Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, 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 reminding us of the love that God has given us all, which He has lovingly reminded His people in the first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, of the love which He has shown them in taking care of them like a father taking care of his children, protecting them, guiding them to the right path and treating everyone equally.

And there is a parallel to what we have heard in that passage to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in our Gospel passage today, when the tax collectors of the Temple came to the disciples of the Lord and asked them on the matter of paying the Temple taxes. For the context, all the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites living in the land of Judea, Galilee and other parts of the land of Israel at that time, they had to pay the Temple tax as part of their contribution and obligation.

And the Lord mentioned using a comparison, how only strangers and aliens are taxed and obliged to pay a fee, while the sons and daughters of the kings and rulers are free from such fees, as they were considered as the family of those same kings and rulers. How can those kings and rulers expect the members of their own families, those who were dear and beloved to them to pay taxes and to be subjected to the same treatment as strangers?

By using this comparison, in fact, the Lord once again stressed to us how loving and compassionate He has been to all of us, that He has not treated us all like strangers and aliens, but rather, treating us as His own children. For truly, we are children of God, not just because He has created and made us from nothingness, and out of love, but also because through Christ, we all have shared in the relationship that the Lord Jesus has with His heavenly Father.

For the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, but also at the same time the Son of Man, because His Divinity has descended into this world and embracing the fullness of humanity through His mother, Mary, becoming fully Man but yet remaining fully Divine at the same time, having the two distinct natures of Man and God united and being inseparable in His person, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It was by His act of ultimate sacrifice on the Cross then that Christ has sealed a new Covenant between God and mankind, a new and everlasting Covenant that will never be broken again, for the Precious Blood of the Lord Himself sealed that Covenant, as it poured down from the Cross of our salvation. And through that, He united all of us to Himself, and brought us all together to be reconciled to God, His heavenly Father.

Now, all of us having heard this, we should appreciate just how much God has loved us all as His own children, as those whom He loves very dearly. But many of us have not loved Him as we should have, and we have often wandered off away from His path, many times. And because of that, we have fallen into sin and darkness, and yet, God continues to love us and wants to be reconciled with us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of His glorious saints, whose life should become an inspiration for us in how we should live our own lives as well. St. Jane Frances de Chantal was the wife of a wealthy nobleman who became a widow early in her marriage and had to take care of her children on her own. She was known for her great piety and generosity to the poor and the needy.

Initially, she was unable to forgive the person responsible for her husband’s death, but after a life-changing experience of having listened to a sermon on the matter of forgiveness and the love of God, she changed her mind and wanted to devote herself totally to God as a religious nun. Eventually, she did become a religious and established a new religious order especially for those who had not been able to join the religious life due to health or age.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal truly loves God, and she devoted her whole life to serve Him, by loving Him and spending time with Him through prayer, and even more importantly, by loving all those whom the Lord has loved, that is her fellow brothers and sisters, those who were unloved, rejected and unwanted by the society. Are we able to love God in the same way that St. Jane Frances de Chantal had done? And ultimately are we able to love God just as He Himself has loved us first?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves, our time, effort and energy from now on to the Lord with all of our hearts and minds. Let us all turn towards God with love, and let us be ever more faithful to Him from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 17 : 22-27

At that time, when Jesus was in Galilee with the Twelve, He said to them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. But He will rise on the third day.” The Twelve were deeply grieved.

When they returned to Capernaum, the temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, “Does your Master pay the temple tax?” He answered, “Yes.” Peter then entered the house; and immediately, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or tribute to the kings of the earth : their sons or strangers and aliens?”

Peter replied, “Strangers and aliens.” And Jesus told him, “The sons, then, are tax-free. But, so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook, and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it. Take the coin and give it to them for you and for Me.”

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Deuteronomy 10 : 12-22

So now, Israel, what is it that YHVH, your God, asks of you but to fear Him and follow all His ways? Love Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Observe the commandments of YHVH and His laws which I command you today, for your good.

