Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God calling on all of us to be truly faithful to God in all things, in our actions and deeds, in our every words and interactions, so that we may be good examples for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. The Lord has taught us all and revealed to us how to be faithful to Him, and we should do our best to practice what we believe and learn to live our lives for the purpose of glorifying God and for the good of mankind, our fellow brothers and sisters.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of the faith that two prominent figures in history had in the Lord, namely that of Abraham and David. Abraham was the progenitor of the Israelites and many other nations, and he was remembered as a great friend of the Lord and as His most faithful servant, who gained the Lord’s favour and blessings by his righteousness and virtuous life. As St. Paul mentioned, Abraham was blessed and gained God’s grace by his many numerous deeds.

Meanwhile, David was the great and highly respected King of all Israel, the father of Solomon, another great King of Israel, who was looked upon as an inspiration and role model by the Israelites and their descendants as a righteous King, a good man and faithful servant of God, whose good deeds were numerous and who led Israel to an era of great prosperity. This does not mean that David was without fault, for just as with Abraham and other children of man, all were sinners, and David too had his share of faults, such as when he plotted the death of Uriah, his own captain so that he could marry Bathsheba, Uriah’s widow.

However, like Abraham, David was ultimately faithful and full of commitment to God. David was most remorseful over his sins and faults, and sought God’s mercy and forgiveness, which was given to Him after a period of repentance and penance. As we can see, both Abraham and David were great examples how all of us as Christians are expected to be, as those who have listened to God’s call, knew His will and followed Him wholeheartedly and their lives shone with God’s light and truth such that everyone who see them and know them will know that they belong to God.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord again continued to speak out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, as part of His discourse to the faithful on how to be true disciples of the Lord, not with just words and empty gestures as what many of the Pharisees had done, but with real love for God and through real actions, grounded in a living and genuine faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law observed a very strict interpretation of the Law and enforced them on others to follow and obey. However, they themselves did not stay truly faithful to what they believed in and they did it mostly for appearances.

This is why the Lord wants us all to know that becoming Christians requires us to be truly faithful in all things, that we have to spend our time and effort to follow the Lord and to be active in doing what the Lord had taught us to do in our lives. Just like Abraham and David, all of us will be judged based on our actions and how we have lived our lives, and not by an empty profession of faith, or by being hypocritical in how we carry ourselves and in our actions throughout life. We need to do what we are called to do as Christians and do not hesitate any longer in following Christ and His path.

Today, all of us should reflect and look upon the examples set by our holy predecessor, namely St. Teresa of Jesus, one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites together with St. John of the Cross. St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, was a renowned servant of God and a dedicated religious who was committed to the reform of the Carmelite Order and the Church, at a time of great upheavals, changes and difficulties facing the faithful. St. Teresa of Jesus helped to reform the Carmelites and founded the order of the Discalced Carmelites, together with the aforementioned St. John of the Cross.

St. Teresa of Jesus was remembered for her passionate efforts in changing the corrupt practices of the Church especially those that were espoused by the members of the Carmelites. She worked hard to expunge the buildup of corrupt practices and tried to restore the original intentions of the founders of the Carmelites, in purifying the order and also spread the same reform attitude to the broader Church, in tandem with the then height of the Counter Reformation efforts against the heresy of Protestantism. St. Teresa of Jesus had to go against many who opposed her, but she remained resolute and firm in her beliefs and actions.

St. Teresa of Jesus also wrote extensively and also documented her experiences and mystical visions in her numerous writings, which inspired many people who came after her, inspired by her zeal and sincere faith and love for God. For this, she was declared as one of the great Doctors of the Church after she had been acknowledged and canonised as a saint. Through her many actions, efforts and contributions, St. Teresa of Jesus showed us all what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be active in the living of our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, following in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Avila, as well as Abraham, our father in faith and David, the great King of Israel, as well as numerous other saints and holy men and women of God, let us all strive to do our best and put our wholehearted effort to seek the Lord with all of our strength. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith, and may He bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 11

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

Rejoice in YHVH, and be glad, You who are upright; sing and shout for joy, You who are clean of heart.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 4 : 1-8

Let us consider Abraham, our father in the flesh. What has he found? If Abraham attained righteousness because of his deeds, he could be proud. But he cannot be this before God; because Scripture says : Abraham believed God, Who took it into account, and held him to be a just man.

Now, when someone does a work, salary is not given as a favour, but as a debt that is paid. Here, on the contrary, someone who has no deeds to show, but believes in Him, Who makes sinners righteous before Him : such faith is taken into account, and that person is held as righteous.

