Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by God through His words in the Scriptures not to put our trust in any worldly things or dependencies, but instead put our whole trust in the Lord our God alone. If we place our trust in the world, all the glories, power and wealth it can give us, then in the end, what we will face is just disappointment and regret as our Scripture passages today should remind us of the truth.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Greek Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes in continuation of the narrative of this week from the Book of the Maccabees. King Antiochus IV was the same king who ordered all the people in his whole Empire including the descendants of Israel in Judea to abandon their laws and customs, their faith and worship of God for the pagan worship of the Greek gods, and enforced Greek customs and ways on them.

And for that purpose and end, the king persecuted many of those who remained faithful to their dedication and faith in God, and those who refused to abandon their faith were put to great suffering and many even met death in martyrdom. That was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in which the Maccabees, the sons of Mattathias, one of the faithful Jew, rose up against the king in revolt, seeking to free themselves from his tyranny.

In today’s first reading then, we heard of the great campaign carried out by king Antiochus IV as he went to the land of Persia and Media to reclaim parts of the kingdom which once belonged to his predecessors but had been lost in the past decades. We can see from all these that king Antiochus IV was a stubborn and ambitious man, who sought above all the glory of the world, power and majesty above everything else that he was willing to go against God.

Yet, as we have heard and witnessed from history, for all of his pursuits and aims for greatness, king Antiochus IV failed in all of his efforts, as not only that his religious policies and oppressions led to rebellions particularly in the lands of the Jewish people, but he also failed terribly in his efforts to reclaim the lost lands of his predecessors and his plans to gain the wealth and taxes from those lands. And he ended up dying and meeting his end in regret and sorrow.

This is then related to what we have also heard from the Gospels today, in which we heard of the exchange and debate between the Lord Jesus and the group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were one of the major and very influential groups at the time of Jesus, in contrast to the Pharisees. While the Pharisees were those who were very spiritual and particular of the commandments and the Law of God, the Sadducees on the other hand were like the ‘secular’ party, who did not believe in many of the tenets of the Law.

The Sadducees did not believe in Angels and spiritual things, and neither did they believe in the resurrection from the dead. To them, the life in this world as they enjoyed was the ideal and death was nothing more or less than the end of all the joy and happiness. This fits the personality of the Sadducees perfectly as they were men of this world, those with positions of power and close connections to the king and members of the ruling class.

As they debated and asked the Lord with regards to whether the woman who had seven brothers as husbands had any one of them as her husband in the afterlife, they were in fact thinking in a worldly manner, thinking and wondering if they could retain the possessions, wealth and things in this world as how they have enjoyed it even to the afterlife. They could not bear to part with all of that they have gained and enjoyed in life, just as how king Antiochus IV himself also behaved.

But all of these had led many among us mankind into our downfall as they made us to be greedy and obsessed with all the worldly concerns and things that often distract us, mislead us and bring us further and further away from the path towards God and His salvation. And many of us also failed to realise until it was too late, that none of these things will last forever, and the joy and happiness they provided were merely temporary and not true joy, unlike what God can give to all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all instead as Christians seek for the true joy and happiness in God, by learning from the examples of our holy predecessors in faith, the two saints whose feasts we are celebrating on this very day, namely that of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them had led holy and wonderful lives committed to God, which we ourselves can imitate and follow in our own lives. All of us should look up to the examples of these two holy men for inspiration.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the Pope of the Church, remembered for his great zeal and faith, for his tireless dedication to build and maintain the Church through difficult years of persecution and struggles. He was known for his many letters and Epistles to the various parts of the Church through which he reminded the faithful to keep their faith strongly in God and to persevere through the challenges and trials that they had to face.

And like the other early Church fathers and the Apostles, Pope St. Clement I had to suffer persecution as well, as it was told that he was arrested and put into exile, and he was also put into hard labour as part of his imprisonment and suffering. In the end, Pope St. Clement I was martyred, but he met his death with joy, unlike king Antiochus IV who met it with regret and the Sadducees who feared it, because Pope St. Clement I knew that God was with him, and he would receive the gift of eternal life and glory from Him.

Meanwhile, St. Columban the Abbot was a famous and pious Irish missionary who was a great missionary and abbot, who helped to strengthen the foundations of the Church and also monastic practices of the Church of his time, as he helped in the establishment of many monasteries and places that eventually attracted many monks and people who wanted to serve the Lord through prayer. St. Columban was remembered for his great dedication to God, his enduring love and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the examples which these two holy men had set for us. Let us all follow in their footsteps and grow in our own faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us through life, and may He help us to remain faithful to Him and to love Him with ever greater devotion from now on so that we may look beyond earthly things and desires, and seek only His eternal kingdom and glory. May God bless us all and our good works for His sake, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, then some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.’”

