Friday, 16 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the Scripture passages we listened to, of the coming of the time of reckoning for us all, the moment when the Lord will judge us based on our lives and what we have done in them and what we also have not done in the same lives He has granted to each and every one of us, at the time of judgment, both the particular judgment and the last judgment.

In today’s Gospel passage, the Lord warned His disciples that there would be important decisions to be made in life, where there would be consequences when the wrong choices were made. And this could happen any time, and the time would not be of our own choosing, but the Lord’s good time. He mentioned various historical examples, beginning with Noah, and then to Lot and his wife, and then finally to the moment of the end times.

At the time of Noah, the people lived wickedly and refused to obey God in their actions and ways. They lived in sin and continued to rebel against God, and all were wicked save for Noah and his family, who alone kept faithfully the devotion to God. Noah was asked to build a great Ark by God, to save the creatures of the Lord including his own family.

At the same time, if any one of the people of Noah’s time were willing to repent their ways and believe in God’s premonitions made through Noah, they could have also joined him in the Ark, and be saved. Instead, they refused the opportunity and probably mocked Noah for following God’s commands in building such a huge Ark. This was because they did not see the truth and reality from God. As a result, they all perished in the Great Flood.

Then, for the case of Lot and his family, he lived for a time in the city of Sodom, which together with Gomorrah were populated with people who were wicked and sinful in nature. When two Angels came into their midst disguised as two men, the people of the town came to Lot demanding him to pass to them the two men for them to fornicate with.

As a result of their refusal to repent and continued desire to sin, they were destroyed by a rain of fire and brimstone from heaven. Lot and his family were rescued by the Angels to escape the great destruction and catastrophe. Yet, Lot’s wife as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, fell into temptation, and she turned back to look at Sodom, despite the warning from the Angels not to do so, and thus she also perished, becoming a pillar of salt.

In all of these, God wants each and every one of us to know the reality of His love and mercy, which He gives freely to be taken up by us. If we are willing to be forgiven, then we will be forgiven, and only if we are willing to make the effort to receive God’s mercy through repentance and sincere efforts to make ourselves a better person and avoid sinning any further. And we should not wait, as our time can be up any time, and if it is too late for us to change direction, we can only regret.

Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints, whose lives are truly exemplary. And we should model our lives based on their examples. St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude are great and holy women who were truly devoted to the mission entrusted to them. They exhibited great examples of faith that each and every one of us should also emulate in our own lives.

St. Margaret of Scotland was the queen of Scotland remembered for her great piety and generous charitable acts, ruling justly with her husband, the king of Scotland, caring for both the physical and spiritual well-being of the people of Scotland over whom she was queen. She helped to reform the Scottish church and bring everything in line with the way and form of the universal Church, establishing churches and paths for pilgrims, and caring for the poor and the needy in her kingdom.

Meanwhile, St. Gertrude, also known as St. Gertrude the Great was a renowned mystic who devoted her whole life to God after a life-changing experience. She received many more visions throughout her life, and she was noted for her great spirituality and piety. St. Gertrude’s holiness inspired many others to follow in her examples in faith, and her particular devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was a precursor to the now popular devotion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all model ourselves upon the examples of the holy men and women, saints of God. Let us all turn our hearts and minds to the Lord, and redirect our efforts to serve Him with true faith and dedication. May the Lord bless us always and may He empower us to live faithfully in His presence. Amen.

Friday, 16 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.”

“So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose himself, but whoever gives his life will be born again.”

“I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding corn together, one might be taken and the other left.” Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”

Friday, 16 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Psalm)

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

Psalm 118 : 1, 2, 10, 11, 17, 18

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the law of the Lord.

Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

In my heart I have kept Your word, that I may not sin against my Lord.

Be kind to Your servant, that I may live to follow Your word.

Open my eyes that I may see the marvellous truths in Your law.

Friday, 16 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (First Reading)

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

2 John 4-9

I rejoiced greatly on meeting some of your children who live in accordance with the truth, according to the command we have received from the Father. And now, I ask you, Lady – I write to you not a new commandment but that which we had from the beginning – I ask you : let us love one another.

This is love : to walk according to His commandments. And this is the commandment : that you walk in love as you have learnt from the beginning. Many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ Who came in the flesh. They are impostors and antichrists.

Take care of yourselves that you do not lose the fruit of your labours, but receive a perfect reward. Everyone who goes beyond and does not remain within the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together joyfully with entire Universal Church, the great feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, also known by its full name of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World. It is the actual Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and as such, is where the Cathedra of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome is.

We may think that the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican is the place where the Pope has his Cathedra, and we may think that it is the principal and the most important church in all the world, but in truth, today, we mark the anniversary of the dedication and consecration of the Cathedral of Rome, the most important church in all of Christendom. It is the heart of Christendom and the centre around which all the whole world of Christianity revolves.

Indeed, the Pope now resides in the Vatican City and celebrates most of the liturgical celebrations and functions in St. Peter’s Basilica, clearly the second most important church after the Lateran Archbasilica, as it was the place where St. Peter was martyred and where his tomb was laid. But historically, the Pope stayed for many centuries in the Lateran Palace just adjacent to the Lateran Basilica.

