Monday, 29 August 2022 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (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 all reminded of the suffering, the great love and the commitment which a great servant of God had dedicated himself to his Lord and Master, namely St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah, the bearer of the Good News of the Lord’s imminent coming, all that this man of God had done for the sake of the people of God and for his love for them, and how he stood up courageously for the sake of God’s truth, resisting the evils and immoral ways of the world, persisting even against those who were powerful and mighty.

St. John the Baptist was called by God and prepared ever since he was still in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb. St. John the Baptist had been marked by God for the mission which He has entrusted to this man, calling on all of mankind, all of God’s people to return to Him. St. John the Baptist dedicated himself throughout his whole life, preparing himself for his mission, and then calling on many people to return towards the Lord with great repentance, seeking God’s forgiveness, and be baptised as a visible sign of their desire to repent and turn away from the path of sin. That was how he was known as the Baptist.

Today, as we celebrate this Feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, we remember the moment when this holy man of God suffers for the sake of the faith, as he endured suffering and hardships in prison, as he defended the truth of God and the righteousness of faith, amidst the immorality of the king of Galilee, Herod and his unlawful wife, Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Contextually and historically, we must understand that it was likely that Herodias married Herod when Philip was still lawfully married to her, and with the daughter of Herodias being mentioned, it was likely she was the daughter of Philip and Herodias, hence therefore Herod’s liaison with Herodias constituted an adultery in the eyes of God and man alike, in opposition of God’s Law and truth.

That was why St. John the Baptist fearlessly criticised Herod and Herodias just as much as he had criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had misled the people and acted for their own selfish desires and greed. St. John the Baptist did not fear persecution or challenges, trials and hardships, and he entrusted himself completely in the Lord. To the very end, as St. John the Baptist was imprisoned and then by the plotting of Herodias, that led to the martyrdom of this holy man and servant of God, he never gave up his faith and dedication to God, and remained faithful and committed, righteous and fearless to the very end.

Today as we listened to the courageous story of the faith of St. John the Baptist, all of us are also reminded of the calling that each one of us as Christians have received in responding to God’s call to serve Him faithfully in the manner that St. John the Baptist had done, in standing up for our faith in the Lord and in defending the important Christian values and teachings. Each and every one of us are called to be courageous champions and defenders of our faith, and at every available and possible opportunities, we may be called to be witnesses of the Lord and to be missionaries of faith, following in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to reflect in what way our lives can glorify God so that in all the things we say and do, we will always proclaim the truth and love of God. All of us have the important obligation and duty to follow the Lord and His ways in all things and at all times. However, we must also realise that there will often be a lot of obstacles and temptations that may distract and drag us away from the path towards God and His salvation. And if we are not careful, we may end up also being dragged into the sins and immorality found aplenty in this world. This is where we have to be inspired by St. John the Baptist and his examples, in giving our all to God.

Are we willing and able to commit ourselves in that way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to suffer and endure rejection, oppression and even trials for the sake of the Lord. But we have no need to be worried or be fearful, as in the end, the Lord will be by our side and He will guide us to Himself, showing us the sure and right path, guiding us patiently and ever so lovingly, seeking us and reaching out to us, ever lovingly calling on us to turn back towards Him. We should consider ourselves so fortunate to have such a great and loving God and Father, and yet, many of us still hardened our hearts and minds against Him.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us, and may He continue to give us the strength to do His will in each and every opportunities we have. May all of us also remain ever faithful to Him and be able to commit ourselves with ever greater and more sincere efforts for His greater glory. May God bless our every actions and efforts, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 29 August 2022 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Monday, 29 August 2022 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o YHVH, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me; turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my hope; my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Monday, 29 August 2022 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jeremiah 1 : 17-19

But you, get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence! See, I will make you a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze, against all the nations, against the kings and princes of Judah, against the priests and the people of the land.

They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you – it is YHVH Who speaks.

Saturday, 29 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, remembering the courageous stand that this faithful servant of God showed in the last moments and days of his life, in staying true to his faith and in completing his mission of calling all the people to God. And he did this, even when he knew that he would be persecuted and suffer for all of his dedication.

St. John the Baptist spent several years ministering to the people and calling them to repentance, as those people flocked to him by the River Jordan and were baptised by him in the waters of the river. Many thousands came up to him and sought to repent from their sins, and through this, the servant of God fulfilled his mission as the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah, calling the people to turn away from sin and open their hearts and minds to welcome the Lord’s truth that would come soon.

St. John the Baptist had to face against the opposition first of all from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom were skeptical of him, because of his teachings and his proclamations, and because of his way of dressing, very simple and like a wild man living in the wilderness, and most importantly, because he was not part of their group, and St. John the Baptist also had scathing remarks against them, as they professed to be the guardians of the faith of the people, and yet, they misled the people and did not practice the Law in the way they should have done.

St. John the Baptist spoke out courageously against them, calling them the brood of vipers, as their actions turned many people away from God, and thus away from His grace and salvation. In this saint, we see a figure filled with zeal and love both for God and for God’s people, his fellow brethren, who had been entrusted to his care as part of the preparation of the coming of the salvation of God.

And he dared to speak up against king Herod and Herodias, his unlawful wife. Herodias was the legal and rightful wife of Philip, the brother of Herod, who at that time was likely still living. In contravention of the Law of God, which stated that a man may only take his brother’s wife should the marriage be childless, the presence of a daughter of Herodias in the Scripture likely highlighted that this daughter was the daughter of Herodias and Philip, as clearly had the daughter been of Herod, she would not have been named as the daughter of Herodias.

