Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scripture, we heard how God has sealed us with His grace, which is through baptism that He has claimed us all and renewed us, liberating us all from the hold of original sin and death, and we have all been made and adopted to be children of God. God has called us all to be His disciples, His followers, and made us all to be His children.

God has loved us all so much, from the depth of His heart. His love is poured on us bountifully, and it was because of His infinite, patient and enduring love for each and every one of us that we have been saved. He has been patient in dealing with us, even when we have sinned and disobeyed Him again and again. He has always extended His mercy and the desire to forgive us at all times. Unfortunately, we often ignored and disregarded His love, because we were too busy with many things, and tempted by many distractions.

This is what the Lord also referred to in our Gospel passage today when He spoke of the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’, after a series of the past few days when we heard all the criticism and curses the Lord spoke of the Pharisees. And He plainly mentioned how the great sin of the Pharisees as being their hypocrisy and lack of genuine faith in God. Although outwardly pious, but their hearts were not fully attuned to the Lord.

God knows full well what is in our hearts, as He said in our Gospel today, that nothing hidden that will not be uncovered, nothing that is beyond God’s ability to know. He knows all of our intentions and everything about us, and therefore, if we have been faithful even in little things, we will be assured of the Lord’s favour and providence. Similarly, if we have not been faithful and wayward, then all these will be held against us too.

We must take heed of these reminders from the Lord through these readings, not to be easily tempted by worldly temptations, or by concerns and fears that we may be having. In that same passage we heard of the Lord reassuring us that we are all precious to Him, that we are all beloved by Him and will be provided and taken care of. Most often we find reasons for those who strayed from the Lord is that because they were preoccupied with securing themselves and gaining their worldly satisfactions or achievements.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be genuinely faithful to God, and knowing that God has loved us so much, then we really should spend the same effort and time to love the Lord with equal intensity and commitment. If God has loved us so much, then why is it that we cannot even try to love Him, even in little matter and things. The Lord is always willing to reach out to us, to embrace us, and He is waiting for us to respond to Him and His love. Are we willing to embrace that love, brothers and sisters?

Today, all of us ought to look upon the examples and inspirations of the saints, our holy predecessors. St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are those whose lives and inspirations that we need to follow and be inspired from. St. Hedwig of Silesia was the Duchess consort of Silesia who joined religious life after she was widowed, while St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was the renowned visionary of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Hedwig of Silesia was born into the noble family, and was married to the Duke of Silesia, and she was renowned for her piety and dedication even during those years. She was always remembered for her commitment to God, her charity and love for the poor. But most memorably, after her husband passed away early on, having settled and taken care of her children, St. Hedwig of Silesia joined the religious life and committed herself to God. Her piety was so great that even her own son, the Duke of Silesia also led a pious life.

And as mentioned, St. Hedwig of Silesia also cared for the poor, the sick and widows as well as orphans, showing them care and concern, extending the love of God to them all. And she also definitely loved the Lord very much, as she spent a lot of quality time with Him. This is exactly the same as what the other saint, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who was also very devout and committed in her service to God.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had a rough early life, as misfortune befell her family, but this did not stop her from being pious in her life, even from her youth. After joining the religious life, this continues on, which St. Margaret Mary Alacoque carried on faithfully as she served the Lord through prayer and service. She experienced miraculous visions of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which the now popular devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus stemmed forth.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque shared what she had received in her visions, the words that the Lord, in His Most Sacred Heart spoke to her, calling for the repentance of sinners and to entrust themselves in His Most Sacred Heart. And it is a kind reminder that us of the generous love of God we discussed earlier, in how He loved us with His heart and dedicated everything to us, even to the point of the sacrifice He made on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of the saints, our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to serve the Lord faithfully. May the Lord bless us all in all of our every good endeavours and efforts, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Luke 12 : 1-7

At that time, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to His disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered; or hidden, that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops.”

“I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you Whom to fear : Fear the One Who, after killing you, is able to throw you into hell. This One you must fear. Do you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Do not be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?”

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 12-13

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. YHVH looks down from heaven and sees the whole race of mortals.

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Ephesians 1 : 11-14

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

You, on hearing the word of truth, the Gospel that saves you, have believed in Him. And, as promised, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, the first pledge of what we shall receive, on the way to our deliverance, as a people of God, for the praise of His glory.

Friday, 9 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture readings all of us are called to embrace God’s love and His path, and to believe in Him wholeheartedly, just as we heard how in the early Church and throughout the Lord’s ministry, there were all those who refused to believe in the Lord and preferred to keep to their old beliefs and their previous ways of the Law, and these disagreements had even led them to accuse the Lord Himself wrongly of a heinous sin and evil.