And today as mentioned, marked the date when the Lateran Basilica was completed and dedicated for divine worship, the very first of its kind after the official toleration of the Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire after hundreds of years of persecutions. The Roman Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians through the Edict of Milan in the year 312 AD, and within slightly more than a decade after that, the Lateran Basilica was completed, and to be followed by many other churches, many of them sponsored by the state.

The dedication of a church marks the moment when the building and the spaces of a church are made holy and sacrosanct, blessed and worthy of the worship of the divine as prescribed by our faith. In the dedication of a church, the altar, which is the centre part of every churches, is blessed first with holy water, and then anointed with holy oil, incensed with the fragrant perfumes of incense, and finally has its altar candles lighted.

Then the same process of blessing with holy water, anointing with holy oils, incensation with fragrant incense, and the lighting of candles are done, on the whole church building and all the people gathered inside the church, and twelve consecration crosses are blessed, as the sign that the church has been dedicated and consecrated for the proper use of divine worship, becoming a worthy space for the worship of God.

In the reading today, the first reading is taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, in which part his vision of the heavenly Temple of God was read out to us. He saw the vision of the Temple of God in heaven, and how water was flowing out of the Temple, a life-giving water that brings about life to its surroundings, and provides enrichment for all that Ezekiel saw.

This Temple is a figurative representation of Christ, Who is the true Temple of the Lord, His own divine presence in heaven, which surpasses and overrides the earthly Temple, which at that time represents the Temple in Jerusalem, first built by king Solomon, and then rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, and last of all, the latter was rebuilt and enlarged by king Herod the Great, which was the Temple standing at the time of Jesus.

The Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage today mentioned that the Temple of God would be destroyed and in three days, the Temple would be rebuilt again. And it was mentioned that the Temple that the Lord Jesus referred to, was actually His Body. And this is linked to what the alternative passage for the first reading today reads, that is from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians.

St. Paul spoke of each one of us as the Temple of the Holy Presence of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells in each and every one of us. And if we are the Holy Temple of God, where God Himself is present, then we must do our very best to uphold the sanctity and the goodness of the condition of this venerable House of God. We cannot defile this Temple with corruption, that is the corruption of sin.

This was what the Lord Jesus did with the physical Temple of Jerusalem, when He came there and saw all the wicked things and the corruptions that had struck at the heart of the House of God, the focal point of the community of Israel. He saw all the merchants and money changers that set up their businesses at the Temple, selling animals for the Temple sacrifice and exchanging the money of foreigners and Jewish diaspora migrants who came back to the Temple.

And in order to understand and appreciate fully the extent of the anger of the Lord, when He took a whip and chased all the merchants and money changers out of the Temple grounds, we must realise that most likely, the merchants were selling their sacrificial animals at a high price and therefore earning a lot of profit from the exchange, and the same occurred for the money changers as well. Essentially, they were dishonest merchants that tricked the people off their money.

And it was likely that the priests of the Temple benefitted from the dishonest and wicked merchants and money changers. By judging on common practices that we mankind usually do, we often try to help one another, even in illicit and illegal ways, and that includes blatantly allowing such sinful activities to take place within the holy grounds of the Temple, at the profit and benefit of both the merchants and the priests of the Temple.

Imagine, then, brothers and sisters, what will happen if we, the Temples of God’s Holy and Real Presence, defile ourselves with sin, even to the smallest and least serious amongst all sins? If the Lord cast out the merchants and the money changers from the Temple of Jerusalem with such anger and righteous justice, then what can we expect at the Last Judgment, when the Lord will divide those who are righteous from those who are just?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and recall the wondrous memories of those who have been persecuted for their Christian faith, and finally triumphed with the great dedication of this magnificent Archbasilica, the mother and head of all the churches in the world, we must also recall our own calling and mission as God’s own dwelling place, where He resides in each and every one of us who have received the Lord through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.

And because God created us in His own image, thus our bodies and our existence are the image and the reflection of the Body of Christ, through Whom Christ unites us into His Real Presence, which He gave us through the Eucharist, His own Body and Blood given to us who receive Him into ourselves. We are the Tabernacles and the Ark of the Lord’s Presence. Therefore, we really need to be mindful of the sanctity and the holiness that is needed to be maintained, in keeping our bodies, minds and hearts, and our souls, our whole being, free from the corruption of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore, rediscover our purpose in faith, in honouring God through our daily living, and through our worthy commitment. Let us all turn our hearts, minds and our whole being towards the Lord from now on, with a new faith and with a new conviction, willing to do what it takes, in order to keep ourselves holy and worthy of God’s Holy Presence in us.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us, that through His Holy Presence in us, as His Temples and Houses, He may guide us to the right path, and that we may, in the end, be found worthy of His eternal glory, and be worthy to be with Him forevermore. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore; though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the City of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is YHVH of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of YHVH – the marvellous things He has done in the world.