Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first beginning with the anger which God had shown His people, those living in the kingdom of Judah, for their refusal to listen to Him and their hardened hearts and minds, which could not allow them to love their God. They had instead persecuted the prophets and killed them, and continued to live in their sinful state.

God was angry with His people because despite all the good things and love He had done to them, they had turned away from Him, abandoned Him and forgot about Him, and threw away all of His laws and commandments. And despite all the miraculous deeds and powers He had shown them, they had instead chosen to put their trust in idols made from wood, stone and gold.

But the Lord did not give up on His people, for He still loved them dearly, each and every one of them. And that is why He sent us all Jesus, His own beloved Son, to be the One through Whom He would bring about salvation to all of His people. And in the Gospel today, all of us heard Him speaking to the people and to His disciples, about the kingdom of heaven, which has come into this world.

The Lord used the parable of the mustard seed to teach the people about the coming of God’s kingdom, telling them what they need to do in order to be faithful and to be committed to God’s ways. He used the mustard seed to show them the example of what the coming of the kingdom of God means to the people who are willing to embrace God and His kingdom.

The mustard seed is a very small seed, one that is insignificant and often overlooked. However, as the Lord mentioned and as those who have grown mustard greens before, we will realise just how wrong our perception can be, as mustard seed when grown into a full-fledged plant, is a large and bountiful tree filled with many branches and leaves. It is a wonderful and often overlooked transformation that accompanied a mustard seed’s growth.

Then the Lord Jesus also told the story of a person who placed three measures of flour and mixed them together with some yeast. The yeast is a crucial component in this process, as without yeast, the flour and mixture will just remain as it is. But with the yeast, as all those who have used them to make bread should know, the flour and mixture will rise as the yeast use the flour material and produce gases as it ferments the bread mixture.

And that is how the ordinary flour and yeast mixture are transformed into wonderful, delicious and nourishing leavened bread. Without yeast and the right conditions, this would never have happened. And the same applies to the mustard seed, as without proper care and the right conditions, the mustard seed as with other plants, would never have grown healthy and strong into a full-fledged plant.

What is the significance of these things to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we look back at the despicable and shameful deeds of the people of God in the first reading passage today, and comparing that to the time of the Lord Jesus, when many of the people listened to Him and became His followers, experiencing profound and even total change in their respective lives, therefore, we can see how the same applies to us as well.

This means that each and every one of us must take in and make the word of God, the revelations of God’s truth, all of His laws, commandments and teachings as preserved and taught to us through the Church, as the centre of our lives. And that is how we can grow in our faith and in our dedication to God. Our lives will surely experience change and transformation by God performing His work in us and through us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, a renowned orator and teacher of the faith, who was also a great bishop and committed servant of God. St. Peter Chrysologus was known as such, as ‘Chrysologus’, the Golden-Worded due to his great charism in his homilies, through which he explained in great clarity and detail the meaning and importance of the Word of God to the people.

Many people at that time adhered to various versions of the teachings of faith, even those which were deemed as heresies and improper. But St. Peter Chrysologus patiently and devoutly taught the true teachings of the faith through his carefully and wisely worded homilies and preachings, by which many of the people came to repentance because they listened to him and came to regret their sinful lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if this has happened before to our predecessors, surely we can also do the same with our own lives. We must not wait any longer, for if we continue to wait and continue to disobey God through sin, we may end up finding that it is too late for us, and we may end up in eternal damnation and suffering in hell. What is at stake for us, is nothing less than the fate of our eternal soul.

Therefore, let us all, from now on, put God as the priority and the focus of our life and our existence, and do our very best to serve Him, resisting the temptation to sin and always listening to His will. Let us all deepen our spirituality and prayerful relationship with God, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to God, our loving Father. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Matthew 13 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus offered His disciples another parable : “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches.”

He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast than a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise.” Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet : ‘I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.’

Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Deuteronomy 32 : 18-19, 20, 21

They have disowned the Rock Who fathered them; they have forgotten the God Who gave them birth. The Lord saw this, and in His anger rejected His sons and daughters.

He said, “I will hide My face from them and see what will become of them. They are so perverse, so unfaithful!”

“They made Me jealous with their false gods and angered Me with their idols. I will, therefore, make them envious of a foolish people, I will provoke them to anger with an empty-headed nation.”

