Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that all of us must have trust in God, and believe that in Him we shall be well taken care of, and we have nothing to fear or worry about. We have to believe that in God we shall be triumphant in the end, and not fall into the temptations to abandon Him for other sources of comfort in life. Often times we may be swayed to turn to those distractions that can prevent us from finding our path in God, but this is where our Christian faith should hold us firm in our trust in God.

In our first reading, we heard yet again from the prophet Amos, the prophet whom God had called from the land of Judah to prophesy and proclaim the word and will of God among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, during the last years of its existence. By that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had already long defied the Lord and its people and king had always committed what is vile and wicked in the sight of God, and the Lord hence proclaimed His judgment on them through Amos.

The Lord told them all that there is nothing that He does not know about the actions and behaviours of the people whose wickedness had been so despicable and unbecoming of those whom God had called to be His own people. He said to them that everything that happened in this world, are known to Him, and by their own actions and deeds hence, they would be judged and crushed by their sins, by their stubbornness and wickedness, and shall be consigned to the eternal darkness and suffering.

The prophet Amos was prophesying of the coming downfall of the kingdom of Israel, which happened just a few decades after the time of the ministry of Amos, proving that everything which the Lord had spoken truly came true, and serve as a good lesson and reminder to us, that if we turn away from God and continue walking down the path of sin, in the end, we will likely fall into ruin and destruction, if we leave the Lord and His assurances behind, and follow the tides and sway of the world instead.

Today, in our Gospel passage, we also heard about the story of when the Lord Jesus and His disciples were travelling a boat in the middle of a great storm, with lots of wind and waves, battering against the boat in which the Lord and His disciples were in. The disciples were afraid and were panicking, worried that the storm and the waves would overcome them, and sink the boat. They woke the Lord up and begged Him to help them, and to save them from their predicament. The Lord rebuked and chided them for their lack of faith, but said then that they truly had nothing to fear about, and they ought to have faith in Him.

The Lord proceeded then to miraculously calm the storm down, and the whole place become calm again, with no trace of the storm, the wind or the waves, in the sight of all the incredulous disciples, who were all astonished at seeing such great miracles occurring before their very own eyes. They were persuaded that truly, the One they were following was the Holy One of God, the Messiah and the Son of God, as they themselves witnessed in many other occasions, of His miraculous deeds, works and great Wisdom.

Now, through what we have heard in that story, there were plenty of symbolisms there, which should serve as a reminder for us in how we are to follow the Lord faithfully. First of all, the boat is a representation of the Church, while the waves, the storm and the wind are representative of the troubles, trials and challenges that the Church and the faithful often face in this world, all the temptations and struggles, the forces of evil and those who seek to sway us to the path towards destruction. And what we must then therefore remember is that the Lord never abandons His Church and His flock, and He is journeying with us through this turbulent world.

If we choose to jump ship and to abandon Him and the Church, then we shall surely perish in the waves and the storm. The disciples, although they were afraid and were panicking, but they at least trusted in the Lord and believed in Him, and called on Him to help them out of their predicament. Contrast this to the Israelites who sought for help from various sources but the Lord, putting their trust in the pagan gods and idols, and believing in the false prophets and leaders who misled them down the path of evil and disobedience against God. The Lord showed us all what those people would experience and how they fell from His grace into suffering.

Today, we should also heed the good examples set by St. Irenaeus, whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. Irenaeus was the renowned bishop of the region of what is today southern France, who hailed from Smyrna in Asia Minor, who was a courageous defender of the faith and was renowned for his many efforts to defend the Christian orthodoxy against the many heretical teachings and efforts to undermine the Church by various groups and peoples. The Lord has called St. Irenaeus to minister to his flock, and he did so amazingly, spending a lot of time and effort to care for them and also in his time spent in his writings and works against the heretical teachings of his day.

