Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today all of us heard of the creation of man at the pinnacle of the creation of the world and how God formed us and gave us the breath of life, blessing us mankind and granting us dominion and stewardship over creation. Everything had been made good and wonderful by the Lord, all the celestial things and all the lifeforms in this world, on the land, in the sea and air.

Therefore, when we heard of the Lord’s confrontation with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as the latter argued that the way they enforced the Law was the only right one, the Lord Jesus revealed the truth about the Law and commandments of God, and said how all things were inherently good and wonderful, just as God had created them to be, and that also includes us mankind as well. However, because of sin, we have been defiled and corrupted, not because of the things that entered into our bodies, but because of the things that came from within our hearts.

Take for example, the tree of knowledge of good and evil mentioned in the first reading today, the tree that was forbidden for mankind to touch or eat by God. That tree by itself was not evil or good in nature, but it was mankind’s mistaken way and misguided intention that led our first ancestors to sin against the Lord. It was not the fruit of the tree of knowledge entering their bodies that condemned Adam and Eve, but rather, their willingness in cooperating with the devil and listening to him that led them to their downfall.

In the same manner therefore, the notion that any food could have made a person unclean had no true and spiritual basis, as the Lord Himself debunked the falsehoods of such an idea. This was however the prevailing view for the many centuries of the traditions and practices of the people of Israel, for all those years that they lived under the Law of God revealed through Moses. However, we have to understand the context of such laws if we are to appreciate the true nature of the Law and the real intention of God for His people.

The Law of God revealed to Moses was given as sets of guidance and instructions that were meant to help to keep the people of God in line, especially considering how stubborn and disobedient they had been at that time, in refusing to listen to the Lord and His commandments and laws. Thus, the rules and tenets were revealed at the time to make sure that the people did not lose their way and remain faithful to the Lord despite the temptations and other obstacles in their path, trying to pull them away from the path towards God.

Some of those laws including the dietary restrictions were also enforced to ensure that the people of God remained healthy amidst the long journey throughout the desert, as well as considering the prevailing conditions at the time. In the end, when the reason for such laws were no longer in place, the people themselves had forgotten the reason and purpose of such laws and regulations. In the end, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, they obeyed for the sake of obeying, and worse still, doing what was asked by the Law for appearances and to be praised for it.

That is why the Lord wanted all of the people to realise the folly of such thoughts and way of life, and thus, revealed how the true meaning of the Law of God was far from what the laws and traditions of the people had prescribed, having veered off far from the original, intended purpose and meaning. He wanted to show us all that what is important is the purity and the sincerity of our inner, spiritual orientation of life rather than merely just focusing on outward gestures and appearances alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reexamine our way of life, and consider how we can be better disciples of the Lord in everything we do, in each and every moments of our lives. We are all called to a greater existence in holiness in God, to be genuinely devoted to Him with faith, and to follow His path wholeheartedly by appreciating all that He had taught us and revealed to us.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Scholastica, a holy saint of God and a faithful servant whose life can be a great example for us to follow, as she dedicated her whole life in a holy life of prayer. As the paternal twin sister of the great St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Scholastica also lived her life virtuously and committed herself to a life consecrated to God, traditionally considered as the foundation of the society of Benedictine nuns just as St. Benedict inspired the foundation of the Benedictine monastic order.

The faith of these saints were truly great, and they inspired many others to follow their examples. All of us should also follow in their footsteps and commit ourselves to the cause of the Lord. Are we able to do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives from now on with true and genuine faith, that each and every one of us may become true followers of Christ in all things?

May the Lord be our Guide and Strength, and may He empower us all to become faithful and dedicated Christians, living our lives wholeheartedly according to the way of the Lord and to our faith. May God bless all of our good efforts and commitments, and may He enlighten our path forward in life. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 14-23

At that time, Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?” Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean.

And He went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 2 : 4b-9, 15-17

On the day that YHVH God made the earth and the heavens, there was not yet on earth any shrub on the fields, nor had any plant yet sprung up, for YHVH God had not made it rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the earth, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the surface of the earth.

Then YHVH God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He placed Man whom He had created. YHVH God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of life on the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

YHVH God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to take care of it. Then YHVH God gave an order to Man saying, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die.”

Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the Sacred Scriptures, in which we began with the accounts from the Book of Kings on the completion and the Dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem built by king Solomon for God. In that account, we heard how the king and the whole people rejoiced as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple of God, and placed at its centre, the Holy of Holies where God Himself would dwell.

The Ark of the Covenant has been the centre of the whole community of Israel since the time of the Exodus from Egypt, as its name was linked to its role as the container of the actual Covenant which God has made with His people and written on the two slabs of stone, which together with the manna gathered from the time when God had fed His people and the staff of Aaron with which God had performed many wonders and miracles before the people of Israel, symbolise the very presence of God among His people.

