Friday, 24 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, marking the great and boundless love that the Lord has for each and every one of us, freely being poured out from His most loving Sacred Heart, as we recall all that He had done for our sake. On this day, as we commemorate this great celebration, we remember the Lord Whose Sacred Heart had been pierced and torn for us, and Who despite of our many wickedness and iniquities, still continued to patiently reach out to us, because His love for us, coming from His ever loving and generous Heart, is never-ending.

In the Church, the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is among the most popular devotions, and while the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was only relatively recently spread to the whole Church and the world about a hundred and seventy years ago by Blessed Pope Pius IX, but the history of the devotion and the celebration of the most generous love and compassionate care of God in His Sacred Heart had extended much earlier than that, as early as seven centuries ago with the institution of the Mass honouring the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pope Innocent VI during the late Middle Ages.

This devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is and has always been very popular and sought after by the faithful, precisely because it reminds us of the ever loving and compassionate nature of God, our Lord and Saviour. Although we are sinners, but the Lord still loves us all regardless, and His love and mercy are even greater than the combined weight and burden of our sins. We must take note though that sin is still hated and despised by the Lord, and we have to answer for our sins, but we are reminded that God willingly offered us His forgiveness and grace, as long as we are willing to embrace them.

The Lord loves each and every one of us much as how a shepherd loves his sheep and flock, an allusion that is permeating all over our Scripture readings today. From the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, the Lord spoke of Himself as the Shepherd of all the faithful, Who would guide all of His flock to Himself, caring for them and providing for all their needs, among other things. And then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Himself referring to the action of the shepherd who went out to look for the lost sheep, in the parable He used to teach them, and finally how St. Paul in our second reading today, highlighting the action that Christ our Lord had done for our sake, out of His love for us.

In our first reading, the prophet Ezekiel delivered the words of God to His people, who at that time had been exiled and brought far away from their homeland, in the final days of the kingdom of Judah, when their country were battered and eventually destroyed by the forces of the Babylonians, their cities torched and destroyed, the city of Jerusalem and its Temple torn down and crushed, and eventually most of the people of God carried off into exile in Babylon and other regions, and the people were scattered all over the world, lost and no longer had their homeland with them. But God showed pity and mercy on them, and He called them to come back to Him.

God reminded them through Ezekiel, that He did not abandon them or forget about them, even though they had rejected Him, abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him behind for the company of pagan gods and idols. He still stood by the Covenant He had made with them and their ancestors, still providing for them and caring for them regardless, and sent many messengers and prophets, guides and helpers to remind them along the way, all the time. Yet, the people often hardened their hearts and and became stubborn, in refusing God’s generous offer of love and mercy.

He sent His salvation henceforth into this world, just as He had promised, in none other than Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, the Divine Word of God incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary, His mother, as the manifestation of God’s love made flesh, becoming apparent and tangible for us. Not only that, but His actions, and all that He did for our sake, in the end, all of those brought the love of God into our midst, and we are all sharing in the generous love that God has poured out upon us, which became the source of our light, hope and salvation amidst the darkness of the world. The Lord had shown us His love, just as St. Paul presented it to us in our second reading today.

St. Paul the Apostle in his Epistle to the Church in Rome spoke of the manifestation of God’s love for us sinners, through none other than the Passion, the suffering and death of Our Lord Himself on the Cross. St. Paul spoke of how difficult it was for someone to offer to suffer and die for the sake of another, although for a truly righteous and good person, one could probably do so. However, the Lord suffered and died for us when we were still sinners and are still resisting and rejecting Him, and He laid Himself bare before us, showing us and exposing to us just how much He loved us that even though we are still sinners, but He willingly reached out to us in love, for our sake, even suffering the burdens of our sins, for our salvation.

That was what He had done as our most loving Good Shepherd, fulfilling what He Himself said in our Gospel passage today in the parable of the lost sheep. He is the Good Shepherd Who knows every single one of His sheep by name, knowing them all perfectly, each and every one of us. He embodies what He Himself said with the words, ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep’ and ‘There is no greater love than this, for one to lay down his life for his friend’. We are all precious to the Lord, His beloved ones, His precious children, His friends and brothers and sisters. We are all His flock, His sheep, whom He knew and love tenderly.

