Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages by which we are reminded of the duty and responsibility that each and every one of us have to keep as all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as true Christian disciples and as the followers of God’s will and commandments. All of us are called to be full of faith and love for God in all things.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the victory and triumph of the rebellion of Judas Maccabeus, one of the Maccabean brothers who revolted against the kings of the Greek Seleucid Empire because of their oppression of the faithful people of God and their attempts to destroy the Law of God and outlawing the worship of God and by forcing the Greek pagan worship to the Jewish people.

The city of Jerusalem was taken over by the pagans and the citadel built there kept the entire populace under the power of the kings, while the Temple of Jerusalem was desecrated and made to be a mockery of the faith, where pagan idols and pagan worship took place at the altar once reserved only for the worship of the One and only True God. As such, the House of God was defiled and could not be used for the purpose of divine worship.

That is how it was until the time when Judas Maccabeus and his forces managed to score victories against the king in rebellion and eventually came to occupy the Temple of Jerusalem once again, and as described in our first reading passage today, the abominations, pagan idols and corruptions in the Temple were cleared out and the old altar torn down to make way for a new altar dedicated to God.

There is then a clear parallel between that event and how just over a century later, the Lord Jesus cleared the same Temple from the corruptions of merchants and sinners as described in our Gospel passage today. At that time, the Temple courtyard just outside the main Temple building itself was filled with numerous merchants and people peddling their wares and goods to the visitors and worshippers of the Temple.

Yet, many if not most of those merchants and peddlers cheated their customers to gain more profits for themselves. They bought their goods at a low price while raising their sale prices to be as high as possible to profit from all the people visiting the Temple for various purposes. As many of the worshippers came from faraway places, they would have no choice but to accept the prices imposed by the merchants even at a great loss.

Such wicked and sinful practices should not have been allowed at the Temple, and yet the Temple authorities tolerated them all and even became angry at the Lord Jesus when He cleared them and chased those merchants out of the Temple grounds. Why was that so? That is because the presence and the activities of the merchants were mutually beneficial to both the merchants themselves and the Temple priests and elders.

When the Lord Jesus chased those merchants outside the Temple, the Temple authorities, the elders and the chief priests became angry because while the Lord stated the right thing but those Temple authorities were more concerned about their own worldly concerns and attachments, their desire to retain power and authority, and saw the Lord Jesus as a dangerous threat to their own worldly power.

But the Lord wants us all to know through these that if we are too attached and distracted by the many temptations of life present in this world, we will end up forgetting what our true focus in life should be. And we will end up walking down the same path of wickedness and sin that have been mentioned in our Scripture passages today. We heard of the defilements of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, twice, first by the Greeks and then secondly by the wicked merchants with the tacit approval of the elders and the priests.

But more importantly for us all today is to take note that each and every one of us are also in fact God’s Temple, the Houses of His holy Presence. Why is this so? That is because firstly, through our Holy Communion and by sharing in the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, we have partaken in the Lord Himself, being fully present in the Eucharist in Body and Blood. And not only that, but the Lord Himself has given us His Holy Spirit through our Baptism and which He reaffirmed and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, if we are God’s Holy Temples and are His dwelling place, then if we act in manners that are wicked and sinful, we are in fact corrupting and defiling the holiness of this Temple that is our body, our heart, our mind and our soul. We are no better than the Greek kings, those wicked merchants and all those who have defiled God’s Temple. And we saw how God’s anger became manifested against all those who had done that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today all of us are reminded of this fact and are called to live upright and virtuous lives, turning away from sin and from all sorts of temptations that can cause us to fall and to defile the sanctity of these Holy Temples of ours. And today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Cecilia for inspiration and strength.

St. Cecilia, whose feast day we celebrate today, is a well-known patron for musicians and choirs. Yet, she was also a dedicated servant of God, who remained true to her faith in God despite the challenges that she had to encounter because of her faith, that she had to suffer and eventually die for the sake of her faith. St. Cecilia dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity, and although she was forced to marry a pagan noble by her parents, she remained a holy virgin and persuaded her husband, who was touched by the miracle he had seen and became a Christian as well.