David congratulates, in this way, those who become righteous, by the favour of God, and not by their actions : Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven and whose offences are forgotten; blessed the one, whose sin God does not take into account!

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to believe in the Lord and entrust ourselves in His providence, as we ought to keep ourselves worthy and pure, free from sin and evil. All of us should remain true in our faith in God, and commit ourselves to Him and not to be easily swayed by those who sought to divide and destroy us, by sowing seeds of dissension and doubt in our midst.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Joel of the words of the Lord, which He spoke to His people Israel and according to historians, happened after the people of Israel had returned to their homeland after their exile in Babylon. What the Lord told His people at that time was a reminder of how they themselves had suffered earlier on from those who oppressed and conquered them, destroyed their cities and their homeland, bringing them into their exile.

And the Lord told His people that they ought to be prepared, steadfast and ready to face trials and challenges, as the time shall come when the forces of the evil one will be arrayed and assembled against us. All of us ought to remain steady in our faith and not be swayed by our fears and doubts that the enemy sought to spread among us that they hope to see us sundered from the love and protection of God. This is also where we then heard what happened at the time of the Lord Jesus and His confrontation with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with Beelzebul, the prince of demons.

At that time, some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had often been shadowing the Lord’s ministry, following Him wherever He went and witnessing all that He had done, the miracles and healing, the exorcisms that He performed before all the people. They had also heard His teachings and the truth which He had delivered from the Lord, and yet, instead of believing in Him as they should have done, they slandered Him and went against Him, accusing Him falsely of collusion with demons in performing His miracles and works, hoping that would discredit Him amongst the people of God.

Contextually, at that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were seen as the intellectual elites and the spiritual leaders and guides of the people, who were highly respected and even feared by many of the descendants of the Israelites, for their very strict and strong enforcement of the orthodox traditions of the Jewish cultural and religious practices, which were centred on the Law of God revealed through Moses, but with numerous excesses and flaws which led to the friction with the Lord Jesus when He came into this world bearing the true meaning and purpose of the Law of God.

As such, due to this rivalry and the jealousy which many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had against the Lord Jesus, as He gathered and brought more and more people to His side as His disciples and followers, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law grew desperate and used the false accusation to try to discredit the Lord and His works, and to turn the people against Him. However, they made such an outrageous claim that in fact blasphemed against God, by accusing His works as the work of the devil.

Essentially, what those people claimed was that a prince of demons colluded with the Lord Jesus to cast out other demons, which was nonsensical as that would have meant that the evil spirits and demons were divided against each other in their efforts to attack mankind, all of us, God’s people. While those demons, who were fallen angels and spirits might have had their differences and disagreements, there is nothing that unites them more than in their desire to see about our downfall and destruction. Hence, not only that the accusations made by the Pharisees false, but they were outright wicked and blasphemous in nature.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard through the Gospel passage today, it is indeed sad to see how mankind can be so divided against one another in such a vicious manner, when ironically the evil and wicked spirits were much more united in their efforts against us. This is where all of us need to discard our ego, pride and greed, and resist the temptations that are present all around us. The Lord has called us all to put our trust in Him, and we should unite ourselves together to Him, and overcome all the divisions and disagreements we have between us.

Let us all not be divided any longer and let us all not be distracted by the numerous efforts by the wicked and evil spirits, Satan and all those enemies of the Lord who always seek to destroy us all. Let us commit ourselves to a new existence and life in God, and as a united community of the faithful, let us all do whatever we can to glorify the Lord at all times. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each one of us to follow Him, and may He empower each one of us to walk ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 6 and 16, 8-9

The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God.

All of them saying in their heart, “Nothing will trouble me. I am secure, powerful and happy.” YHVH is King forever and the pagans have vanished from His land.

They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim. The evil one lurks in secret, like a lion in its covert, waiting to seize his prey and drag him off in a net.

Friday, 8 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Joel 1 : 13-15 and Joel 2 : 1-2

Gird yourselves, o priests, and weep; mourn, o ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, o ministers of my God! For the house of your God is deprived of grain and drink offering.

Proclaim a fast, call an assembly. Summon the elders, and all who live in the land, into the house of your God, and cry out to YHVH, “What a dreadful day – the day of YHVH, that draws near, and comes as ruin, from the Almighty!”

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all dwellers in the land tremble, for the day of YHVH is coming. Yes, the day is fast approaching – a day of gloom and darkness, a day of clouds and blackness. A vast and mighty army comes, like dawn spreading over the mountain : such as has never occurred before, nor will happen again in the future.