Monday, 30 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Jeremiah 13 : 1-11

This is what YHVH said to me : “Go! Buy yourself a linen belt and put it around your waist; do not put it in water.” So I bought the belt as YHVH ordered and put it around my waist. The word of YHVH came to me a second time, “Take the belt you bought, the one you put around your waist, and go to the torrent Perah; hide it there in a hole in the rock.”

I went and hid it as YHVH instructed me. After many days YHVH said to me, “Go to the torrent Perah and get the belt I ordered you to hide there.” I went to the torrent and dug up the belt but it was ruined and good for nothing; and YHVH said to me, “In this way I will destroy the pride and great glory of Judah, this wicked people who refuse to heed what I say, this stubborn people who go after other gods to serve and worship them. And they shall become like this belt which is now good for nothing.”

“For just as a belt is to be bound around a man’s waist so was the people of Israel and Judah bound to Me – it is YHVH Who speaks – to be My people, My glory and My honour; but they would not listen.”

Sunday, 13 September 2015 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the core message of the Scripture readings from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as from the Gospel is about the Lord who came down to this world to dwell among us, and then brought us free from the chains and the bonds of sin that have kept us enchained and enslaved to suffering and death.

It was through the willing sacrifice, the willingness to bear all the huge burdens and the mountains of our sins that had been accumulated and is accumulating through time, as every man committed sin before God, on the weight of the cross that Christ our Lord had brought with Him as He walked down that road from Jerusalem towards Calvary, where He would give Himself up for the sake of all mankind.

The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is not just the physical burden of the wood that made it up. It is filled with the entirety of mankind’s sins and the punishments that were to be due for it. Ever since mankind had first sinned against the Lord, by disobeying Him and following their own path, they have been cast out from the grace and the love God had prepared for them, and they have gotten for themselves the sufferings of the world, for they have chosen the path of suffering by disobedience, and death claimed them as its own, as their sins brought about their mortality.

Yes, because of our sins, we would have endured eternal suffering and hell, not the hell filled with fire and all the imaginable forms of suffering as how hell was often illustrated like, but the hell of suffering due to the lack of the love of God, the lack and the total absence of hope, because God’s favour is not with us, and when we look on our Lord, our Father and Creator, He would say to us, “I do not know you, begone from My presence, you wicked people!”

But this is not to be the case, as our Lord is ever merciful and ever loving. Indeed, He despises all forms of sins and wickedness, all the disobedience and rebelliousness, all the evils that had kept us away from Him. Yet, God despises not each one of us individually and without good reason, but instead it is our sins He despises, and not us as a person.

Why is this so? That is because He knew that all of us have good in each one of us, and each of us has the potential for both good and for evil. He had crafted each one of us from the earth, from the dust and the ground, fashioned us in His own image and then breathed life upon all of us, giving us His own Spirit of life. The Lord created us pure and immaculate, although the taint of original sin once overshadowed us, but we have been freed though the works of Christ.

And as all of us were created pure and clean, white as wool and immaculate as an empty slate, then all of us have to write and define what our lives would become. And we have to realise that this faith which we have through baptism, by the Sacrament of Baptism we have been made clean, freed from the taints of any sins, our original sins, our other sins big and small.

But our faith should not be just that, and our faith cannot be just a mere profession of faith or a mere proclamation or testimony. That is not enough, as faith is more than just words or profession, but it involves true and real commitment, as St. James made it clear in his epistle or letter to the faithful in the Church, that faith without good works is just the same as a dead and nonexistent faith.

For faith that benefits us and the state of the salvation of our souls is the kind of faith which Jesus had taught us all through His many parables. Faith cannot just be left by itself or else it will perish and be gone without any good. Let is look into the parable of the sower that Christ had taught His disciples, which represents all of us, the faith which we have received, and the outcome of our faith depending on our actions.

The Word of God are the seeds of faith which God, the Sower had placed in our hearts, by the life He had given us, and by the truth which God had revealed to us through the Scriptures and through the Church. And yet, if we notice in that parable, depending on where the seeds fell, be it on the roadside, on rocky ground, amongst thorny bushes or amongst rich soil, the result of the crop is very, very different.