“Now, there were seven brothers : the first married, but died without children. The second married the woman, but also died childless. And then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 4 and 6, 16b and 19

Let my heart give thanks to YHVH, I yearn to proclaim Your marvellous deeds, and rejoice and exult in You; and sing praise to Your Name, o Most High.

For my enemies fell back in retreat, they stumbled and perished before You. You have turned back the nations; You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their names forever.

The feet of the pagans were ensnared by the trap they laid. For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Maccabees 6 : 1-13

When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander, the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks.

So Antiochus went there. But the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learnt of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. He had to turn back; and he returned much embittered to Babylon. While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews, who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighbouring armies.

He heard, too, that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and had rebuilt the Temple walls to the same height as before; and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur. When he received this news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned.

So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt he was dying, so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me – I who was generous and well-loved when in power – and now I am so discouraged.”

“Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know, that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me; and I am dying of grief in a strange land.”

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord speaks to us through our Scripture passages on the matter of being called and chosen by God, as we heard from the first reading passage taken from the Book of Judges on the calling of Gideon, one of the Judges of Israel and also from the Gospel passage where we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples on following Him and how they have all followed Him and served Him.

In our first reading today, God called Gideon to become His instrument in becoming the Judge over Israel, to be the one through whom God would act on behalf of His people. At that time, as mentioned in the passage, the people of Israel were oppressed by the Midianites who invaded the land of Israel and imposed their power and dominion over them, causing suffering and trials for God’s people.

But all of that were also caused by the failure of the people to be faithful to God, their loving Father and Creator. They preferred to follow their own paths and their own desires rather than to follow the laws and the precepts of God. Yet, this did not make the love that God has for them become any lesser or weaker. Instead, He continued to love them and cared for them regardless, and that was why He called the Judges to bring about reprieve and liberation for His beloved ones.

And today, as we heard about the calling of Gideon the Judge, we see how God called not the greatest and the mightiest in this world to become His servant and instrument by which He performed His wonderful works. Gideon himself admitted that his family and tribe were among the lowliest and humblest in terms of prestige, social strata and ranking among the whole nation of Israel, and yet, God called His servant from among his family.

Now, as we move on to our Gospel passage today, we can see the clear comparison between the calling of Gideon the Judge with that of the calling of the Apostles of Jesus Christ our Lord. The Lord had called His disciples and the twelve of them in particular He had chosen to be His Apostles, the leaders and the inner circle of His confidants and servants, whom He called from their various backgrounds and origins, much like how Gideon had been called.

God did not choose or call those who were powerful and mighty, those who were influential or beloved by many, those who were skilled and intellectual by the standards of the world to be His instruments. In this world, the norm would have been for us to seek those who are of good qualities as I have just mentioned to be our friends and followers, but God works by a different way and standard. He calls the ordinary people and makes them extraordinary by His power, providence and grace.

And God reassured all those whom He had called, when His disciples asked that of Him, that those who have dedicated themselves to Him, He will provide and protect, and they will not be disappointed for God is always ever faithful. Indeed, in that same reassurance, God also made it clear how in following Him, those whom He had chosen would have to endure sufferings, challenges and trials, and would also have to make many sacrifices, but as long as God is by their side, they truly have nothing to fear.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to God’s call in our own respective lives? As those whom God had chosen and called as Christians, as those who have professed our faith in Him, all of us are called to walk in His way and to proclaim His truth among the nations of this world. Are we able to commit ourselves as Gideon had committed his life and how the Apostles and those who followed the Lord, the innumerable saints and martyrs had done all these while?

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernard the Abbot, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned saint and abbot of the religious order later known as the Cistercians. He was the one who helped to reform the monastic practices at the time, and founded the Cistercian order based on his reforms and works. He was remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, and for his many writings and works, which still inspired and influenced many even many centuries after his passing to this day.

St. Bernard’s great faith and love for God ought to be our compass and guide in how each and every one of us should also love God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to His cause from now on. And having heard from all these examples we have from our holy predecessors, let us all be driven by our passion and strong desire to love and serve the Lord to the best of our abilities from this moment forth. May the Lord continue to strengthen us in our resolve and commitment to serve Him faithfully from now on, that we will always glorify Him in our daily actions and deeds. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 19 : 23-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you : it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe Me : it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On hearing this, the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see, we have given up everything to follow You. What, then, will there be for us?”

Jesus answered, “You, who have followed Me, listen to My words : on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on His throne in glory, you, also, will sit, on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for My Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first, will be last, and many who are now last, will be first.”

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.