Friday, 1 October 2021 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the great Patroness of Missions, St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus. St. Therese was a Carmelite nun who was remembered for her great piety and faith, her commitment to the Lord and her great writings and contributions to the Church. As such, she was greatly revered by many people who were touched and inspired by her examples and holy life, even though she had a relatively short life when she died at the very young age of twenty-four.

St. Therese of Lisieux was born as the daughter of the now Saints, St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin. The family of St. Therese of Lisieux was a very devout Catholic family, and her parents were truly great role models as Christians and as dedicated and loving parents to their children. Although they were not rich, but they led a happy and pious life together as a family, which eventually saw not just St. Therese joining the religious life as a nun, but in fact all of the five daughters of St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin who survived to adulthood all joined the religious life.

St. Therese had always been frail and weak since when she was born, and as she grew up, she was brought up in a very pious and devoted environment as her family observed the daily attendance at the Holy Mass every morning, the regular practice of fasting and abstinence as well as the daily and regular recitation of the Divine Office and other prayers, which her family always never failed to do, as well as numerous charitable efforts and works, which influenced the young St. Therese greatly. This would become one of the main inspiration for her to join consecrated life.

St. Therese then expressed her desire to join the religious life since a very young age. After she has lost her mother at the age of just four and a half years old, his father took care of her and her other sisters, and sent her to be educated by Benedictine nuns. Her desire to dedicate herself to the Lord became only stronger and as her own sisters also joined a Carmelite convent, especially one who was particularly close to her, this led to St. Therese expressing even greater desire to follow the Lord.

All the challenges that she had to face did not deter St. Therese from doing her best to seek entry to the religious life, and it was told that in one occasion on one Christmas Midnight Mass, she experienced a great spiritual experience that she later on described as a complete conversion experience. It was a moment of great significance as she overcame her previous troubles and spiritual troubles of having lost her mother at a very young age as well as other troubles and the sickness she had.

That also further deepened her spirituality and commitment to God as she continued to persevere in her desire to be a consecrated nun, which was eventually led her to Rome, as the Pope, then Pope Leo XIII met her in a personal audience in which she uttered her great desire to join the Carmelites. The Pope told her to obey the will of the Carmelite superiors and to entrust herself to the will of God, that if it is indeed God’s will, then she would be able to enter the Carmelite Order. Eventually, she did manage to enter the convent, by the arrangements authorised by the local bishop.

St. Therese spent her life afterwards in great piety and commitment to God, while still enduring both physical and spiritual trials and difficulties. Yet, all these did not dampen her spirit and enthusiasm as she continued to persevere through prayer and strict discipline throughout her life as a Carmelite and she wrote down her experiences of receiving visions and other spiritual experiences that she lived through. She was also then known for her famous ‘Little Way’ which also earned her the name of the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’.

What is this Little Way that St. Therese of Lisieux proposed, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is that we do not have to do great things in order to attain the glory of Heaven. Rather, our good works and our living by our faith is measured by the small little actions we do each day and every moments of our lives. Little by little, small effort bit by bit, we will eventually get there, and we will find our way to the Lord if we continue to persevere in our faith and remain faithful to God. This is what we have been called to do through the examples of St. Therese of Lisieux, her faith and exemplary life.

To the very end of her life, St. Therese of Lisieux dedicated herself to a life of prayer, and her many writings and works inspired many who had read them and come to know about her life and her devotion to God. Her immense popularity among the faithful, even long after her passing is credited with numerous conversions among the people and one of the reason why she was named as the Patroness of Missions. And we should be inspired to follow in her examples and her virtues and dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard the great detail of the life of this most wonderful and renowned saint, we are all then called to reflect on our own way of life. Are we all willing to follow in her good examples and are we all capable of committing ourselves to a life of total giving and service to God as St. Therese of Lisieux had done? And we have to realise that we often do not have to do many amazing and wonderful things in life. What we have to do is to reach out to others around us even through very small actions and gestures in life, that by our exemplary life we may lead more and more of our fellow brethren to the salvation in God.

As Christians we are all called to action, to dedicate ourselves to the Lord and to His cause and works in our world today. We are all called to be the beacons of His light and truth in our darkened world, and as we see how the shining faith of St. Therese of Lisieux had been an immense source of hope and light to all who witnessed and seen her life examples, we too should do the same in our own lives. Can we contribute our efforts even in the smallest way we can, to glorify the Lord by our lives?

May the Lord continue to help and strengthen us, and may He guide us in our journey throughout life so that we may always ever draw closer to Him in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 1 October 2021 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

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.”