Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the Scripture passages we received today, some of us might have some questions and we wonder why for example St. Paul spoke of how it seemed that the end of the world and the time of judgment and the Lord’s coming was at hand, and also what the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, in His series of the Eight Beatitudes, blessings to those who have done what the Lord wanted them to do.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians and the Church there, a reminder for all the faithful to remain faithful, to keep the commandments of God, to remain virtuous and good in all things and not be tempted by their worldly desires and other things that can lead them down the path of sin. St. Paul exhorted them to do all these in light of the earlier discourses for the past week from this same Epistle, with regards to the increasingly lax morality and discipline among the faithful.

Thus, as we heard the seemingly strange words from St. Paul, we are reminded that in the context of what he intended for the people, that is to turn away from their sinful ways and increasingly corrupt ways, he reminded them how the Lord Jesus Himself did say that the time of His coming and the time of Judgment and reckoning will come to a surprise to everyone, as no one would have expected the Lord’s moment of truth when it comes.

This, coupled with the general belief among the early Christian communities that the Lord would indeed come again soon, perhaps within a human lifetime, generated that idea among some that it is perhaps best for people to remain chaste and free from sin, for virgins to remain pure rather than to fall into sin, to avoid things that could lead them down the slippery path into eternal suffering.

While this was indeed not accurate, as in the end, no one but God alone knows the time of His coming, but the essence of that call to holiness remains true for all of us. Do we want to allow ourselves to be controlled by sin, by the many temptations that we face in life, and which will lead us to our eventual downfall in exchange for mere momentary pleasure and joy in life? Or do we rather resist and oppose these temptations, and remain firm in faith in God?

And when the Lord spoke of His Beatitudes to His disciples and followers, He was praising those who are persevering in faith and dedicating themselves to serve the Lord with faith. But He was not in fact against or condemning the rich, powerful and mighty. Rather, through His words, He has reminded us to keep ourselves from being too attached to the many comforts we have in life, that we end up falling into immoral and wicked ways, into temptations and sin, and therefore into eternal damnation.

Today, we are called to be more disciplined in life, to be more dedicated and committed in faith, to turn towards God with ever greater faith, with each and every moment. And in doing so, we can draw inspirations from our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Peter Claver, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Peter Claver was a great priest and missionary who is remembered for his great commitment to the mission among the people he worked with in missionary area.

He was especially remembered for his care and concern for the oppressed, for people who were deprived of their livelihood and even basic human rights and respect, at a time when slavery was still rampant and prejudices among the people for those who were considered lesser races and beings were very common. St. Peter Claver laboured hard in order to oppose all these injustices he saw happening all around him, and protected and cared for the people in the best way he could.

St. Peter Claver spent a lot of time amongst the slaves to whom he ministered to over the years, doing his best to gain them their freedom and their human rights, and at least to give them better livelihood, spreading the faith to them and protecting them from injustices and harassment. He lived among them and stayed with them, and was always humble in heart, in appearance and in deed.

Through all his years of ministry, St. Peter Claver encountered plenty of opposition and challenges, but he did not allow all these from stopping or preventing him in his mission and in his love and compassionate care for the downtrodden and the oppressed. In this way, he is the epitome and example of what the Lord had mentioned in the Beatitudes, as the blessed ones who lived in accordance with the way of the Lord, and are shining beacons of hope and light amidst our darkened world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on all these and be better Christians from now on, in deeds and in faith, that we may follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Claver, in serving God with devotion and in obeying Him, in remaining good and righteous, pure and free from the taints of sin and to keep ourselves worthy at all times, that when the Lord comes again as He promised, we will be brought into eternal and true glory with Him. May God bless us always, and help us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 6 : 20-26

At that time, looking at His disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you, who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you, who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Fortunate are you, when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember, that is how the ancestors of the people treated the prophets.”

“But alas for you, who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you, who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you, who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you, when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of the people treated the false prophets.”

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 44 : 11-12, 14-15, 16-17

Listen, o daughter, pay attention; forget your father’s house and your nation, and your beauty will charm the King, for He is your Lord.

All glorious as she enters is the princess in her gold-woven robes. She is led in royal attire to the King, following behind is her train of virgins.