And that moment when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple signified the moment when the Covenant of God was renewed, which king Solomon celebrated with the large offering of sacrifices to God as described in the account of the Book of Kings, numbering in the tens and thousands and more. The whole people of Israel rejoiced because God has willingly dwelled among His people and blessed the Temple that King Solomon has built in Jerusalem.

What we have heard in our first reading on the dedication of the Temple and the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant is a prefigurement of what would then come at the moment when God renewed His Covenant with His people, one final time, and this time with a new Covenant that He would seal with His people with a new sacrifice, and this one is the sacrifice which Our Lord Jesus would make on the Altar of His Cross at Calvary. For Christ is indeed the Mediator and Bearer of God’s New Covenant.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the works of the Lord Jesus and His disciples who were then at Galilee, ministering to the people and caring for many people who came to Jesus seeking to listen to Him and His teachings, or to be healed from their various illnesses, diseases, afflictions and troubles. People kept on bringing their sick ones to Him and many were healed by His touch and works, and the people who had faith in Him were healed by merely touching His cloak.

In the Lord Jesus, we ourselves have seen the Lord coming to dwell among us, and this time, not just in the intangible form of the slabs of stone of the Commandments and the Law, or the manna or the staff of Aaron or the container which is the Ark of the Covenant mentioned earlier. Here is the One Who is the Lord Himself Incarnate in the flesh, the Divine Word and Son of God, Who took upon Himself the nature and appearance of Man, that He is able to dwell in our midst in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

He came into our midst and dwell among us as He promised because He loves each and every one of us very dearly. After all, He created us all out of love and He wants nothing less than happiness and joy for us, which has been barred for us because of our sins and disobedience against God. Our sins have made us to be separated from God and His fullness of grace and love, which is precisely why He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ.

When the Lord Jesus came into our world and touched us His people, and then ultimately fulfilled His mission by taking up His Cross and suffered for our sake, becoming the very sacrificial Lamb on the Altar for our sake, and being sacrificed for us, renewing forever the Eternal Covenant of Love that God has made with us, affirming with this act of supreme love of the desire that God has in being reconciled with us. By the forgiveness of our sins, we can be reunited with God once again.

Today, all of us are therefore reminded of just how fortunate each and every one of us that God has always loved us all despite all of our infidelities and lack of faith, for all of our rebelliousness and our failures to obey His will. God still loves us all and wants to forgive us all, and He has done so by sending us His Son to be Our Lord and Saviour, suffering and dying a most painful death on the Cross for our sake.

How do we then appreciate God’s love and love Him back, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by opening ourselves to His love and allow His grace and forgiveness to touch us and our lives, that we may be healed by His compassionate love. Just as those people who came seeking Him to be healed from their various sickness and diseases, we are all also called to seek Him to heal us from the disease within us, within our heart, mind and soul, that is our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples led by one of our holy predecessor who had lived her life with great faith in God, that we too may know how to live our own lives with faith from now on. St. Scholastica, a renowned saint and holy woman, also the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia, is a great role model for us in faith as she led a devout life and inspired many others to follow her example mirroring what her brother had also done in establishing what would eventually become the Benedictines.

St. Scholastica lived a virtuous and prayerful life, dedicated wholly to God and committed herself to live an upright life of piety and charity, inspiring others in her community to be more dedicated and faithful to God. St. Scholastica showed us all what it truly means for us to be Christians, as those who believe in Christ and in His love, and because of that, we have to really show our love for Him by our action, our commitment to love Him and serve Him each and every days of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to renew our faith in God and grow stronger in our love and devotion towards Him. Let us all be more Christian-like in our way of life from now on, and let us seek to glorify God at all times through our words, actions and deeds for His such great love for us that He has done with us everything He has done through His Cross. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 6 : 53-56

At that time, having crossed the lake, Jesus and His disciples came ashore at Gennesaret, where they tied up the boat. As soon as they landed, people recognised Jesus, and ran to spread the news throughout the countryside.

Wherever He was, they brought to Him the sick lying on their mats; and wherever He went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace, and begged Him to let them touch just the fringe of His cloak. And all who touched Him were cured.

Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 6-7, 8-10

The Ark is in Ephrata, we found it in the fields of Jaar. Let us go to where He dwells and worship at His footstool!

Arise, o YHVH, and come to Your rest; You, and the Ark of Your might. May Your priests be arrayed in glorious mantle; may Your faithful ones shout in gladness. For the sake of Your servant, David, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Kings 8 : 1-7, 9-13

Then Solomon assembled before him in Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, as well as the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH from the city of David, which is Zion.

All the Israelites assembled near king Solomon in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests carried the Ark of YHVH and brought it up together with the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the tent.

