Saturday, 6 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard that as Christians, for us to love God and to devote ourselves to God, we do not need to seek to do ambitious things and achievements, and we do not need to think of the many things we desire and want, as serving the Lord does not mean that we focus the attention to ourselves. On the contrary, to be Christians mean that we ought to give our whole selves to God and to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly and live our lives with the focus on God in everything that we say and do.

As Christians we ought to reflect carefully on what we have heard in our Gospel passage today as we heard of the account of the Lord Who spoke with regards to the people who came to the Temple of Jerusalem, there were the rich people making lots of offerings probably showing off what they were offering to each other and also to the other people around, while there was a poor, old woman who came by quietly and placed in two small coins to the Temple treasury.

And the Lord also mentioned of the excesses of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, warning His disciples against their behaviour and how they exercised and practiced their faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often prided themselves in their privileged and highly respected position in the community, and showed off their faith, seeking important and privileged positions, basking in the praise and respect from the other people who saw them and their actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, essentially what the Lord had told us all is to be careful and vigilant against the temptations of ego and pride in our lives. We must focus our attention on God and put Him first and foremost in our lives, or else we will be easily swayed and tempted just as many of our ancestors had done in the past. Ever since the time of Adam and Eve in the Gardens of Eden, Satan has tempted us mankind with the temptation of pride, desires of our flesh and with the temptation of knowledge, and our great enemy definitely knows very well our vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we also have to understand that God was not against the rich and neither does He have any bias or prejudice against the rich and those who are wealthy, powerful and the elites of the society, and unlike what some would have argued otherwise, the Lord was not only concerned about the poor, the marginalised and the needy. For the truth is that, every single sons and daughters of mankind are precious to Him, and all of us, regardless of our background and origins, are equal before Him, and are equally beloved by Him.

What the Lord is warning us is rather the fact that we mankind are easily distracted and tempted, and the more attachments we have to worldly things and the more concerns we have, the more vulnerable we become. Instead, he wanted us all to develop more trust and faith in Him. He wants us to be like the old woman who entrusted herself to the Lord and gave from her heart, even if she had only very little to live on with. At this, all of us are called to believe in God in this manner.

We heard in our first reading today on the great courage shown by St. Paul, who recounted to St. Timothy, his protege, of the great sufferings he had endured for the sake of the Lord, all the things he had to go through as many opposed his good works and efforts, rejecting him and his message of God’s truth. St. Paul stood by his faith in the Lord and his famous words, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.’ are reminders to us just how dedicated St. Paul had been throughout his missionary works and efforts to bring the Good News to many peoples, even to all those who have rejected these truths.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Norbert, a renowned German bishop and saint, who was once a nobleman and member of the elite of the then society, but an experience of the faith changed his life forever as he was saved from a near death experience, and he eventually joined the priesthood and led an ascetic, holy and simple lifestyle. He travelled around Christendom and saw the troubles and the lack of discipline as well as the need for reform in the Church.

St. Norbert founded the religious order known as the Canons Regular of Prémontré. Through his efforts and dedicated works, his piety and great, genuine love for God, St. Norbert rapidly expanded the religious order, and when he was appointed by the Pope as the Archbishop of Magdeburg in Germany, he continued the efforts he started in reforms and practiced the same practices he did among the Canons Regular to his diocese and the faithful in that diocese.

Through what the Lord’s followers had done, St. Paul and the other Apostles, the many saints and martyrs, like St. Norbert among many others, all of us have seen how the Lord’s followers have dedicated their lives to God, giving their all to the Lord with their lives and services, many of them giving even their lives in martyrdom in the defence of their faith. Are we able to follow in their footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow their examples and courage, and inspire one another to follow the Lord in the same way?

Let us all devote ourselves anew, each and every days of our lives from now on. Let us give our very best to the Lord from the depths of our heart. May the Lord help us all and give us the strength to follow Him with all of our hearts from now on. St. Norbert, holy saint of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 6 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 12 : 38-44

At that time, as Jesus was teaching, He also said to His disciples, “Beware of those teachers of the Law, who enjoy walking around in long robes and being greeted in the marketplace, and who like to occupy reserved seats in the synagogues, and the first places at feasts. They even devour the widow’s and the orphan’s goods while making a show of long prayers. How severe a sentence they will receive!”