Therefore, Herod had committed adultery with his own brother’s wife, and as a king and leader of the people, such a terrible and immoral deed should not have been done at all. It was unbecoming and wrong for the king to commit such an act, and St. John the Baptist courageously pointed this out to the king and his unlawful wife, Herodias. Herod had St. John arrested, although he still respected the servant of God and did not allow any harm to come to the man of God.

But Herodias held deep grudge against St. John the Baptist and plotted to have him killed. She used her own daughter as a tool to coerce her husband to achieve that aim, and she had her chance when she had her daughter dance at a party held by king Herod for his guests and officials. Using the daughter’s beauty to her advantage and Herod’s weakness in tending to succumb to his flesh’s desires, and also likely compounded by being intoxicated with wine drunk at the celebration, Herodias made Herod to commit the wicked deed of executing St. John the Baptist in prison.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the memory of the commitment and the perseverance of St. John the Baptist, we are called to follow in his good examples, in his faith and dedication, that we will always keep alive our faith and dedicate ourselves to God to the best of our abilities. We should be righteous and be brave in standing up for our faith before others, to be genuine witnesses of our Christian faith.

And we are also reminded to be careful and be vigilant against the temptations of pride and greed, as it was the same pride which prevented the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law to acknowledge God’s truth and that they had been wrong. It was also greed that had led king Herod to commit adultery with her husband’s wife, and how he succumbed to temptation and caused the murder of St. John the Baptist because of his lust for Herodias’ own daughter.

Let us all therefore strive to be ever better Christians through our every words and actions, spending and dedicating our every moments and efforts to serve the Lord and His people with ever greater devotion. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the same courage and faith as St. John the Baptist had shown us all. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 29 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Saturday, 29 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o YHVH, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me; turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my hope; my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Saturday, 29 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jeremiah 1 : 17-19

But you, get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence! See, I will make you a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze, against all the nations, against the kings and princes of Judah, against the priests and the people of the land.

They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you – it is YHVH Who speaks.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, which marks the moment when St. John the Baptist suffered and endured death because of his righteousness and courage against the king Herod of Galilee. St. John the Baptist spoke up against the king on his adulterous behaviour with Herodias, his deceased brother’s wife, and as a result he was put in prison.

St. John the Baptist was the one whom God sent into this world to be the Herald of the Messiah, the one who would proclaim the coming of the Saviour of the world and the one who would prepare the way for the coming of Christ. He called many people to repent from their sins, and baptised them with water in the River Jordan. He spoke up against the sins and wickedness of the people, and called them to turn away from those sins.

He did not mince his words when he spoke up against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who came to him and questioned the origin of his teachings and baptism, calling those people as brood of vipers. He acted in the same way towards the king and his entourage, speaking out on the king’s adulterous behaviour and actions. This was what St. John the Baptist had done, even though surely he must have known that it would have landed him in prison.

In the first reading today, God spoke to His prophet Jeremiah, whom He sent to the people of Judah during the last years of existence of the kingdom of Judah just prior to the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. He promised and reassured the prophet that He would be with him, even when the whole world rose up against him, and despite all the challenges he had to endure.

And today, we are reminded that we can indeed learn from these experiences the servants of God had endured. First of all, we are reminded that God is always with us, and He is always on our side, even when things are not in our favour, or when seemingly everything goes against us in our lives. Many of us did not dare or were reluctant and hesitating in fulfilling God’s commandments, because we were afraid of the opposition against us.

It is natural for us to feel fear and insecurity from all these oppositions and challenges. No one, no matter how courageous or brave, will not be affected by fear in their hearts, as it is part of our human weaknesses and nature. But that is why, as Christians, all of us must remember that God is always by our side, no matter what happens. Sometimes it is just that we do not realise how He has done His works in our midst.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is also important that we also take note how easily we can fall into temptations, and therefore, fall into sin. That was what happened to the people living at the time of the prophet Jeremiah, as well as to king Herod. The people living in Judah at that time lived wickedly, following the unlawful practices of their neighbours, enticed by worldly wealth and power.

And as we all just discussed, king Herod gave in to the temptation of his flesh, the temptation of worldly beauty and sexual pleasures in committing adultery with Herodias, his deceased brother’s wife, who already had a child. Herodias herself also likely gave in to the temptation of power and glory, by agreeing to enter into an inappropriate relationship with king Herod.

We heard how Herod fell to the temptation when the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod. He was so swayed and tempted that he made easy promises that he did not think about carefully beforehand. In the end, because of that action, he ended up committing the sin of murder, when Herodias asked her daughter to ask Herod to bring her the head of St. John the Baptist on a plate right there and then.

This is where we need to be vigilant, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we guard ourselves against the advances of the devil and his forces, who are always trying to strike at us at every available opportunity, to bring us down through temptations and the many traps they carefully laid down in our path towards God and His salvation. Let us all keep this in mind as we live our lives in this world.

May the Lord strengthen us in our faith, that we may follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist, his courageous servant, that we will not be easily tempted and swayed by the temptations of this world, and remain true to our faith despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter for being faithful to the Lord. May He empower us all to become His good and faithful disciples, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.