Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the trouble and opposition which the prophet Jeremiah had to face during his ministry in the kingdom of Judah, during the years just prior to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The prophet Jeremiah warned the remaining people of God in Judah about the coming destruction, but they refused to listen to the Lord speaking through His prophet.

The king and his advisers, the nobles and the elites, the priests and most likely, most of the people hardened their hearts and minds, and closed their ears off from listening to the word of God. They persecuted Jeremiah and cast him out, and he had to suffer many rejections and troubles throughout the years of his ministry, just as the many other prophets and messengers of God had also suffered. The people of God had turned a deaf ear to their God.

Then, in the Gospel passage today, we heard about the story of St. John the Baptist, God’s herald and messenger, the last of the prophets who was sent to proclaim the coming and arrival of the Messiah into the world, that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist himself also encountered many oppositions, especially from the priests and the Pharisees, much as Jeremiah had once suffered.

St. John the Baptist has spoken the truth to the people, telling them of their sins and wickedness, of all their vile works and all the things that have kept them out of the grace and love of God. He was much reviled for this, and his enemies were aplenty, just as many people came to him to seek repentance and baptism in the Jordan. Yet, St. John the Baptist did not mince his words and continued to preach the truth.

And in the end, when he spoke up against the king, Herod, who had committed adultery with his own brother’s wife, Herodias, he was imprisoned and put to much suffering. Herod refused to kill the holy man of God outright, but Herodias, who was likely very angry at St. John the Baptist for his outspoken attitude towards her irregular and wicked relationship with Herod, plotted to kill him.

Although it was not exactly specified in the Scriptures, but it was likely because by being taken up as Herod’s wife, she would have real power, earthly glory, wealth and privileges that being the wife of a deceased former king, Herod’s brother, could not have given her. Thus, pride and worldly greed had likely caused that woman to fall into such a great sin, as described in the Gospel passage today.

Herodias had her daughter to dance seductively before Herod to get him to agree to the conditions she would prepare beforehand. Herod made promises and vows in his stupor, promising to give everything the daughter of Herodias asked for, even half of his own kingdom. In that state, Herodias managed to trick Herod into killing St. John the Baptist by asking for his head on a platter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we also celebrate the feast of another famous holy servant of God, namely St. John Vianney, the patron saint of all priests. He was a French priest of a small parish in the town called Ars. As such he was affectionately called as the Cure of Ars. He was remembered for his great humility, his piety and devotion to God, his commitment to the flock entrusted under his care, as he ministered to them and listening to their confessions.

He became so popular and renowned throughout France and even beyond, that thousands came to him, seeking to have their sins confessed to him, or to have evil spirits cast out from them through exorcism. Yet despite his apparent popularity and charm, St. John Vianney remained humble, and in fact, with his popularity and apparent success, there were many trials and difficulties which many may not have realised, that all of them happened to this holy saint of God.

He had many opponents and naysayers who refused to believe in him, doubted him, persecuted him and made his life difficult, saying perjuries and lies about him, and slandering him before others. But St. John Vianney continued to carry out his priestly duties as best as he could, and he remained humble and obedient to God and to the will of his superiors in the Church. Nonetheless, the impact of his examples and actions reached out far and wide.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in all of the readings of this day and from the lives of the holy servants of God, we should come to realise that to be a faithful disciple and follower of Our God is not something that will be easy for us. Instead, there will be undoubtedly plenty of challenges, obstacles, difficulties, trials and all sorts of things that will cause us to want to give up the faith and abandon the Lord.

This is when we should be inspired by the examples and the courage of the prophets, such as Jeremiah and many other servants of God who suffered and yet did their best to show their faith to others, calling many others to righteousness in their footsteps. Let us all seek to follow the good examples and the dedication shown by St. John Vianney, that through our own exemplary and good faith, we may show many others how we should love God and dedicate ourselves to Him with all of our hearts. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 15-16, 30-31, 33-34

Rescue me, lest I sink in the mire; deliver me from the storm and the deep waters. Let not the flood engulf me, nor the deep suck me in, let not the pit close its mouth upon me.

But I myself, am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity.

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 26 : 11-16, 24

Then the priests and the prophets said to the leaders of the people : “This man must die for he has spoken against the city as you have heard with your own ears!”

Jeremiah replied, “I have been sent by YHVH to prophesy against this House and this city all that you have heard. Hence, reform your ways and your deeds and obey YHVH your God that He may change His mind and not bring upon you the destruction He had intended.”

“As for me I am in your hands; do with me whatever you consider just and right. But know that I am innocent; and if you take my life you commit a crime that is a curse on yourselves, on the city and the people. In truth it was YHVH Who sent me to say all that I said in your hearing.”