There is truly nothing that can separate us from the love of God, save that of our own stubbornness and refusal to embrace His love. And if we still doubt that love which God has for us, then let us look upon His Most Sacred Heart, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can see just how wounded and painful His Heart has been, by the many transgressions and sins we have committed, and yet, by that same Heart, by that same love He has always had for us, He constantly gives us the chances and opportunities to embrace His love and mercy, and to return once again to His Presence.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing how much God loves us and how generous He has always been in reaching out to us and in trying to be reconciled with us, let us all therefore turn towards Him, and let us seek once again His loving Heart, ever filled with love for us. Let us all not be stubborn any longer, but allow Him to touch our hearts and minds, and respond positively and courageously to His call, in asking us to embrace and enter into His loving care and compassionate mercy. Let us all turn towards Our Lord and His Most Sacred Heart with renewed love, faith and conviction to live our lives from now on with true commitment to Him.

May the Lord continue to love us as always, and may His Most Sacred Heart continue to shower us with that love and kindness, and that each and every one of us may come ever closer to His Presence. O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we trust in You! O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, be with us always, we who are sinners and are always in need of Your love and mercy. Amen.

Friday, 24 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 15 : 3-7

At that time, Jesus told the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law this parable : “Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’”

“I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

Friday, 24 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 5 : 5b-11

Because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us : when we were still helpless and unable to do anything. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die.

But see how God manifested His love for us : while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; and we have become just, through His Blood. With much more reason now He will save us from any condemnation. Once enemies, we have been reconciled with God through the death of His Son; with much more reason, now we may be saved, through His life. Not only that, but we even boast in God because of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, through Whom we have been reconciled.

Friday, 24 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Friday, 24 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 34 : 11-16

Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them. As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over My sheep; and gather them from all the places where they were scattered in a time of cloud and fog. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from their countries. I will lead them to their own land; and pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in all the valleys and inhabited regions of the land.

I will take them to good pastures on the high mountains of Israel. They will rest where the grazing is good, and feed in lush pastures on the heights of Israel. I, Myself, will tend My sheep and let them rest, word of YHVH. I will search for the lost and lead back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak; but the fat and strong will be eliminated. I will shepherd My flock with justice.

Friday, 10 June 2022 : 10th 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 all reminded of the need for us all to embrace God’s calling and to seek Him wholeheartedly as Christians, living our lives well and righteously at all times, so that each and every one may remain firmly rooted in the path that God Himself has shown us and guided us through. We must always strive to avoid the corrupting power of sin and evil, the temptations that are always ever present all around us, so that we may not be swayed away from the righteous path towards God.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when Elijah went all the way to Mount Sinai after a long journey of forty days and forty nights from the land of Israel, during the time when he fled the intense persecution and hunt against him by the forces of his enemies. Elijah went up Mount Sinai and God showed Himself to him through a series of phenomena, preceded by the coming of earthquakes and strong winds, and eventually revealing Himself to Elijah, who therefore stood in the very Presence of God much as how Moses once did, during the time of the Exodus of the Israelites. Elijah pleaded with the Lord, stating the frustrating conditions suffered by the faithful and how wicked the people of Israel had been.

God had been guiding Elijah all throughout the way during his ministry among the Israelites, and He told him that He was sending him again to the midst of the Israelites and revealed what He would do for the people that He loved so much and yet were so stubborn in refusing to believe in Him and refusing to turn away from their sinful past. He would raise a new king over the Israelites, Jehu, who would later on destroy the house and descendants of Ahab, who had led the Israelites into great sin against God, and Hazael, the king of Aram who would punish the sinful Israelites, and finally, God had chosen Elisha to be the prophet succeeding Elijah in his work among the Israelites.