In our first reading today, we heard of St. Paul continuing with his address to the Church and the faithful in Galatia in Asia Minor, where for the past few days of our Scripture passages, we have heard how St. Paul chastised the faithful for their lack of faith and for believing in the misguided teachings of those who placed the Law above that of faith, and those who sought to divide the Church and lead the faithful astray. This is likely because in Galatia, as were in other cities and places where the first Christian communities appeared, many of the believers were from the Jewish diaspora, the Jewish people scattered throughout the world as they had been for centuries.

And among the Jews, some of whom became converts to the Christian faith, there were those who belonged to the Pharisees and believed in their tenets and way of living the faith. The Pharisees were very rigorous in their enforcement of the many rules and regulations, tenets and all which numbered no less than six hundred and thirteen, if not more, in how the Jewish people ought to live their faith. And the issue lies in the fanaticism in which these people carried on their beliefs, and their attitude in enforcing this belief on others made it problematic for the Christian faithful.

Those same people also held strongly the view that the Jewish people were God’s sole chosen people and that they were far superior to the other peoples and races, and that they alone were worthy of God’s grace and blessings, His salvation and glory. They looked down on the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, mainly the Greeks, Romans and other local populace that did not follow the laws of Moses preserved by the Jews and especially by the Pharisees.

And they also demanded that the Gentiles who converted to the faith ought to adopt the Jewish laws and customs in their entirety, and that they ought to be circumcised and follow all the cultural traditions of the Jews, which essentially would have forced them to abandon their own customs and culture. And all these became significant source of friction between the members of the Christian community, that St. Paul wanted to resolve.

In our Gospel today, we heard the Pharisee accusing the Lord Himself of colluding with the devil, with the prince of demons Beelzebul when He miraculously drove out evil spirits from a person. Many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were so adamant in their opposition against the Lord that they were unable to look beyond their narrow-mindedness and stubbornness in insisting that their way was the true way and others like the Lord were wrong and even blasphemous.

The Lord then immediately pointed out the flaw in their argument and said that it did not make sense for the demons and the evil spirits to be divided among themselves and fighting against each other. For if that was the case, then the dominion of Satan and all of his forces would have been torn apart, and the truth was that, the evil one and all of his allies, all those wicked spirits desiring our downfall, are always ever united in their desire and aim to bring about our destruction.

The Lord knew this full well, and just as St. Paul did in his response to the happenings in Galatia, both of them were saddened by what they saw as the divisions sowed by the devil in the community of the faithful. And thus, the Lord used the example of how the devil’s dominion would have collapsed and fallen apart if all of its members were divided against each other to point out that this will happen to us unless we seek to overcome the divisions among us and seek true unity in Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings serve as a powerful reminder for us not to be easily misled by the devil and all of his forces, as they attempted to sow divisions and dissensions among us. We have to keep in mind what St. Paul said, that God has called on all, Jews and non-Jewish people alike, to follow Him, and that there should not be any distinction between them, for everyone is equal before God and is equally beloved.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, our challenge lies in how we should strive for unity in our Christian community, and hold firmly to the faith which we have received from the Church. We must not allow the forces of evil from successfully dividing us and destroying the unity within our Church. And we should be inspired by our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom, as well as St. John Leonardi are good examples for us in how we should be faithful to God.

St. Denis was the Bishop of Paris at the time of the late Roman Empire, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius, who was infamous for his particularly brutal persecution of Christians, in which even the Pope at the time, Pope St. Fabian, was martyred together with many other Christian faithful. St. Denis himself presided over the Christian population that was targeted by intense persecution, and despite the difficulties, laboured hard to preach the Good News which successfully converted many among the pagans, and which brought opposition against their efforts.

Eventually, St. Denis, the bishop of Paris and two other clergy were arrested and then sentenced to death by the governor. They were executed by beheading, but miraculously, after his head had been cut off, St. Denis was still alive, picking up his severed head and preaching a sermon as he walked down for miles from the place of his martyrdom, and eventually stopped at a place where he died, in which now stood the great St. Denis’ Basilica built and named in his honour.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was a renowned and holy priest, who was the founder of the Order of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, remembered for his devotion to God and also to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God. Through St. John Leonardi, many people came to be converted, after having been touched and inspired by his tireless efforts in reaching out particularly to sinners. He made popular the Forty Hours Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and was instrumental in the Counter-Reformation effort in deepening the faith and spirituality of many among the faithful.