After the priests and Levites had brought them up, king Solomon with the entire congregation of Israel that had assembled before him and were with him before the Ark, sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they could neither be counted nor numbered.

Then the priests laid the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH in its place in the inner Sanctuary of the house – the Most Holy Place – underneath the wings of the Cherubim. The Cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, providing a covering above the Ark and its poles.

There was nothing in the Ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, where YHVH made a Covenant with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, such a cloud filled YHVH’s House that the priests could not continue to minister. Indeed, the glory of YHVH filled His House.

Then Solomon said, “YHVH has said that He would dwell in thick darkness. So the House I have built You will be Your House, a place for You to dwell in forever.”

Saturday, 10 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the sins done by the people of God, as we continue to hear the story from the ancient kingdom of Israel, after the division of the old kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom of Judah remained in the family of David until the end of that kingdom, while the northern kingdom also called Israel, started with Jeroboam mentioned in the first reading today, would change hands many times.

And the rivalry, jealousy and fear which king Jeroboam of Israel felt, having seen how the people still went to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple built by Solomon, made him to disobey God and went on to impose a new pagan and wicked worship of golden calves. In this we see once again, how the people fell again and again into sin, disobeying God and refusing to follow Him.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we think that what the people of Israel had done were wicked, then so were our actions, our words and our deeds. Many of us often do not realise just how much wickedness and how many sins we have committed, sometimes even unknowingly, because for us, often sinning is the norm for us. Temptations to sin and the pressures from our peers and those around us are plenty, and that is why, we often fall again and again into sin.

That happens in particular when God is not in our hearts and minds. Even when we think that God has a place in our hearts and minds, but often we relegated Him to a less prominent position, putting Him aside to a corner, and instead focusing on our numerous worldly concerns and desires. We forgot about God because we were too busy pursuing our worldly careers and concerns, and we only remembered Him when we were desperate and in need, thinking that God would surely listen to us.

But God will only help those who are willing to be helped themselves. What does this mean? It means that if we do not proactively live our lives in accordance with His ways, and refuse to accept His offer of love and mercy, then we cannot be helped. It is only upon our agreement of accepting His generous offer of mercy and love, which He had made unconditionally for our sake, then we can be saved.

But we can be assured of God’s everlasting and generous love, ultimately because even though despite all of our sins, wickedness and disobedience, God still loves us, each and every one of us, just as what we have heard in the Gospel today ought to assure us of this fact. The Lord Jesus saw a large multitude of people, four thousand men not counting the women and children present there, and they were all hungry, having followed Him and heard His teachings without stopping by to rest and eat.

Thus, we heard how the Lord took seven loaves of bread available in the hands of the Apostles, and blessed them before the people, breaking them all and gave the bread for all the people to eat. And they all ate well, according to what we have heard, and there were enough leftovers in fact, to fill up seven full large baskets of leftover loaves of bread. Such a miracle was God’s doing alone, and it showed also just how much He cared for us.

And not only that, not just that the Lord had pity on His people who suffered from physical hunger of the body, but He also had pity on us because of our afflictions of the soul, the mind, the heart and our whole beings. Sin has claimed us and has enslaved us under its power, and we have therefore been made unworthy and unclean before God. Without God’s help and mercy, we would have fallen without hope into hell, to suffer for eternity as a consequence for our sins.

But the Lord laid down His own life, by offering His life in exchange for ours. He willingly sacrificed Himself on the Altar of the Cross, at the hill of Calvary, when He was crucified for us and died. He gave us His own Most Precious Body and Blood to eat and drink, that by the Most Holy Eucharist He has passed down to us through the Church by the hands of our priests and bishops, we may be filled not just physically, but also well satisfied in spirit, and healed of all of our afflictions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us think back again at our own respective lives. How many times had it been that God had been kind to us, giving us chances after chances, and opportunities after opportunities, guiding us towards the right path? We might have disappointed Him and rejected Him, but God Who loves us all very much, will not easily give up on us.

Let us all reorientate our lives that we no longer refuse His love and generous offer of mercy, but instead, follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, the Apostles and the saints, especially today’s saint, St. Scholastica, holy virgin and devout servant of God, whose memory we remember together. She is the sister of another great saint, St. Benedict of Nursia, and together, each of them showed many future generations of the faithful, right up to our present era, how to be truly devoted to God, in a life filled with God and His love, and for some, they followed her examples, and devoted themselves to God in a consecrated life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us fill our lives with prayer, not just prayers mumbled through the mouth, but prayers made from our hearts and minds. Let us open ourselves completely to God, allowing Him to come into us, and to dwell in us, speaking with us in the depths of our heart. Let us allow Him to transform us all by His love, so that eventually, we may be ever more like Him, and be worthy of the eternal glory He has prepared for all of those who are faithful to Him. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 10 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterward, Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute.

And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish. So Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well. The people ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number.

Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.