If our faith is not strong or founded upon solid foundation built by hard work, devotion and total commitment to the Lord, then it will be like the seeds that fell on the roadside, or on the rocky ground, or on the thorny bushes, because the devil comes and then plant his seeds of evil and dissension, and the temptations which he brings us all is too much for us to bear, and without deep roots in the faith, it is very easy for us all to fall back once again into sin and darkness.

That is why, in the Gospel today, we have to pay very close attention to what the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples, and how He rebuked Peter for refusing to believe what would happen to Him. To the feeble and easily tempted minds of men, it might indeed seem to be incoherent and impossible to hear Jesus speaking on one side, of His truth as the Messiah and Lord of all, but then on the other hand, to hear of His prophecy of His own suffering at the very hands of the people to whom He had been sent to.

Satan’s temptation is exactly that we may think that to follow the Lord is all good and easy, and when we find that it is not so, then we feel confused and vulnerable, and then Satan comes in to tempt us and to lure us back into sin, by offering us the alternative pathway that seems to be easier and without obstacle, unlike the path which we will face if we are to follow the Lord our God.

Jesus Himself had endured this when He was tempted by Satan in the desert during His forty days of fasting and preparation in the desert after His baptism by St. John the Baptist. At that moment, Satan tried to persuade Jesus to sin and to disobey the Lord without success, and He remained committed to the mission given to Him, that is the salvation of all mankind.

And when Satan saw that his temptations and attempts were thwarted, he tried yet again to persuade Jesus to abandon His ministry and works, by trying to dissuade Him from taking such a perilous task and enduring such sufferings for the sake of men, and indeed, a common argument for Satan in doing so is that mankind is not worth the great suffering which our Lord Jesus was to endure for the sake of all of us.

But to our Lord who loves us all beyond anything else, no pain or suffering is great enough to warrant Him to abandon us or to cast us out without trying to release us from the burden that had weighed us down all these while. He rebuked Satan and rejected him, and warned him that his dominion over men has come to an end, for God has come to take back His people, and He did so through the cross.

Tomorrow we shall be celebrating the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, and indeed it is very timely and apt that the celebration of the triumph of the Holy Cross ties in very closely to today’s readings and theme. It is indeed through the cross that our Lord had redeemed us all from our sins and bore the punishments meant for us, and He has also turned that symbol of ultimate shame and defeat, into the ultimate symbol of triumph and victory.

Now, all that remains for us is that, if we become the followers and disciples of Christ, we take a share in the suffering which He bore, the rejection and the ridicule He endured, not because of our sins, which have been taken from us and from which we have been redeemed, but it is because of the opposition and jealousy of Satan and all of his allies that had brought about this suffering.

Let us all ask ourselves, if we are able to renew our commitment which we made at our baptism, either by ourselves or by our godparents, and which we renew yearly at Easter. If we want to be true disciples of our Lord, then we must be ready to reject Satan and all of his lies and false promises, and embrace fully the way of the Lord. And indeed, as our Lord had told us, that we all have to bear our own crosses, following the path of our Lord towards eternal life.

This means that the path ahead will be filled with challenges and difficulties for us, and there will likely be opposition ahead, even from amongst those close to us. But if we are truly committed, then I am sure that even all these should not hinder us from moving onward. Carrying our cross may be heavy for us, but that is where we should help one another, and doing the will of God by loving our brethren and helping those in need are also in fact part of what carrying our own crosses is about.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us grow ever more confident in our faith, and let us devote ourselves more and more to our loving God, and commit ourselves not just in mere words and proclamations of faith, but even more, through our own actions and deeds, so that in all the things that we do, we proclaim the glory of God, carrying the crosses of our lives, and following Jesus, may all of us attain the eternal life God has assured all of us who keep our faith in Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 13 September 2015 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 27-35

At that time, Jesus set out with His disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi : and on the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told Him, “Some say You are John the Baptist; others say You are Elijah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked them, “But You, who do You say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And He ordered them not to tell anyone about Him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again.

Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took Him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turned around, and looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Then Jesus called the people and His disciples, and said, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.”

Sunday, 13 September 2015 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 2 : 14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food and one of you says, “May things go well for you; be warm and satisfied,” without attending to their material needs, what good is that? So it is for faith without deeds : it is totally dead.

Say to whoever challenges you, “You have faith and I have good deeds, show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act.”