Thursday, 13 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 77 : 56-57, 58-59, 61-62

But they challenged and rebelled against God the Most High, and disobeyed His decrees. They were unfaithful, like their ancestors, deceitful and crooked, as a twisted bow.

They angered Him with their high places; they aroused His jealousy with their idols. Filled with wrath, God rejected Israel.

He lead His glory into captivity, His Ark, into the hand of the enemy. He gave His people over to the sword, so furious was He at His inheritance.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 : 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 as we listened to the passages from the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of our duty as Christians and therefore as God’s people to follow the Lord and to obey His will and His laws, to be righteous and good just as He is good, and to be exemplary in our conduct and actions. For if we do not act as we have been called to act, and if we disobey God, then it is by our own disobedience and therefore sins that we will be judged.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel we heard of the great vision of Ezekiel witnessing God’s glory upon His Throne of Angels, surrounded by the mighty Seraphim and Cherubim. What the prophet Ezekiel described of what he had seen was likely the best that he could do to describe within the limitations of the human expressions and perceptions of the great and infinite glory of God that he had seen, and through this, both Ezekiel and the people to whom he was sent were all reminded of the One Who had revealed all the truth they received.

The prophet Ezekiel saw what happened when the glory of God departed from the Temple and the city, where bloodshed and destruction would happen, a premonition of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of God by the Babylonians, as seen by Ezekiel who was then in exile in Babylon. Through the vision, God showed how His grace and presence among the people would leave the city and the House He had chosen and dwelled in, all because of the wickedness and evil of the people who refused to change their sinful ways.

The prophet Ezekiel’s message is parallel to what the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples in our Gospel passage today. In that occasion, the Lord said that if someone had erred, then it is the duty, obligation and responsibility for that one’s fellow brothers and sisters in faith to correct and guide the one who erred back to the truth. And therefore, this is a reminder that each and every one of us have this responsibility to be faithful to God and to be examples for one another, and help lead each other down the right path.

However, God also said in that same occasion, that if the attempt to regain the faith in the one who erred fails, and the person stubbornly refused to change his ways, then that person ought to face condemnation for his or her own conscious refusal to obey the Lord and follow His ways. This is also what happened to the people of Israel and Judah, after they continued to disobey God and refused to listen to the many prophets and messengers God had sent to them. They were conquered, crushed and humiliated by their enemies, suffering for their own sins.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded today through these Scripture passages that disobedience against God leads to sin, and sin lead us to suffering and separation from God. And thus we should strive to be faithful at all times and we should do our best to resist the temptations to walk the path of sin. Today, we celebrate the feast of a holy woman and servant of God whose examples can inspire us in our own journey of faith.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal was the founder of the religious order, the Order of the Visitation of Mary, born into an influential family and married her husband, Baron de Chantal, with which she had a short but happy married life. When her husband passed away from an accident, the baroness was heartbroken and she chose to dedicate herself and her time to God as a religious sister. She forgave those who caused her husband’s premature death and gave herself to pious works and efforts.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal founded the religious order of the Order of the Visitation of Mary which was unique in that they gathered and accepted all those women who had been rejected by the other religious orders and congregations because they were considered too sickly or too old. Inspired by the faith and dedication of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, the members of the order spent much time caring for the needs of the people of God, especially those who were poor and less fortunate.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see how this holy woman and servant of God obeyed God and did what she could to fulfil His will and His commandments. How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we going to follow in her footsteps or are we going to be stubborn and refuse to change our ways, and continue to sin by our pride and greed, by our ego and ambitions, our selfish desires?

Let us all spend some time to discern about all these, and let us consider how each and every one of us can be more devoted and true in our faith and how we can follow the Lord with ever greater sincerity and commitment, no longer clinging stubbornly to our past ways of sin, but instead embrace fully the love of God in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us and may He guide us in our journey of faith that we may find the true path to salvation in Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 18 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you : whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound.”

“In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by My heavenly Father; for where two or there are gathered in My Name, I am there, among them.”

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of YHVH, praise the Name of YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of YHVH be praised! YHVH is exalted over the nations; His glory above the heavens.

Who is like YHVH our God, Who sits enthroned on high, but also bends down to see on earth as in heaven?

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Ezekiel 9 : 1-7 and Ezekiel 10 : 18-22

Then He shouted loudly in my ears saying, “The punishment of the city is near; see, each one of these has in his hand his instrument of destruction.” And six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each one with his instrument of destruction. With them was a man clothed in linen, with writing material at his side. They came; and stopped near the altar of bronze.

Then the Glory of the God of Israel rose from the Cherubim, where It rested; and went to the threshold of the House. YHVH called to the man clothed in linen; who had the material for writing at his side; and He said to him, “Pass through the centre of the city, through Jerusalem, and trace a cross on the forehead of the men who sigh and groan, because of all the abominations committed in it.”

I heard Him say to the others, “Now you may pass through the city, after him, and strike. Your eyes shall not look with pity; show no mercy! Do away with them all – old men, young men, virgins, children and women – but do not touch anyone marked with a cross.”

And, as they were told to begin with the Sanctuary, they struck the elders who were in front of the Temple. YHVH said to them, “Let the courts be filled with the slain and the Temple be defiled with their blood : Go out!” They went and slew the people in the city.

The glory of YHVH went from above the threshold of the House and went, to rest on the Cherubim. Then the Cherubim left, opening their wings and rising above the earth in my sight; and the wheels went with them. They halted at the east gate of the House of YHVH; and the Glory of the God of Israel was over them.

These were the living creatures I had seen under the God of Israel on the banks of the river Chebar. I recognised them as Cherubim. Each had four faces, each had four wings; and they had what seemed like human hands under their wings. As for the appearance of their faces, they were the faces I had seen by the river Chebar, the same likeness. Each one went straight ahead.

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.