See : the heavens, those that are seen and those that are unseen, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to YHVH, your God. Nevertheless, it was on your fathers that YHVH set His heart. He loved them, and after them, He chose their descendants – you – preferring you to all the peoples, as you can see this day.

Purify your hearts, then, and do not be defiant towards YHVH because YHVH is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is the great God, the strong and terrible God. When He judges, He treats everyone equally; He does not let Himself be bought by gifts. He renders justice to the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him bread and clothing.

Love the stranger then, because you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him, follow Him and call on His Name when you have to make an oath. He is your pride and He is your God, Who has done those amazing things for you. When you went down to Egypt, your ancestors were no more than seventy persons, but now, YHVH, your God, has made you as many as the stars of heaven.

Saturday, 12 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the continuation of what Moses had taught the people of Israel during their time of journey through the desert to the Promised Land, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses reminded them of the Covenant which God had established with their ancestors, and exhorted them to continue to keep the same faith which they had, even after the Lord had brought them into the Promised Land, and after they have settled in that land in peace and prosperity.

Yet, as history had shown throughout the Scriptures, the people of Israel had not been faithful. God had blessed them and cared for them in many occasions, through their moments of difficulty, sending them judges to liberate them from their enemies and oppressors, and appointed kings to lead and guide them on the right path. But, still, they continued to disobey the Lord, and even many of the kings and leaders led the people astray.

They were the ones whom the Lord mentioned, as those who had little faith in God, and in His ability to save them from their distress. What applied at the time of Jesus, also applied in the times of the ages past, when the people of Israel repeatedly failed to walk righteously in the path that God had shown them. They instead trusted in their own power and turned to the pagan idols and gods.

This is despite God having shown them His miracles and wonders, after all that He had done for them, and after all the prophets and messengers, and the great deeds and miracles those prophets had performed before them. They refused to repent from their sins and consistently sinned, doing what was abhorrent and wicked in the sight of God and man alike.

At the time of the Lord Jesus, as mentioned in the Gospel today, although the people had seen the miracles and wonders that He had done amongst them, but they were not convinced or had faith in Him. They still had doubts in their hearts, and that was why they were not able to do as the Lord had told them to do. If they truly have faith in Him, they would not be shaken or be doubtful, when the Lord was taken from them at the time of His Passion. As we see, all of the disciples fled when the Lord was arrested by the chief priests.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that the Lord wants to remind us with today's Scripture passages? It is that all of us who follow Him, who call ourselves as Christians must have true and genuine faith in God. We cannot be lukewarm in our faith, or worse still, to have a faith that is just a formality. We either have a faith that is living and genuine, or not to have faith at all. For a lukewarm faith is just as good as a dead and non-existent faith.

All of us must live out our faith with real commitment and action, and we must wholeheartedly believe in the Lord and entrust Him with our very life, in everything we say and do. All of us must obey Him in His laws and commandments, and restrain ourselves from doing what is evil and wicked in the eyes of God. These are the things that we as Christians must do in our lives, as those who are faithful to God.

Then, how should we proceed, brethren? Perhaps, we should heed the examples of today's saint, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was widowed at a young age, losing her husband to an accident, leaving her and her four children without a husband and a father. After having settled the matters and the inheritance of her husband, St. Jane Frances de Chantal made a vow of chastity and joined the religious life.

She devoted the rest of her life to the Lord, in her good works and through prayerful dedication, and by founding the Congregation of the Visitation, a new religious order for women who were called to serve the Lord, reaching out to the public and serving the poor and the needy. What she had done at that time was considered revolutionary, as it was not common for women religious to do outreach work such as what she and her companions had done.

Yet, through the examples and the piety which St. Jane Frances de Chantal had shown, all of us should be inspired to live in the same manner, following the Lord with faith, through our real commitment and good works in life. Let us all therefore renew that commitment we must have to the Lord. Let us all be like St. Jane Frances de Chantal and the many other holy men and women of God who have gone before us, and resist the temptations to sin. Let us have a real and living faith, and not be lukewarm any longer in our faith.