St. John Leonardi faced difficulties and oppositions in his efforts and works as well, from those who were wary of his works and were skeptical of him, much like how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often ridiculed, opposed and went against the Lord and His works. Nonetheless, St. John Leonardi remained firm in his conviction and desire to help others and to lead more and more souls to the salvation in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by their examples, and after discerning the message of our Scripture passages today, let us strive to be more faithful as Christians, in genuinely loving God and devoting our time, effort and attention, in all things to glorify God by our lives. May the Lord, our loving God, bless us all and guide us in our journey, and help us all to remain united in faith, and not be divided and scattered by the falsehoods and dissent planted in our community by the evil one. May God be with us all, His Church, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 9 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Luke 11 : 15-26

At that time, some of the people said, “Jesus drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters. When the evil spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through dry lands, looking for a resting place; and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds the house swept and everything in order. Then it goes to fetch seven other spirits, even worse than itself. They move in and settle there, so that the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Friday, 9 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Psalm 110 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! I thank YHVH with all my heart in the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of YHVH are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

Glorious and majestic are His deeds, His righteousness endures forever. He lets us remember His wondrous deeds; YHVH is merciful and kind.

Always mindful of His Covenant, He provides food for those who fear Him. He shows His people the power of His arm by giving them the lands of other nations.

Friday, 9 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Galatians 3 : 7-14

Understand, then, that those who follow the way of faith are sons and daughters of Abraham. The Scriptures foresaw that, by the way of faith, God would give true righteousness to the non-Jewish nations. For God’s promise to Abraham was this : In you shall all the nations be blessed. So, now, those who take the way of faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, who believed; but those who rely on the practice of the Law are under a curse, for it is written : Cursed is everyone who does not always fulfil everything written in the Law.

It is plainly written that no one becomes righteous in God’s way, by the Law : by faith the righteous shall live. Yet the Law gives no place to faith, for according to it : the one who fulfils the commandments shall have life through them. Now Christ rescued us from the curse of the Law, by becoming cursed Himself, for our sake, as it is written : there is a curse on everyone who is hanged on a tree.

So the blessing granted to Abraham, reached the pagan nations in, and, with Christ, and we received the promised Spirit, through faith.

Friday, 2 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, which refers to those Angels whom God had set before us, to be our guide and protector, to be at the frontline of our constant struggle and the war that rages on all the time for our souls. For it is at this moment right now and has been going on all these while, that the conflict between the devil and all those seeking our downfall and destruction occurs against our guardians, those faithful Angels God set before us.

In our Gospel today, we heard the Lord Himself affirming this, as He warned His disciples against misleading the little children in their faith or in harming them, as their Angels in heaven, referring to the Guardian Angels, are constantly seeing His heavenly Father, making pleas on their behalf and interceding for them. Thus, those who cause them to fall into sin, lead them down the wrong path or suffer will all face terrible reckoning for their sinful deeds.

God has always provided for us and protected us, and He sent His Angels before His loved ones, just as our first reading today again affirmed this, as in the Book of Exodus, as the Israelites were making the long and arduous journey through the desert towards the land promised to them by the Lord, the Lord sent His Angels to guard and protect them from their enemies, all those who sought to destroy them.

This is a guarantee that showed God’s enduring love and patience for His people, which was unfortunately often disregarded by those same people that God had cared and loved, and many among them fell not because of the attacks by the enemy, but because of their own stubborn disobedience and refusal to believe in God despite everything that He had done for them.

It is actually a clear reminder for us, that just as the Israelites journeyed through for many years, fell again and again into sin, forgiven and cared for by God, so we have also walked through a similar journey that is our life. And just as God rescued the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and established a Covenant with them, thus, God has also liberated us from the slavery of sin, and led us through the waters of baptism just as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. And God, through Christ, established a new Covenant with each and every one of us.

That is why, we must keep in mind that our Christian life and journey does not end at baptism, but instead, was just beginning at our baptism. While baptism makes us God’s own beloved people, and promise us salvation and eternal life, but we can still fall if we are not vigilant against the attacks of the evil one and all of his forces. All the more the devil will increase his attacks on us to prevent us from attaining eternal life and Heaven.

We have to trust in the Lord and follow the path that our Guardian Angels had charted before us. They have always been there for us, praying for us constantly, without cease, but we are often distracted by the many ‘noises’ in this world, all that the devil has been using in trying to lead us astray, whenever we give in to the temptation of worldly desires and power, fame and glory, and others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in a world ever surrounded by darkness, by fears and uncertainties, with attacks and temptations from the forces of evil, we can be overcome by those fears and swallowed by our pride and the greed within us. But we should not be afraid, brethren! Be faithful and fear no more for the Lord and His might is with us, and His Angels are always by our side, guarding us and protecting us in our journey.

Let us pray now, asking for the help of our Guardian Angels, who are always with us, with the words, “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.”

Friday, 2 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father.”