In his most famous work, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus strongly defended Christian truths and orthodox teachings against the numerous fallacies and falsehoods promoted by the supporters of those wicked teachings, and he also persevered and laboured hard against those among the authorities and the people who supported the heretical paths. St. Irenaeus committed himself thoroughly to serve the Lord and to glorify Him by his works and deeds, becoming a great champion of the Christian faithful, and whose dedication earned him the title of Doctor Unitatis or the Doctor of Unity, declared by Pope Francis, our current Pope as the newest Doctor of the Church very recently.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed faith and commit ourselves thoroughly to Him from now on. Let us no longer be stubborn and be easily swayed by those who sought to lead us down the path of ruin, and remember that through the Lord alone there is salvation, true happiness and grace. May God be with us all and may He bless each and every one of us, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 8 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a fierce storm burst upon the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep.

The disciples woke Him up and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then He stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm.

The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of Man is He? Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 5 : 5-6, 7, 8

You are not a God Who delights in wickedness; evil has no place in You. The arrogant cannot stand before You. You hate all who do evil.

You destroy all who speak falsehood, who thirst for blood and live on lies; all of them YHVH detests.

But I, by Your love and grace, may come into Your house. In reverence, I bow down and worship at Your holy Temple.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Amos 3 : 1-8 and Amos 4 : 11-12

Hear this word which YHVH speaks against you, people of Israel, against the whole family which He brought up from the land of Egypt. YHVH said, “Only you have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will call you to account for all your wrongdoings.”

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion growl in its den unless it has seized something? Does a bird get caught in a snare if the snare has not been baited? Does a tiger spring up from the ground unless it has caught something?”

“If a trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If disaster strikes a city, has not YHVH caused it? Yet YHVH does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets. If the lion roars, who will not be afraid? If YHVH speaks, Who will not prophesy?”

“I overthrew you, a divine punishment, as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand snatched from the blaze, yet you never returned to Me,” says YHVH. “Therefore, I will deal with you in My own way, Israel, and since I will do this to you, prepare, Israel, to meet your God!”

Monday, 28 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the love and mercy of God, as well as what it truly means to be a follower and believer of God, to be genuine Christians in all things. We have to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and with all of our strength, and we have to put our trust in Him always, no matter what challenges and trials may come our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the story of the Book of Genesis in our first reading today, we heard the interesting exchange between God and Abraham with regards to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God revealed to Abraham that He was about to lay waste to Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroy both cities for the great sins and wickedness that they had committed. Yet at the same time, Lot, the cousin and relative of Abraham was living in that place with his family.

Therefore, Abraham, knowing how the Lord’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah might harm his relative, he tried to reason with the Lord and dissuade Him from such a plan, as destroying the whole entire two cities might indeed bring death even to the righteous who were perhaps still living in them, including that of Lot and his own family members. It was likely that Abraham believed in Lot and his family, and trusted that they were still faithful and righteous even when living amongst the wicked.

Abraham tried to reason with the Lord and tried to persuade Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but in the end, although he might have genuinely hoped that there were just a few of the righteous in the two cities, be it just fifty, forty-five, thirty, twenty or even just ten of them in the cities, that the Lord would spare the entire two cities for their sake. Yet, in truth there were not even ten who could have been saved. It seemed that only Lot and his immediate family alone were righteous and good.

But God still cared for them, and He sent two of His Angels to warn and lead Lot and his family out of harm’s way before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was to happen. Except for Lot’s wife, who hesitated and looked back when the Angels had told them explicitly not to do so, the whole family of Lot was saved, when the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped out of the face of the whole world.

Then we heard in our Gospel passage today, of the Lord’s words and encounter with one of the teachers of the Law, who wanted to follow the Lord and believed in Him, and the Lord told him frankly that He did not even have any place to stay or lay His head in, when the teacher of the Law asked to see His place, and He also told another disciple, who wanted to turn back and bury his family members first, metaphorically, that those who did so, did not have their hearts and minds fully focused on the Lord.

Linking what we have heard in our Scripture passages today and how the story of Lot’s wife and the disciple who wanted to go back to bury his dead family, and the Lord saying to the teacher of the Law that He had no place to even lay His head, we are all reminded that to be Christians, more often than not we have to make great sacrifices and abandon various desires we have, and resist the many worldly temptations present all around us.