Elijah was called to go onto that great mission, and he would have to suffer more, but God would be with him, guiding him and providing for him, and He would not leave him alone in the struggle against those who refused to believe in Him. And through that revelation, God also showed how the time of reckoning for those who continued to oppose Him and His servants, those who have rejected Him and His Law, like king Ahab and all those who continued to oppose Him and His servants. God would punish those who deserve that punishment because by their sins, they had led many others into sin and damnation as well.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding the matter of living their lives with faith. He told them to be righteous in their actions and deeds, to be truly faithful in all things and not to be easily swayed by the temptations of their flesh and bodies, and by any temptations of worldly desires. The Lord told them all metaphorically to remind them that each and every one of us as the children and people of God are called to holiness in each one of our lives. He wants us to remove from our hearts and minds the temptations of sin and evil, and to excise from our hearts, minds and our entire being, the despicable corruption of sin.

When the Lord told His disciples to cut off their hands and legs, and take out their eyes should those things led them to sin, He was in fact warning them of the seriousness and great dangers of sin, so much so that sin caused by the temptation of our flesh can lead us all to fall into damnation in hell, a suffering for eternity that I am sure none of us will want to suffer should we be aware of the terrible fate awaiting those who still continue to stubbornly reject the love and compassionate mercy of God. But at the same time, we also should not try to understand what the Lord said literally either, as He was using that comparison and language to highlight the importance of repentance from sin for us. We have to turn away from sin and embrace God’s righteous ways as soon as we can.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded that as Christians we have to be genuine in faith, and we will be judged based on our righteous or wicked deeds, and we will be held accountable be it whether we are obedient to God and His Law, or whether we are rebellious and disregarding His path and truth. The choice is in our hands, whether we want to follow and obey the Lord, or whether we want to go and forge our own path in life, which more likely than not will lead us down the path to ruin, for without God we are nothing, and without His guidance, it will be very easy for us to lose our path.

Let us all therefore remind ourselves and one another to be faithful to God, to listen to Him and distance ourselves from worldly temptations and other things that can lead us down the path of ruin and sin, and let us all also embrace and answer God’s call, just as He has called and sent the prophet Elijah to minister to the people of Israel and others, so that by our actions and deeds, rooted in our faith in God, we may inspire many more people to come to believe in God as well. Let us also help one another to persevere through the trials and challenges that we may face in our lives as faithful Christians, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 10 June 2022 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 27-32

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “You have heard that it was said : Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this : anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent, has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body, than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body, than to have your whole body thrown into hell.”

“It was also said : Anyone who divorces his wife, must give her a written notice of divorce. But what I tell you is this : if a man divorces his wife, except in the case of unlawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Friday, 10 June 2022 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 26 : 7-8a, 8b-9abc, 13-14

Hear my voice when I call, o Lord, have mercy on me and answer. My heart says to You, “I seek Your face, o Lord.”

Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 10 June 2022 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 19 : 9a, 11-16

On reaching the place, Elijah came to the cave and stayed in it. Then YHVH said, “Go up and stand on the mount, waiting for YHVH.” And YHVH passed by.

There was first a windstorm, wild wind which rent the mountains and broke the rocks into pieces before YHVH, but YHVH was not in the wind. After the storm, an earthquake, but YHVH was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, a fire, but YHVH was not in the fire; after the fire, the murmur of a gentle breeze.

When Elijah perceived it, he covered his face with his cloak, went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then he heard a voice addressing him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I am burning with jealous love for YHVH, the God of Hosts, because the Israelites have forsaken Your Covenant, thrown down Your altars and slain Your prophets with the sword. No one is left but myself, yet they still seek my life to take it away.”

YHVH said to him, “Take the road back through the desert and go to Damascus, for you must anoint Hazael as king of Syria. You shall also anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king over Israel. And Elisha, son of Shaphat, from Abel Meholah, you shall anoint as prophet in your place.”

Friday, 3 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of God, reminding each and every one of us yet again that becoming Christians and walking faithfully in the presence of God is something that is not easily done and which likely will end up bringing us hardships and challenges, just as we have been constantly reminded especially in the past few days through the Scripture readings of this week. Following Christ often required us to make sacrifices and to experience those hardships and trials mentioned, just as our predecessors, and the saints and martyrs can easily attest.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the conversation between King Agrippa of Judea and that of Festus, the new Roman governor in charge of the case surrounding St. Paul. If we had been following the Scripture readings from the earlier part of this week, all these happened due to the opposition that the Apostle faced due to his work and ministry, in proclaiming the Christian truths and evangelising to many people, Gentiles and Jews alike that earned him the ire of many among the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, which then persecuted him and handed him over to the Romans to be judged for the accusations they levied on him.

