Tuesday, 6 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the call to holiness and to be converted to God’s truth. We are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul in his conversion to the Christian faith and how he dedicated himself to serve the Lord with all of his heart after early on he was a fanatical opponent of the Christian faith. And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the interaction between the Lord and the sisters Mary and Martha, and how God reminded us to choose the ‘better part’.

Beginning with our first reading today, we heard St. Paul recounting his own conversion experience, and how he abandoned his past disobedience against God, his misguided fanatic zeal in hunting down the early Christian converts especially among the Jewish people. That was how this great enemy of Christians and the Church became almost overnight, the greatest defender and champion of the faithful. St. Paul had a choice when God called him on the way to Damascus, on whether he wanted to continue in his past way of life, or if he wanted instead to embrace God’s call and transform himself.

Had St. Paul remained in his past life, as a prominent young Pharisee and also a Roman citizen, he was bound to have a very good life and could have possibly been a very influential member of the Sanhedrin and the ruling elite of the Jewish people, and would also likely be quite influential among the Romans and the Gentiles. Certainly for sure, his life would not have been so difficult and challenging as how he had suffered and laboured so much for the Lord’s sake. Yet, this was the path that St. Paul had chosen in the end, and he committed himself to it wholeheartedly.

St. Paul chose the ‘better path’, entrusting himself to God despite having to let go of his comfortable and influential old life, a life that would have guaranteed worldly safety and satisfaction, a life without much difficulty and hassles. But he chose to leave these comforts and assurances behind, for the better assurance in God. Although he endured a lot of trials and sufferings for the many decades after, but in the end, as he has faithfully committed himself to the very end, he was sure of the Lord’s promise and the eternal glory he would receive with many other faithful ones.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were close friends of the Lord with their brother, Lazarus, whom the Lord raised from the dead. And when the Lord Jesus came by their house, we saw the difference between the reaction of Mary and Martha in welcoming the Lord to their place. While Martha was very busy doing all she could to prepare the place well for the Lord’s coming, Mary was sitting by the side of the Lord, spending time with Him and listening to Him.

Martha certainly had good intentions, and she did what she thought was the best to welcome the Lord and be hospitable to Him. However, in her excessive preoccupation and desire to serve the Lord in the way she thought best, she had forgotten about what was most important, just like St. Paul earlier, when as Saul, he persecuted the Christians out of misplaced zeal in trying to protect the interpretation of the faith according to the Pharisees, which was then threatened by the Lord and His revelations and teachings.

Both Martha and Saul were trying to do what they could in their own way to serve God, but when they tried to do so on their own, and becoming swallowed by the intensity, by their emotions and desires, they ended up losing sight and focus on what they really ought to focus their attention on. As they pursued their intentions, they were distracted by the temptations of pride and the desire in their hearts, the pride of their achievements and the desire to be acclaimed and praised for their efforts. For Martha, it was likely to be praised for her hospitality, while Saul wanted attention and achievement in destroying the Christians.

But as we have heard, these were the wrong paths, which Martha was reminded by the Lord, and Saul was called from, and in the end, Martha realised that what was important, was not how meticulous her preparations and plans were, but spending time with God Who has come to her place to spend His time with her. Similarly, Saul came to realise that his path had been wrong, and from the moment of his conversion, he chose to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and devote all of his energy and efforts to glorify God from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today to reflect on the path which we should take in life, in serving God wholeheartedly as we should, and in keeping to the Lord’s path faithfully even when we may encounter difficulties, trials and challenges along the journey. We must realise that while the path that God has showed us may seem to be less promising, more challenging and difficult, but in truth, it is the ‘better part’ and the path that we all should choose, for in the Lord alone lies our hope and true joy.

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of St. Bruno, a dedicated servant of God, who was remembered as a great priest and intellectual, who committed his efforts to lead more and more among the faithful towards God. And St. Bruno was also known for rejecting the position of bishop, which could have easily been his, if he had chosen to do so. However, St. Bruno chose to walk down this more tedious path, living a holy existence and life, gathering some others to live in a prayerful community, away from the distractions of the world.

St. Bruno chose to walk down this path in responding to the call that the Lord has made to him, calling him to a life of holiness, to be a great witness and example to all the faithful, on what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. St. Bruno is a humble person, who spent his days and moments in doing everything to glorify God through prayer and virtue, and which is something that we can be inspired from and follow as well. Through all that we have heard today, we are presented with the choice, do we want to follow the Lord and take His ‘better part’ or do we want to indulge in worldly desires and pleasures, and seek for worldly satisfaction instead?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to live our lives virtuously as Christians from now on. And we are called to be holy and virtuous in all things, and most importantly, centre our focus and attention on the Lord, as the centre and heart of our very existence. Are we willing and able to reject the allures of pride and greed, the temptations of worldly pleasures and corruptions, and rediscover our true and genuine faith? Let us all discern this carefully as we commit ourselves ever more faithfully to the path that the Lord has shown us and guided us through.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us in our journey, that all of us may draw ever closer to Him, and inspire one another to stay together and remain true to our Christian calling in our respective lives and in our various communities, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to God, from now on, in all things, in all of our words, actions and deeds. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to His words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”

But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Tuesday, 6 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14, 15

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You, for Your marvellous deeds.

Even my bones were known to You when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Galatians 1 : 13-24

You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day, God called me, out of His great love, He, Who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and He was pleased to reveal, in me, His son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then, I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem, to those who were Apostles before me. I immediately went to Arabia, and from there, I returned, again, to Damascus.

Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying. After that, I went to Syria and Cilicia. The churches of Christ in Judea did not know me personally; they had only heard of me : “He, who once persecuted us, is now preaching the faith he tried to uproot.” And they praised God because of me.

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.