May the Lord bless us and strengthen our faith inside us, that our faith, once lukewarm and weak, may become a blazing fire inflamed by the power of the Holy Spirit, guiding us to be ever faithful and devoted in our life. May God be with us always, and may through the intercession of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, the Lord may move our hearts and souls, to desire Him and to seek Him before all else. Amen.

Saturday, 12 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

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, 12 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 47 and 51ab

I love You, o YHVH, my strength. YHVH is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on YHVH, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

YHVH lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones.

Saturday, 12 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Deuteronomy 6 : 4-13

Listen, Israel : YHVH, our God, is One YHVH. And you shall love YHVH, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today.

Repeat them over and over to your children, speak to them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates.

Do not forget YHVH when He has led you into the land which He promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; for He will give you great and prosperous cities which you did not build, houses filled with everything good which you did not provide, wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

So when you have eaten and have been satisfied, do not forget YHVH Who brought you out from Egypt where you were enslaved. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him and call on His Name when you have to swear an oath.

Friday, 12 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about God Who told His people through His prophet Ezekiel, how He was disappointed at them for having broken their covenant with Him, not having been faithful despite having been blessed and taken care of for many years, the nourishing and the caring love with which God had patiently provided for through many, many years.

But the people of God were incapable of remaining firm and faithful to the covenant which they have established with God. Instead, they became wayward and gave themselves to the temptations of the world. They prostituted themselves and put themselves into the temptation of money and the pleasures of the flesh. And thus, in the Gospel today, Jesus offered a scathing rebuke of what they and their ancestors had done.

And it is a particular topic which many of us have been found wanting, lacking knowledge in, or be totally indifferent in, while it is a very important of our faith. And what is it I was referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is about the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. And we know that marriage and the institution of the family has come under many attacks in the recent years and decades.

The reason why our resolution to keep marriage holy and good is that as Jesus had said that we are all obstinate people, easily swayed by persuasion and by temptations of the devil. We give in easily to the pleasures of the flesh, so much so that we ended up being distracted and becoming unfaithful and wayward. The people sought for divorces and annulment of their marriages and committed many other wicked sins because of their inability to resist such advances.

If we have not been faithful even to our own spouse, and thus to our own families, and seek to break those bonds, then how can we be faithful to the Lord our God? That is why it is not surprising that we have been unfaithful and wayward in our lives. If we cannot be entrusted with small and simple matters, how can we be expected to be trusted with larger and greater matters? That was exactly what Jesus said to His disciples as well.

It is important to remember this, as the family and the institution of marriage are the bedrock foundations of our Faith and our Church. Take away those foundations, and the whole edifice, the whole structure will fall down and be destroyed. And that is why the enemies of the Church are so adamant in trying to undermine those important foundations of our faith and our Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore heed the examples of the holy saints, especially the saint whose feast we are celebrating today, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, a holy woman whose faith was exemplary, who devoted her entire life serving the Lord and His people, committing herself to holiness and to a life of piety, free from the temptations of sin, and free from the wickedness of the world.

Once, she was married to a loving husband and had a wonderful family and married life. But disease and other things took many of her families from her, including her husband and children. But instead of being drowned and being incapacitated with sorrow, and rather than giving herself into the ways of debauchery, or by committing adultery through remarriage, she devoted herself to the Lord and joined a prayerful life committed to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Jane Frances de Chantal showed the great example of how one ought to be faithful and be devoted towards the Lord. She served the Lord and the poor, the weak and the downtrodden of the society, even founding a religious order composed of like-minded women who wanted to devote themselves to a life of chastity.

May the Lord help us and guide us so that we may find our way to Him, that we may be able to follow in the footsteps of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, keeping us holy and committed to the sanctity of life designed for us by the Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 12 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and He said : Man has now to leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body? So they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked Him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for prostitution, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”