Jesus sat down opposite the Temple treasury, and watched the people dropping money into the treasury box; and many rich people put in large offerings. But a poor widow also cane and dropped in two small coins. Then Jesus called His disciples and said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all those who gave offerings. For all of them gave from their plenty, but she gave from her poverty, and put in everything she had, her very living.”

Saturday, 6 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 70 : 8-9, 14-15ab, 16-17, 22

My mouth is filled with Your praise, announcing Your glory, day by day. Do not cast me off in my old age, do not desert me when my strength fails.

Then, I may trust in You and praise You. My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day, little though it is what I can understand.

I will come to Your strength, o YHVH, and announce Your justice, Yours alone. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

I will praise You with the harp, for Your faithfulness, o my God; I will sing Your praise with the lyre, o Holy One of Israel.

Saturday, 6 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

2 Timothy 4 : 1-8

In the presence of God and Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by the hope I have of His coming, and His kingdom, I urge you to preach the Word, in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, or advising, always with patience, and providing instruction.

For the time is coming, when people will no longer endure sound doctrine, but, following their passions, they will surround themselves with teachers to please their itching ears. And they will abandon the truth to hear fables. So be prudent, do not mind your labour, give yourself to your work as an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me, on that day, and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

Friday, 5 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through our Scripture passages today, we have heard of the reality of what it means to be a follower of Christ as Christians, and that often involves suffering and challenges. We have heard in our first reading from the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, how persecution, trials and challenges had followed St. Paul all throughout his missionary journeys and efforts, and many of those occasions he was almost killed by all those who disagreed with him and refused to believe in the truth of God.

And St. Paul mentioned the truth clearly to St. Timothy, his godson and one of the early successors of the Apostles as the leaders of the Church, that all who follow Christ will suffer the persecution that Christ Himself had suffered, they will be rejected and ridiculed much as the Lord Himself had suffered humiliation, pain and the rejection of the world, and St. Paul wanted St. Timothy to know that, should he suffer for his faith and encounter difficulties during his missionary efforts and works, he was not alone in all that.

St. Paul used this opportunity to reaffirm the faith in his fellow servants of the Lord, giving them the courage and strength to carry on with their mission, in this case, St. Timothy himself. St. Paul used the example of how he himself had faced such bitter struggles and opposition, and yet, still survived to tell the tale, and still even had strong faith in the Lord, if not even stronger and more committed than before, to show all of us the faithful people of God, that we must not lose faith in Him and trust in Him.

We should not allow fear to lead us away from the path that the Lord has shown us, or make us to hide in fear and ignore our calling in life as God’s people, bearing the truth of His salvation to the nations. It was because of St. Paul and the many other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, as well as their successors, St. Timothy and many others, their courage and commitment to the Lord that many Christians were able to persevere in their faith despite the many challenges they encountered.

Many of the Apostles, disciples, and their successors met painful sufferings and martyrdoms, and yet, they still continued to give their best to serve the Lord and their brethren, the flock entrusted under their care. And all of these were because they trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, His truth and love for each and every one of us, His beloved people, Who has brought into this world the pure and undeniable truth of God’s desire to save us all from certain destruction, and lead us into the new life and existence through Him.

This is why in the Gospel today, we heard why a lot of people still followed the Lord Jesus even though His ideas and truth might sound very difficult for certain segments of the society to accept, such as His identity as the Son of David and the Heir of the Kingdom of Israel, the Saviour or Messiah of the people, and even more so, being the very Son of God Most High Himself, the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh. Many of the people were touched by the truth, and stirred to know more about the truth because they had not closed their hearts and minds.

That was why, even though St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples encountered many challenges, difficulties, ridicule and rejection throughout their ministry among the people, but there were also many people who were willing to listen to them and many eventually became believers and were baptised as Christians. These were the seeds of faith sown even through the most bitter and difficult years of persecution against the Christian faith, and by the faith and courage of those faithful servants of God, the Church and the faithful persevered through those difficult years.

Today, we also mark the feast of St. Boniface, a renowned bishop and Martyr of the Church. St. Boniface was remembered for his many works of mission among the pagan peoples in what is now modern day Germany. He worked very hard, much like St. Paul and the Apostles in the early days of the Church, in order to establish the foundations of the Church and the Christian faith in the vast lands of Germania, then still mostly pagan and ripe for the harvest of the faith.