Amid cheers and general rejoicing, they enter the palace of the King. Forget your fathers and think of your sons, you will make them princes throughout the land.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

1 Corinthians 7 : 25-31

With regard to those who remain virgins, I have no special commandment from the Lord, but I give some advice, hoping that I am worthy of trust by the mercy of the Lord.

I think this is good in these hard times in which we live. It is good for someone to remain as he is. If you are married, do not try to divorce your wife; if you are not married, do not marry. He who marries does not sin, nor does the young girl sin who marries. Yet they will face disturbing experiences, and I would like to spare you.

I say this, brothers and sisters : time is running out, and those who are married must live as if not married; those who weep as if not weeping; those who are happy as if they were not happy; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the love by which God has reached out to us through Christ, His beloved Son, by Whom He has brought salvation to us all and the whole world. Today we are all reminded that by God’s love and grace, He has willingly embraced us and has wanted us to be reconciled to Him, that we can be truly reunited with Him in perfect love.

God has revealed that first and foremost of all, He is a loving God and Father to all of us, and not some angry and wrathful God Who demanded us to be subservient and to kneel in fear. Instead, what He wants us to do is for us all to realise just how much He has loved us since the very beginning and therefore have the same kind of love within each and every one of us as well. We are all called to be loving just as God is loving.

Unfortunately it is by our own actions that we have failed to appreciate God’s love for us, in how we categorise God and make assumptions about Him, just like how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law acted in enforcing the observances of the laws of God, particularly the law of the Sabbath as we heard in our Gospel passage today. They questioned the Lord if it was lawful for someone to be healed on the Sabbath.

This is when those people failed to understand the Law of God properly in its meaning, purpose and intention. They focused on the ‘letter’ of the Law but failed to understand the ‘spirit’ of the Law, and the two should not be separated one from the other. The Lord did not intend for the Law to restrict His people and make themselves difficult by imposing the Sabbath observance to prevent people from doing something that is good, as the Lord Jesus Himself plainly revealed.

Instead, we must all understand the purpose of the Sabbath itself in the first place in the historical context of how the Sabbath came to be. The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest, not from doing good deeds but rather from all the busy schedules, activities and preoccupations of God’s people that had taken them away from God and distracted them from their faith in Him. In their pursuit for more worldly goods and happiness, it was easy for them to be swayed and fall into the temptations to sin.

That is why, the Sabbath was meant to help the people to take a break and stop whatever they were busy and preoccupied with, so that they can reorientate themselves and rethink the purpose and direction of their lives and refocusing their hearts and minds to God’s will. The Sabbath was therefore meant to allow God’s people to grow in their relationship with their loving God, Father and Creator, just as how we ought to honour the Sundays, the days of Our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are therefore reminded to be genuine in our faith and dedication to the Lord, not just knowing the ‘letter’ of the Law but also the ‘spirit’ of the Law so that we do not end up being misguided like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were overly obsessed and focusing on the wrong parts of the Law, as they bickered and argued over the external application and observance of the Law rather than what the Law truly means for the people of God.

Today, all of us ought to observe and follow the example of one saint, whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Peter Claver, a holy and devout priest who was remembered for his dedication to the poor and to the oppressed as a priest serving the faithful and many of the people in the then New World, the Spanish American continent. He ministered to many of the people who have not yet heard of God and baptised many of them into the faith over many decades.

He spent many years working among them all and especially among the slaves, all those who have been exploited for the sake of wealth and glory by those who wanted these things. He championed their rights and ministered among them, touching their hearts and minds as they saw in him the presence of God’s love and mercy in their midst. He reached out to them and many of them turned towards God with great faith as a result.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the good examples of St. Peter Claver, his love for his fellow men, all those whom God had entrusted to his care, and his devotion and love for God throughout his life that he devoted all his time and effort to the care of God’s beloved people. Let us all be ever more faithful to God from now on and let us be true in our live for Him and in our ever stronger devotion to His greater glory. May God bless us all in our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 6 : 6-11

At that time, on another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching. There was a man with a paralysed right hand, and the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees watched Him : Would Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to the man, “Get up, and stand in the middle.” Then He spoke to them, “I want to ask you : what is allowed by the Law on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And Jesus looked around at them all.

Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored, becoming as healthy as the other. But they were furious, and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 61 : 6-7, 9

Find rest in God alone, o my soul; from Him, comes my hope. He alone, is my Rock and my Salvation; with Him as my Stronghold, I shall not be overcome.