Are we able to do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to walk righteously in the path of the Lord, Who loves us and cherishes us, and reminding ourselves that while the Lord’s love for us is ever great and wonderful, but the effects and consequences for our unrepented sins, wickedness and evils prevent us from truly receiving the fullness of His love and grace? What we heard today from the Scripture passages remind us that as Christians, we are all called to a new life and existence in faith.

Today, we all celebrate the feast of one of the renowned saints of antiquity, namely that of St. Irenaeus, holy bishop and servant of God, and martyr of the Church. He was remembered well for his great piety and many important works on theology and various other aspects of the faith, and especially his efforts in countering and opposing the corrupting influence of heresies such as gnosticism. He dedicated himself to his flock as the bishop of Lyons, in defending the faithful from heresies and in caring for their spiritual needs.

St. Irenaeus defended the true faith, Apostolic tradition and Church teachings from those who sought to undermine and destroy them, and also from those who wished to subvert and alter those faithful traditions and truths for their own selfish and misguided purposes and ambitions. At the same time he also protected and helped to lead his flock through a difficult time of oppression and persecution from the Roman authorities.

He remained firm and faithful to the end, as he was most likely persecuted and put to death as part of one of the persecutions of Christians in the region by the Roman authorities. Nonetheless, the courage, faith and the many good works that St. Irenaeus had done for the sake of all of God’s faithful people had indeed inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Have we been inspired by St. Irenaeus and our other holy predecessors by their action and faith? Let us all turn towards the Lord therefore with a new heart and with a new faith, and let us commit ourselves anew to Him, not turning back anymore and resist the temptations that distract us from our sole focus on Him. May God be with us all in this journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 28 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 8 : 18-22

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowd pressing around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. A teacher of the Law approached Him; and said, “Master, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

Monday, 28 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 10-11

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His Holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger; He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever.

He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve. As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him.

Monday, 28 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Genesis 18 : 16-33

The men went away and turned towards Sodom. Abraham walked with them to set them on their way. And YHVH said, “Can I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham, in fact, is going to become a great and powerful nation and through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed, for I have chosen him to command his sons and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that YHVH may bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.”

Then YHVH said, “How great is the cry for justice against Sodom and Gomorrah! And how grievous is their sin! I am going down to see if they have done all that they are charged with in the outcry that has reached Me. If it is not so, I will know.” The men with Him turned away and went towards Sodom, but YHVH remained standing before Abraham.

Abraham went forward and said, “Will You really let the just perish with the wicked? Perhaps there are fifty good people in the town. Are You really going to let them perish? Would You not spare the place for the sake of these fifty righteous people? It would not be at all like You to do such a thing and You cannot let the good perish with the wicked, nor treat the good and the wicked alike. Far be it from You! Will not the Judge of all the earth be just?” YHVH said, “If I find fifty good people in Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham spoke up again, “I know that I am very bold to speak like this to my Lord, I who am only dust and ashes! But perhaps the number of the good is five less than fifty. Will You destroy the town because of the five?” YHVH replied, “I will not destroy the town if I find forty-five good people there.” Again Abraham said to him, “Perhaps there will be only forty.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”

Abraham went on, saying, “May my Lord not be angry, but let me speak. Maybe only thirty good people will be found in the town.” YHVH answered, “I will not destroy it if I find thirty there.” Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to my Lord, what if only twenty can be found?” He said, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy the place.”

But Abraham insisted, “May my Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found?” And YHVH answered, “For the sake of ten good people, I will not destroy Sodom.” When YHVH had finished speaking with Abraham, He left and Abraham went home.

Thursday, 28 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the beginning of the final downfall of the kingdom of Judah from the Book of Kings, when the king of Judah, Jehoiachin, was taken away into Babylon by its king Nebuchadnezzar and his forces, during the invasion of the Babylonians towards Judah and Jerusalem. The forces of Judah were no match for the Babylonians and they surrendered to the Babylonians.