St. Boniface went on many missions to convert the pagan peoples, preaching to them about the Lord and His Good News, patiently teaching them all about the Lord, and travelling from places to places bringing the Good News to more and more people. He was also renowned for his felling of the sacred oak of the pagans, known as Donar’s Oak, to which many of the newly converted Christians still went to worship as part of their old pagan practices. St. Boniface fell the tree down with an ax, and despite the curse from the people who witnessed it, the whole oak miraculously split apart and came down crashing, and the wood used to build a church in honour of St. Peter the Apostle. Many of the people who witnessed the event became true believers from then on.

St. Boniface worked hard to establish the Church in the land of Germania and was also committed to the reform of Church practices and disciplines, reducing clerical excesses and secular interference. He encountered much difficulty throughout his ministry, much like St. Paul and the other Apostles, disciples and servants of God. But those things did not stop St. Paul from dedicating himself to the cause of the Lord. In the end, waylaid by Frisian bandits during one of his journeys, St. Boniface faced death in martyrdom defending his faith against the wicked ones.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all inspired to live our lives from now on with faith, following the great examples set by our holy and dedicated predecessors? Let us place our focus rather on the potential of glorious things to come rather than fearing the trials and persecutions of the world. Are we able to commit our time, effort and attention to serve the Lord from now on with greater fidelity and commitment, with greater sincerity and love for God and for our fellow men alike? Let us all discern these things carefully, and dedicate ourselves from now on, to the greater glory of God, now and always. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 5 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 35-37

At that time, as Jesus was teaching in the Temple, He said, “The teachers of the Law say that the Messiah is the Son of David. How can that be? For David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared : The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet!'”

“If David himself calls Him Lord, in what way can He be his Son?” Many people came to Jesus, and listened to Him gladly.

Friday, 5 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 118 : 157, 160, 161, 165, 166, 168

Many foes persecute me, but I have not turned away from Your Law.

The essence of Your word is truth, everlasting are Your just ordinances.

Rulers persecute me for no cause; yet, my heart stands in awe of Your words.

Lovers of Your Law have found great peace; nothing can make them stumble, not even distress.

O YHVH, I wait for Your salvation, and I keep Your commands in faith.

I obey Your precepts and Your decrees; my ways are always before You.

Friday, 5 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 3 : 10-17

You, instead, have closely followed my teaching, my way of life, my projects, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions and sufferings. You know what happened to me at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. How many trials I had to bear! Yet, the Lord rescued me from them all. All who want to serve God, in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted; while evil persons and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

As for you, continue with what you have learnt, and what has been entrusted to you, knowing from whom you received it. Besides, you have known the Scriptures from childhood; they will give you the wisdom that leads to salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, refuting error, for correcting and training in Christian life. Through Scripture, the man of God is made expert and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures first of all the story of the conflict between king David of Israel and his son, Absalom, who rebelled against his own father due to some earlier intrigues and wanted to seize the kingdom from him with the support of quite a few segments of the community of Israel. Absalom rose in rebellion and marched against David, and as we heard in our first reading today, king David had to abandon the city of Jerusalem. Even some of his courtiers abandoned David and chose to welcome Absalom instead.

At that moment, we also heard how Shimei the Benjaminite cursed David and shouted at him even as he and his supporters fled the city of Jerusalem. Some of David’s supporters wanted to punish and kill Shimei, but David stopped them and remained firm in continuing the struggle despite all those who opposed him at the time. It was a very troubling and difficult time for David, but David trusted in the Lord and remained faithful, knowing that God was with him regardless.

It is the sentiment that we have also heard from today’s Psalm, how when our enemies and all our opponents rise up against us, God is our Shield and our Help. And it is in God alone that we can have full confidence and complete trust which nothing else in this world can give us. The Lord has always been true and faithful to His Covenant with us and He will protect and bless all those who trust in Him. For the truth is indeed that no evil can stand before God, and God will have the ultimate triumph over all evil.