Trust in Him at all times, my people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is our refuge.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Colossians 1 : 24 – Colossians 2 : 3

At present, I rejoice when I suffer for you; I complete, in my own flesh, what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the Church. For I am serving the Church since God entrusted to me the ministry to make the word of God fully known.

I mean that mysterious plan that, for centuries and generations, remained secret, and which God has now revealed to His holy ones. God willed to make known to them the riches, and even the glory, that His mysterious plan reserved for the pagan nations : Christ is in you, the hope for glory.

This Christ, we preach. We warn, and teach everyone true wisdom, aiming to make everyone perfect, in Christ. For this cause I labour and struggle, with the energy of Christ working powerfully in me. I want you to know how I strive for you, for those of Laodicea, and for so many who have not met me personally.

I pray, that all may be encouraged. May you be established in love, that you may obtain all the riches of a full understanding, and know the mystery of God, Christ Himself. For, in Him, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Saturday, 9 September 2017 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard in the readings today from particularly the Gospel, that we cannot be like the Pharisees, who refused to believe in Jesus simply because according to them, Jesus had disobeyed the laws of God as revealed through Moses because He often performed His healing miracles on the Sabbath day.

In fact, sometimes the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law purposely placed sick and possessed men or women, at the places where Jesus were teaching the people during the Sabbath day so that they hoped they could trap Jesus in His own actions and they then could accuse Him of disobeying the Sabbath law, thus allowing them to charge Him.

However, Jesus countered their argument, by citing the historical example of king David, the well-known and highly respected king of the nation of Israel. At the time of his great need, hungry and chased by his enemies, David and his men took the bread of offering normally reserved only for the priests, also on the Sabbath day, which was normally forbidden. But in that case, they were under difficult situation and help was greatly needed.

Through all these, we see how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law failed to understand the true meaning and intention of God’s laws and commandments. They thought that everyone ought to obey the Law as God is a fearsome God Who imposed His laws and commandments on His people, and therefore, all the laws including the law of the Sabbath was treated as inviolable and they persecuted those who did not obey.

But God did not give us all His laws so that He could burden us or pressure us to do all that He has commanded us to do, that we ended up fearing Him and trembling before Him. No, His main intention is love, and He wants each and every one of us to be able to love Him wholeheartedly just as He Himself has loved us first. The Law of God is the Law of love, designed to keep us faithful in His ways, and to help us to learn about God and to devote ourselves ever more closely to Him.

Thus, in the same manner, the law of the Sabbath was instituted, because by setting aside one day when the people might stop their daily business and work, and when they may cease their constant worries and attention on the worldly matters, they might be able to spend that time with God, and strengthen their relationship with Him through prayer and devotion. But, this has been forgotten by the people, and the Pharisees enforced the Law of the Sabbath for the sake of doing it, and not with the purpose of allowing the people to love God more.

That was why Jesus pointed out the errors in their teachings and ways, since they even abhorred good deeds and works that were done on the day of the Sabbath. They did their sacrifices and prayers on one hand, but on the other hand, they discouraged the people from doing what the Lord wants each one of us to do, that is to be loving and to be gracious in how we love, towards both God and to our fellow men and women.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember that the Lord Jesus Himself said that when we show our love, care and attention to the least among our brethren, we have done it for none other than the Lord Himself. Therefore, let us all Christians devote ourselves, our time and effort to show love and genuine care for others, especially those who are in need.

Perhaps we should also follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Claver, a devout and holy priest, whose dedication to the slaves in the New World, now the Americas became renowned and remembered by many, who looked up to his examples and commitment. He was a Jesuit priest who worked among the poor and the slaves in that area, converting them and teaching them about the faith.

And he did not hesitate to stand up for their sake when they were poorly and unfairly treated, and St. Peter Claver showed us therefore an example of how we as Christians should live, not through hypocrisy and arrogance like that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, but through genuine love and devotion, via our care for those around us who are in need of our help.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on devote ourselves in the same manner as St. Peter Claver had done. Let us love one another and love the Lord, devoting ourselves more wholeheartedly from now on. May the Lord bless our loving works and continue to strengthen in us the desire to love Him and to serve Him through all that we say and do. Let us all also ask for St. Peter Claver to intercede for us. Amen.

Saturday, 9 September 2017 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through a field of grain, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the Sabbath.”