This was pretty much just like what the Lord Jesus Himself experienced earlier on, but St. Paul was following the guidance and lead of the Holy Spirit, Who told him that he was destined to travel to Rome and to die there, in martyrdom just like the other Apostles and many other disciples. However, this would not happen before he brought the word of God, His truth and love to the people in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, planting the seeds of the faith there, at the very heart of the Empire and superpower of that time, which would soon become the greatest persecutor of Christianity.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the calling that God gave to St. Peter, His foremost and chief disciple, as He called on him after His resurrection to be the one to lead the people of God and to shepherd His entire flock, as the leader of the Church on His behalf, His Vicar on earth. St. Peter has been appointed to be the leader of the Church, as the first Pope because of the faith that he had shown and all the commitment that he would later on do for the sake of the Church, as the Lord Himself knew that St. Peter would become His most faithful servant, and he truly loved Him from his heart, and God knew all that is in man’s hearts and minds.

Hence, St. Peter dedicated himself and his life to love and serve the Lord, to feed the flock of the sheep of the Lord, to fulfil what the Lord had entrusted to him and the other leaders of the Church, the Apostles and those whom they had chosen to be their successors, the Popes and bishops. St. Peter himself would also eventually go to Rome, and according to tradition, he and the other Christians were persecuted by the intense persecutions under the Roman Emperor Nero, at whose rule and command, the Apostle St. Paul as mentioned earlier eventually faced martyrdom by beheading.

Apostolic tradition states that St. Peter fled Rome with some of the other faithful because of the intense persecutions, and on the way out of Rome, he saw the Lord carrying His Cross in the opposite direction, towards Rome, which led to St. Peter asking Him where He was going. The Lord replied to St. Peter that He was going to Rome to be crucified again. That encounter according to Apostolic tradition gave St. Peter the courage and strength to endure the bitter persecutions that he had to endure in Rome, and was eventually martyred by crucifixion, and he chose to be crucified upside-down as in his own words, St. Peter said that, he was unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord, Master and Saviour. Thus, everything happened just as the Lord predicted it for St. Peter as we heard in our Gospel today.

Today we also mark the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, also known as the Ugandan Martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga and his many companions in martyrdom in Uganda, where they who were persecuted, arrested, tortured and killed for their faith in Uganda, during the early years of Christian mission in that area. There were missionaries and local converts amongst the martyrs, all those who have given themselves for the service of God, and all those who remained faithful to the Lord despite the persecutions and sufferings they encountered. They faced intense challenges just to live their lives faithfully as Christians.

At that time, Christian missionaries just arrived in Uganda, over the several years in which they ministered to the locals. Many among the locals welcomed the missionaries and many chose to become Christians, including that of St. Charles Lwanga, who was an important official in the court of the king of Buganda, the largest local kingdom. The king saw the increasing conversion to Christianity among his people as a threat to his own power and influence, and began to persecute Christianity throughout his realm. But this did not stop the Christian faithful from continuing to endure the persecutions and remaining faithful to God.

All these became worse when the converts among the royal pages and courtiers refused to obey the king’s debaucherous desires and shunned his wicked actions. The king ordered all Christians in his court and also foreign missionaries to be rounded up and put to death, and the locals if they would not abandon their faith. St. Charles Lwanga and his companions in martyrdom refused to abandon their faith, and in prison, he even managed to convert some more people, before being martyred by being burnt alive after refusing again to abandon the Christian faith. And not only that, but through martyrdom, they had shown many others what true faith in God is like.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these courageous and great examples of faith despite persecution and hardships, all of us are reminded to be strong and faithful ourselves, to steel our resolve to be good and dedicated Christians at all times. We should not let the challenges and hardships we encountered and will face in the future from changing this faith and commitment we have in God. Let us all look upon the examples of the Apostles, the saints and martyrs like the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. Holy Martyrs of Uganda, courageous servants of God and beloved disciples of Our Lord and Saviour, pray for us! Amen.