This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the story of the Lord Jesus casting out demons and evil spirits from a man in the region of Gerasenes across the Jordan. The man was afflicted and possessed by a large number of evil spirits and demons that called themselves as ‘Legion’ as a reference to their large numbers. The Lord sent the evil spirits away from the man into a nearby herd of pigs that went down the hill in berserk. But the man was completely healed from his previous affliction and was normal again.

No one wanted to come close to the possessed man earlier on, and because of the evil spirits that were within him, many kept a great distance from him. The man wandered off in the wilderness away from the community until the day when the Lord came and liberated him from those evil spirits. And this is in fact parallel to what we have heard of the story of the temporary exile of king David from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of Absalom. Like David who had to leave behind Jerusalem and wander to the wilderness, the possessed man also wandered off in the wilderness of Gerasenes.

But as I mentioned, God was with David and eventually, He gave David his kingdom back when Absalom was killed at the battle of the Woods of Ephraim according to the Scriptural accounts. Although the challenges and trials David faced at that time seemed very great, just like that possessed man who suffered from all the evil spirits that bothered him, but God proved to them all that He was still greater, and through Him, they both received liberation and deliverance from their troubles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what then is the significance of today’s Scripture passages? They remind us of the need for us to trust in God and to put our faith in Him. We should not forget that God is always by our side, listening to us and providing us with what we need in His own good time. But we often conveniently forget about this and instead turned to many other things of the world we grew dependant on, such as wealth, pleasures, material goods, status, fame among many others.

Today we are called to remember God and His love, His ever caring presence in our midst. We are called to remember all the times which He has stood by our side especially in our moments of great sorrow and distress. God has always been there by our side, and although sometimes we may not be able to recognise Him, but He is always there nonetheless. That is just how amazing God’s love is for each and every one of us.

Today, let us also look upon the faith of two of the Lord’s faithful saints, that hopefully we may live our lives with greater devotion and love for God after witnessing their faith and love for their Lord and Master. First of all, St. Blaise was a bishop of the Church, known today as the patron saint for all those who are working as healthcare workers taking care of those with throat diseases. The unique blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s feast day is still widely practiced today, and many who had throat complaints or troubles seek St. Blaise for his intercession and help.

St. Blaise was a Roman martyr who was a doctor and healer who was called to heal God’s people spiritually, and eventually became the bishop of Sebastea in what is now the eastern part of Asia Minor near Armenia. St. Blaise had many people seeking him for both physical and spiritual illnesses, and it was told that he miraculously healed a person who was suffering from fish bones that were stuck in the throat. St. Blaise was martyred under the Emperor Licinius who carried out one of the last persecutions of Christians, but the legacy of St. Blaise remained till this day.

St. Blaise reminded us all that through God’s grace and help, everything is possible. Even the greatest of ailments, threats and troubles are nothing for the Lord Who is Almighty and All-Powerful. The Lord Himself is All-Powerful over all those evil spirits whom many had feared from the possessed man. If only we trust in God, everything will be right for us if we follow His way. There will be plenty of trials and struggles, but God will help us and lead and guide the way for us going forward. And perhaps now is also a good opportunity for us to ask St. Blaise for his intercession, especially as the world is now facing the threat of the new 2019-nCoV or novel Coronavirus, that are spreading around the world and has killed hundreds of people so far.

Today we also remember the works and life of St. Ansgar, frequently known as the ‘Apostle of the North’ for his missionary and evangelising works among the pagan Germanic peoples. He worked at the forefront of Christianisation of the many areas in northern Germany where paganism were still common and strong among the populace. St. Ansgar also faced lots of challenges and difficulties through his ministry, but he persevered on, trusted in the Lord’s guidance and providence, and remained true to his calling to spread the Good News and the truth of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what we have just discussed earlier on, and pray that each and every one of us will be strengthened in our faith that we will be courageous in facing the many trials and challenges in life, doing whatever we can for the greater glory of God and to fulfil whatever missions that God has called us to. Let us all serve the Lord with ever greater love and devotion from now on. May God bless us all and be with us, and may His love and grace be upon us always. Amen.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

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

Mark 5 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus and His disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. The man lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain.

He had often been bound with fetters and chains; but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters; and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg You, do not torment me!” He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Evil spirit, come out of the man!”

When Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged Him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.”

So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs; and immediately, the herd rushed down the cliff; and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and in the countryside. So all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind; the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.