At that time, the geopolitical situation of the region was volatile, and the kingdom of Judah was caught in between the major powers of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. The kingdom of Judah and its people depended on the Egyptians for protection against the Babylonians instead of depending on God, and they committed sins and wickedness against God. After king Josiah of Judah, there was no more kings of Judah who were faithful to God.

They depended on worldly power and strength to sustain themselves, and they did not repent despite the messengers and prophets sent into their midst calling them to repent from their sins and to turn themselves to God’s mercy and forgiveness. The prophet Jeremiah in particular was active during those days, up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon.

But the people and their king refused to listen to God or to obey His will. They would rather listen to false prophets who arose, claiming that they spoke in the authority of God, bearing false witnesses and falsehoods that blinded the people of Judah from the upcoming retribution and judgment for their sins. They are indeed acting in the manner that the Lord mentioned in the Gospel today, as those who built their houses on the foundation of sand.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus teaching the people with a parable, comparing houses built on two different kinds of foundations. One house was built on the foundation of sand, while the other house was built on the solid foundation of rock. And the Lord mentioned how the house built on the firm foundation of rock was able to withstand the forces of wind and waves that batter it, and remained standing, while the house built on the weak foundation of sand collapsed.

What the Lord mentioned to the people with this parable was in fact comparing those who put their trust in the Lord, which is referring to the house built on the solid rock foundation, with those who place their trust in worldly power, strength and abilities, that is those who built their houses on the shaky and weak foundation of sand. For it is in the Lord alone, that we have a certain and sure future, and not in all worldly things that are merely temporary and uncertain.

Yet, it is often that we mankind put our trust too much in worldly things, shown in how we value money, material possessions, fame, glory and honour. We spent a lot of time trying to gain more of those things for ourselves, in pursuit of a successful career, gaining material benefits and fulfilling whatever standards of success and happiness, in accordance to the ways of the world.

And in doing so, we often end up forgetting the main purpose of our lives, that is, to glorify God, by our actions and deeds in life. Instead, our pride and our ego become the centre focus of our lives. We live not for God and for glorifying Him, but instead, for satisfying our own selfish desires, greed and to entertain our own pride, ambition and ego. That was why the people of Judah and their king had fallen into sin, just as we have fallen.

Now, perhaps each and every one of us should look upon the example of one particular saint, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Irenaeus, a renowned bishop and holy martyr of the Church, was exemplary in his actions in life and in his faith, that he ought to be an inspiration for each and every one of us as Christians. St. Irenaeus was the Bishop of Lugdunum in the Roman province of Gaul, in what is now modern day France.

He was especially remembered for his masterpiece, ‘Against Heresies’ written against the dangerous heresies at the time, particularly Gnosticism which were rampant at his time. The Gnostic heresy was a syncretic and false faith, created by the distortion of the truth of the Gospels and the teachings of the Apostles, which gained a lot of influence and sway in many members of the Church.

In particular, Gnosticism espoused exactly all the things that we have just mentioned earlier, the glorification of the earthly and worldly things, the embrace of the pleasures and corruption of the flesh, against the truth of the Lord, which liberated us from all of these temptations and false happiness. St. Irenaeus devoted himself to combatting these heresies and ensured that his flock remained true to the faith in Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Irenaeus, in how he courageously defended his faith and the truth of Christ against the opposition of the world itself, from the pagans who were persecuting the Church and from the heretics who sought to distort and turn the teachings of the Church upside down? Let us all follow in his footsteps and renew our faith in the Lord.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to watch over us, day after day, that we will grow ever more devoted and more committed to Him, in every actions and deeds we do, so that in all of them, we will always glorify God every day and every moment that we live. Amen.

Thursday, 28 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 7 : 21-29

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak in Your Name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in Your Name?’ Then I will tell them openly, ‘I have never known you; away from Me, you evil people!’”

“Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were struck by the way He taught, because He taught with authority, unlike their teachers of the Law.