guided them and blessed them each and every days of their entire journey, providing them with food and drink, even in the middle of the barren desert. But the people of Israel were not satisfied, and they craved and desired for more. They wanted more things to satisfy their own greed and desire for earthly satisfaction, and thus they complained and grumbled without end.

The people would not believe because they did not have true faith in God, and this caused frustration in Moses and Aaron who were the leaders of the people. And in a moment of anger and frustration, Moses actually disobeyed the Lord Who commanded him to speak to the rock to provide water to the people, and instead struck it with his rod. Moses must have been truly frustrated with the endless complaints and grumblings from the people and as a result, Satan managed to enter into his heart and mind, and made him to falter.

In the Gospel passage today, there is also a parallel in which St. Peter the Apostle tried to prevent the Lord and persuade Him not to follow through the sufferings that He had to endure in His Passion as part of the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. But the Lord quickly brushed St. Peter’s comments and rebuked Satan who had spoken through him. As the Lord Himself said that His Apostle was thinking as how man thinks and not as how God thinks, thus, Satan was trying to tempt Him to turn away from the work of salvation He was to do.

In all of these we have seen how the desires and greed for this world, the desire for the satisfaction of our bodies, our stomachs and other form of desires can lead us into temptation and Satan and all of his wicked allies are fully aware of this. They will do their best to try to turn us into the path of sin and therefore bring about our downfall. The Lord warned us all to be vigilant and to be strong in our faith, lest we fall into the temptations and sin.

In the same Scripture passages, we hear the allusion of a rock in both the Old Testament and New Testament passages. It was told that in the time of the Exodus, according to Scriptural tradition, there is a rock that always followed the Israelites wherever they go, and it was this rock that provided the people of Israel with the much needed water for them to drink. It was this same rock that Moses hit with the rod in today’s passage.

And then, in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus uttered His famous words, entrusting the Church that He has established on the ‘Rock’ of faith, and this rock is referring to St. Peter himself, to whom God has entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, for the name Petros of St. Peter means ‘Rock’, and as the appointed Vicar of Christ, he is the direct representative of the True Head of the Church, none other than the Lord Himself.

Thus, the Rock of faith is ultimately a reference to the faith in God, that rock-solid and firm faith in God’s providence and strength, which will never fail, that even the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church because of this very reason. If we are to resist the temptations of Satan and all of his persuasions and coercions, and not to fall into the temptations just like what Moses, St. Peter and the people of Israel had experienced, then we must adhere strongly to the ‘Rock’ of our salvation, that is Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today also marks the feast of a great saint whose life will become an inspiration for each and every one of us on how we can be truly faithful to God and be firm in our commitment to Him. St. Dominic was the founder of the Order of Preachers, also known after their founder as the Dominicans. He was renowned for his great piety and zeal, for his missionary efforts in reaching out to the people of God.

He performed many works and helped to make firm the foundations of his rapidly growing Dominican order, travelling from place to place, preaching and doing the work of God, while leading a very holy personal life and practice. St. Dominic truly devoted himself to the Lord and gave his whole being to the service and to the greater glory of God. His exemplary life should be an inspiration to all of us in how we should live out our own lives as well.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith, and may through the intercession of St. Dominic, the Lord may continue to strengthen us and encourage us to live with strong and genuine faith from now on, that we will draw ever closer to God and be ever more devoted. May God bless us all in everything we do, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 20 : 1-13

The whole congregation of Israel came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered together against Moses and Aaron. They disputed with Moses saying, “Would that we had perished with our kinsmen in the presence of YHVH! Why have you led YHVH’s community to this desert to die here with our cattle? And why did you bring us out of Egypt to this wretched place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates and there is not even water for drinking.”

Moses and Aaron fled from the assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of YHVH appeared and YHVH spoke to Moses, “Take your rod and assemble the community, you and Aaron, your brother. In their presence command the rock to give forth water and you will make water gush from the rock for the community and their livestock to drink.”

So Moses took the rod from before YHVH as he had been ordered. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly in front of the rock and said to them, “Listen, you rebels. Shall we bring water for you from this rock?” Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. And then water in abundance gushed out for the community and their livestock to drink.

But YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, “You did not trust Me nor treat Me as the Holy One in the sight of the Israelites; because of that you shall not lead this community into the land that I am giving you.” It was at the waters of Meribah that the sons of Israel quarrelled with YHVH and where He showed His holiness to them.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of St. Dominic, a holy priest and renowned saint of the Church. St. Dominic is remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, for his great missionary zeal and sanctity in life. He was particularly touched by the dangers of the Cathar heresy in southern part of what is now known as France. St. Dominic worked among the people who had been swayed by the Cathar or Albigensian heresy.

Concluding that it requires holy, dedicated and committed preachers and missionaries to convert the Cathar heretics and turn them back into the true faith, St. Dominic came to establish the religious order which would come to be known as the Order of Preachers, or Ordo Praedicatorum. This order would later on be more commonly known as the Dominicans after their famous founder.

St. Dominic never stopped labouring and working for the sake of God’s people, leading an austere and holy life thoroughly dedicated to God. Through the works that he and his many other fellow religious in the Dominican order had done, many of those who have fallen away into heresy had returned towards the Lord and were reconciled to Him.

St. Dominic has shown all of us what each one of us should be doing as Christians. There are many out there who are still lost from God, separated from the love of God and isolated away from the mercy and forgiveness of God. St. Dominic showed us of the need for us to reach out to these lost brothers and sisters of ours, or else they will be lost forever in damnation. Is this what we want to happen to them?

In the Gospel passage today, we heard about the faith which a Syro-Phoenician woman, a pagan according to the Jewish people, had in the Lord Jesus. She believed in Him wholeheartedly even when many others among the Jewish people failed to do the same. Among the Jewish people, they even doubted Him and opposed Him, refusing to believe in the truth that He has brought into the world.

The Syro-Phoenician woman came to the Lord asking for Him to heal her sick daughter, trusting in His power and ability to make her whole again. However, the Lord Jesus initially seemed to be unwilling to help her, and He appeared to be even very rude to her when He alluded to her being unworthy as compared to a dog unworthy of bread from the house master’s table.

But the Lord Jesus knew the faith that was in her heart, and He sees beyond just appearances alone. He was in fact pointing out to the people the meaninglessness of their racist and prejudiced attitude against the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles. At that time, the Jews, descendants of the people of Israel looked highly upon themselves and thought well of themselves as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as God’s chosen people.

And thus, they looked down on others, the pagans and Gentiles, whom they considered to be unworthy of God and His salvation, unless they adopt their Jewish customs and traditions in its entirety. They thought that they alone deserved God’s love and mercy, and not any others. But they were wrong, and the Lord Himself pointed out the fallacy of their haughtiness and pride.

There were great faith amongst those who were non-Jewish and those who were considered as pagans. It is the fact that each and every one of us must realise, that no sinner is beyond God’s redemptive grace and love, and God freely gives to all of us, His love and mercy. And indeed, it is through us all, Christians and members of the Church, that God exercises His work of love and mercy among all of His people.

God is calling all of His people to be reconciled to Him, just as He proclaimed through His prophet Jeremiah. He promised healing and comfort for all of His people whom He would call from among the nations, after having suffered the effects of their disobedience and the consequences for their sins. He still loved each and every one of them, despite all of their trespasses and sins against Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we stirred in our hearts to bring God’s words and truth to all of our fellow brethren who are still living in darkness and ignorance of God’s saving truth? We are all called to follow in the path set by St. Dominic, God’s faithful servant, whose faith and great zeal had caused countless souls to be reconciled with God and found God’s salvation.

Are we able to commit ourselves as St. Dominic had done? St. Dominic had given his whole life and dedicated himself to work of charity and evangelisation among God’s people, even enduring difficult trials and tribulations along the way. The same trials and tribulations will be part of our lives as well if we decide to follow in his footsteps. But that is what the Lord has called us all to be, to be His disciples, carrying our crosses and following Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore devote ourselves wholeheartedly, and renew our faith and zeal for the Lord. Let us all no longer be proud and arrogant, thinking that we are better than others, but instead, let us all realise that we have the capacity and the ability to help all those who are still struggling in faith. May the Lord bless us all, and be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving that area, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from the area, came and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.”

The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.