St. Cecilia met her martyrdom with faith, as she was executed following her husband and her brother-in-law, both having become Christians through her. She remained adamant and strong in her faith, and no amount of suffering could have convinced or pressured her to abandon her faith in God. Truly, her dedication and commitment to God is an inspiration to all of us who are still struggling in this world in our own journeys of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to be virtuous and righteous, maintaining our purity from sin as St. Cecilia herself had done in her way. We do not have to follow her in her vow of chastity and virginity, but rather, we should imitate her love for God, and as a result, keep ourselves away and free from sin as best as we can that the Temple of God’s Holy Presence, our bodies and our whole beings may remain pure and worthy of Him. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord in all things and devote our whole lives to Him from now on. May God bless us all, our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours. Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH.

You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said : “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (in the year 164 B.C.) they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs, accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.

They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. The front of the Temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; and the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors. There was no end to the celebration among the people; and so profanation of the Temple by the pagans was forgotten.

Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.

Friday, 15 November 2019 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God contained in the day’s Scripture passages, again we are further reminded of the future that is to come as the Lord reminded His people, of the day of reckoning and judgment of all creation. He was reminding them all that when the time comes, some will be deemed as righteous while others will be sent to their fated damnation, and while some enter into the glory of God in heaven, others will go to the eternal suffering in hell.

This is a reality for all of us to ponder upon, and it should be a means of check of our own path in life. Have we lived our lives thus far in ways that will see us ending up by the side of God? Or have we instead walked down the path towards darkness and annihilation? The Lord made it clear that by the time of the coming of the judgment, it will be too late for some of us to regret that we have not done better to allow us to enter the glorious kingdom of God.

But unfortunately many of us fall into the temptations of worldly things, of worldly glory and of the false idols of money, possessions, of fame and glory, of renown and affluence, of pleasures of the body and the mind among many others. As a result, we became attached to those that led us down the path of sin, and we become indifferent and ignorant of God’s truth and love for us. We are distracted by our sinful ways.

And we are easily tempted, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the desires, the greed and the pride within our hearts and minds are always ready to overcome us and to lead us into the path of sin. The devil knows this very well, and that is why, seeking our destruction and annihilation, he is always ever ready with all of his wicked forces to try and bring us down through this path, by tempting us with all the distractions of life.

In the Book of Wisdom all of us are reminded that all those worldly things that I have mentioned earlier are nothing more than just mere creations of God, and yet we tend to glorify them and treasure them even more and much more than how we treasure God and His love in our own lives. And these are painfully visible and real through our own daily actions and through the way we have lived our lives.

Let us ask ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ. How many of us have spent a lot of time trying to accrue for ourselves more of the worldly goods, money, possessions of all sorts, influence and power in the community, and then because we have been so preoccupied and busy with all that, we end up forgetting about God and distancing ourselves from Him in our busy attachments to the world.

That is how we fall into the trap of the devil, and how we end up being dragged ever deeper into the darkness. Let us therefore today look up to the examples of faith set by our saint today, St. Albert the Great, a holy and devout servant of God and bishop, who was truly exemplary and whose life should be a great inspiration to each and every one of us in how we should be living our lives with faith.

St. Albert the Great was a member of the Dominican Order and was renowned for his great intellect and wisdom, and he was a renowned intellectual and teacher in the Church, throughout his many years of teaching and scholarship, research and writing about the many aspects of the faith. One among his students was none other than another great saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, both of them equally well-known for their faith and dedication to God.

Yet, for all his intellect and wonderful knowledge, St. Albert the Great used all of his strength and being to serve God with all of his heart, to minister to the people entrusted to him and leading them down the path of God’s salvation. He was also a humble person who did not seek any glory for himself, and he preferred to remain in the low rather to let himself be known or be glorified for his works and actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having seen the great faith and humility shown by St. Albert the Great in his life, of his allowance of God’s grace and wisdom to flow and work through him, let us all follow in his footsteps and walk on God’s path from now on. Let us all seek to trust God with ever more zeal and devotion, and let us all be ever closer to Him and love Him with ever greater faith and fidelity. Let us die to our pride and human desires, and let us grow in humility and faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 15 November 2019 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

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 it, 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 meal 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, 15 November 2019 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.