Then the leaders, backed by the people, said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve death; he spoke to us in the Name of YHVH.” As for Jeremiah, he was befriended by Ahikam, son of Shaphan, and was not handed over to those who wanted him put to death.

Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures which detailed to us about the moment when Samuel the judge and prophet encountered the king chosen by God for His people Israel, namely King Saul, who came from the tribe of Benjamin. God chose Saul to lead His people, to become the guiding star of His people, leading them towards Him, and turning them from the wrong paths.

Unfortunately, later on, if we continue to read the Book of Samuel, we will realise that Saul fell from God’s grace because he did not obey God and preferred to follow his own judgment, resulting in the people committing sin against God. Saul thereafter was known for his lack of faith, and eventually replacement by David, the king whom God appointed to be king in Saul’s place.

In the Gospel passage today, we see another King, Who was appointed by God and anointed by Him, to be the leader of His people Israel. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ Our Lord is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and the true King of Israel, Who came down into the world, to lead the people of God to Him, as the faithful King Who fulfils perfectly the obligations and duties imposed on the office of kingship.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ is a King Who loves His people and He is truly concerned about their well-being. Instead of being tyrannical and overbearing in the exercise of His power and authority, and instead of expecting to be served and obeyed, He showed us all by example, coming as a Leader Who serves others, Who loves genuinely and cares for the needs of those who are truly in need. He shows mercy to those who are downtrodden, and those who have no one else to care for them.

When people looked down on the tax collectors at the time of Jesus, they did so because of prejudices and biases they had, as they resented the imposition of the Roman rule on their territories. They considered the tax collectors as traitors to the nation and the people, as they collected the taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers. As such, the tax collectors were often ridiculed and ostracised, rejected by the general society.

Yet, the tax collectors are just like us all. They are no different from all the others at the time, no less righteous or wicked than the other groups of people, even comparing it to the Pharisees and the chief priests. They were all sinners, and they were all in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Sin is a disease of the soul, and it corrupts every part of the being. And God came into this world in order to heal us from this terrible sickness.

And as mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself, the tax collectors and others like prostitutes who have been dismissed and ridiculed because of their vices, were actually much closer to the kingdom of God as compared to all those who pretended to be self-righteous, but in reality, inside their hearts and minds, they were more wicked than the tax collectors and the prostitutes, as if these two groups of people sincerely recognised their sins and wanted to be forgiven, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law proudly refused to give in.

This is an important lesson for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must not let our pride and our human ambitions, our stubbornness to come in between us and God’s salvation. It has happened in many occasions, when mankind refused to receive God’s forgiveness, and this resulted in so many being lost to the Lord, falling into damnation in hell.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, a holy bishop and saint, whose dedication to the Lord should be an inspiration to all of us. He was a great defender of the faith, who refused to give in to the demands and the pressures exerted by the heretics, especially those who followed the false teachings of Arius, who rejected the notion that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is equal to the Father.

St. Hilary of Poitiers worked hard among the people, exhorting them to return to the truth found in the Church alone, and to reject all the falsehoods spread by those who have wrongfully believed in it. He had to endure opposition and rejection, and ultimately, he was even exiled due to the machinations of his enemies, all those who in their pride refused to be forgiven, just like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of the time of Jesus.

The exemplary actions of this devout saint and servant of God should inspire each and every one of us as Christians, that we should do our very best and give our all, in trying to reach out to the Lord, Our King and ruler, and follow His examples in all the things we do. We should be concerned about our brothers and sisters, especially those who have been lost to God, just as Jesus calling all the sinners to Him, and just as how St. Hilary worked hard to convert back all those who have fallen into the sway of heretics.

Let us all therefore do our part as Christians, to be role models for each other in faith, so that through our actions, we will be able to do the great works of God’s attempt to save us mankind from our downfall due to sin. May the Lord be with us all, and through the intercession of St. Hilary of Poitiers, may we all draw ever closer to God, and walk forever always in His path. Amen.

Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

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

Mark 2 : 13-17

At that time, when Jesus went out again, beside the lake, a crowd came to Him, and He taught them. As He walked along, He saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow Me!” And Levi got up and followed Him.

And it so happened that, when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with Him and His disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the Law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does your Master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

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

Psalm 20 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

The king rejoices in Your strength, o YHVH, and exults in Your saving help. You have granted him his desire; You have not rejected his request.

You have come to him with rich blessings; You have placed a golden crown upon his head. When he asked, You gave him life – length of days forever and ever.

He glories in the victory You gave him; You shall bestow on him splendour and majesty. You have given him eternal blessings, and gladdened him with the joy of Your presence.