Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the word of God through the Scriptures by which we are all reminded of our obligation as Christians to follow the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him through love, to be wholehearted in our faith and devotion at all times. In our first reading we heard from the Book of Revelations on a great multitude of saints in Heaven, glorifying God and worshipping Him while in our Gospel we heard of the offering of the poor widow at the Temple of Jerusalem.

Let us then begin with that account of the poor widow’s offering. The Lord and His disciples were at the Temple when the widow came to worship and offer her small offerings to the Temple treasury, a small gift of two coins, a very small sum, and yet, considering her poverty, it was likely a relatively very big sum of money for her. As she was already widowed as well, it was likely that she had difficulties making ends meet too.

Nonetheless, she still gave out of her poverty because of her faith in God, her genuine faith and belief in Him, as well as her sincere desire to love the Lord and her fellow brothers and sisters alike. Therefore, the Lord praised the poor widow’s actions before all of His disciples, showing that her faith and offering were greater than all the rich people who offered much more than her.

What matters here is the widow’s determination and love for God which is so great that she willingly gave even from her poverty and lack of things. Her love for God was greater than her love for herself and her possessions. Correspondingly, God Who knows everything inside our hearts and minds rejoice at her great faith, and her rewards in Heaven shall indeed be great.

In our first reading today as we heard from the Book of the Revelations of St. John, of the vision of the great multitude of saints in Heaven, numbering a hundred and forty-four thousand with many other innumerable holy ones who have been chosen and called, and answered to that call. Those saints and many among them being martyrs, had given their lives in the service of God, committing themselves to the Lord wholeheartedly, and suffered persecutions and trials for their steadfastness in faith.

They had also given their offerings to God, a pure offering of love and dedication, which the Lord desired more than sacrifices and other offerings of worldly nature. And hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the examples of the poor widow and in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, in how they dedicated themselves to God and loved Him with all their heart.

Today we also recall the memory of two great saints, namely Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them can truly inspire us on how to be faithful to God in all things, as we follow their good examples and experiences. Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter the Apostle who was renowned for his great hard work and efforts to establish and strengthen the Church, and steer the faithful through difficult and challenging times. Meanwhile St. Columban was an Irish missionary who established many monasteries and communities in what is today France and Northern Italy.

Pope St. Clement I was essential in his role in continuing the expansion of the Church that had begun from the time of the Apostles, as he also wrote extensively to the various communities throughout the Church, helping to enforce the orthodox and true faith against false heresies and other corruptions of the faith. He helped to steer the Church through intermittent persecutions of the Church particularly the harsh persecutions under the Roman Emperor Domitian. Eventually he was also martyred for his faith, and gave his life willingly for the glory of God.

St. Columban the Abbot was remembered for his establishment of numerous monasteries and monastic communities in Western Europe, and many flocked to join those communities. He also helped to maintain a rigorous discipline of the faith, known later as the Rule of St. Columban. He did not have it easy though, as he met oppositions and challenges from rulers and those who were wary and suspicious of his efforts. He also had his share of enemies, but all these did not stop him from his efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on the lives of these two saints and discern how we can move forward in life with ever greater devotion and be more willing and able to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May God help us all in this journey of faith, and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 21 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury of the Temple. He also saw a poor widow, who dropped in two small coins. And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all of them gave an offering from their plenty; but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.”

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

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

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

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

Revelations 14 : 1-3, 4b-5

I was given another vision : The Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, surrounded by one hundred and forty-four thousand people, who had His Name, and His Father’s Name, written on their foreheads. A sound reverberated in heaven, like the sound of the roaring of waves, or deafening thunder; it was like a chorus of singers, accompanied by their harps.

They sing a new song before the Throne, in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders, a song, which no one can learn, except the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been taken from the earth.

These are given, to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They are the first taken from humankind, who are already of God and the Lamb. No deceit has been found in them; they are faultless.

Thursday, 20 August 2020 : 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, in the Scripture passages today, we heard of the encouraging story of renewal and salvation that each and every one of us are to receive from God. We are reminded how God desires to make us whole again, cleanse and purify us from our sins, to renew us and to put a new heart and Spirit inside each and every one of us. This is a very clear sign of God’s enduring love for us, and all the more reason why we need to heed His call.

In our Gospel today, we heard a similar theme as we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking of the parable of the king and his son’s wedding banquet which alluded to the call that God has given to all of us His people. In that parable, a king held a grand and magnificent banquet for his son’s wedding, and invited everyone who had been known to the king and therefore, worthy of the joy that the king wanted to share as he celebrated his son’s wedding.

However, those who were invited to the banquet of the king refused to come for the wedding, although everything had been well prepared for them, and they truly ought to have been honoured to be invited as such. But they ignored the king’s invitation, pretended that they were busy and unavailable, found excuses of why they could not attend the wedding banquet to which they had been generously and kindly invited to, and there were even those who persecuted and killed the servants sent to them.

This is a reference and also a sad reminder of how many of us mankind, who are the sharers and invitees to God’s great and wonderful heavenly banquet, and yet, we did not appreciate just how fortunate and blessed we are to be part of this great banquet of the Lord, to be part of His great Covenant and to enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. Instead, we busied ourselves with the many worldly matters and desires, concerns and other things that distracted us.

That is why we rejected His love and mercy, preferring to chart our own path rather than trusting in Him and following Him. We shut ourselves from His generous love and kindness because we thought that we know better how to live our lives. And this is where we need to realise that unless we follow the path that the Lord has shown us, we are likely to fall into sin, and from sin, into eternal darkness and death, for there is no salvation outside God and His Church.

And then, we heard in the same parable, how the king then told his servants to gather everyone they could find, that they filled in the seats that those unworthy guests had refused to fill up earlier on. All the people were gathered into the banquet, from all sorts of places, and whether good or bad. All of these are symbolic of how God’s kingdom and His salvation are truly open to everyone and all have equal chance to receive His inheritance and to be part of His glorious kingdom.

However, we must then take note of how when one of the guests did not turn up in the right garment in attending the wedding, as is customarily expected at the time, and which is surely also expected in our communities today, an the king ordered the guest to be taken out and thrown into the outer darkness. While the turn of events might confuse and surprise some of us, but in fact, this reminds us also that while everyone is welcome and has been called by God to enter into His kingdom, but we must also wear the right ‘garment’ in order to do so.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Just as the Lord said in our first reading today through the prophet Ezekiel that He would renew us and put a new heart and Spirit in us, therefore, this ‘garment’ refers to the new self that we put on, replacing our old selves of sin and darkness. Through baptism, we have been cleansed from the taint and corruption of our original sins, and we have received a new life, sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ.

But we must also remain faithful to that Covenant and path we have chosen in God, as baptism is only just the beginning of a new journey of life, and not a happy ending. Baptism sets us on the right path and direction, but we must maintain our direction by remaining focused on God, and keeping our lives virtuous and filled with faith and love for God, as well as the love for our fellow brothers and sisters. We must not succumb again to the temptations that led us to ignore God’s love and mercy as I mentioned just earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern carefully our path in life going forward from now on as we reflect on these Scripture passages today. Have we lived our lives as God has called and taught us to? If we have not, then perhaps it is time indeed for us to take on the ‘garment’ of faith and discard the old sinful self of ours. Today, let us all also be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernard, a famous and dedicated holy saint of God, a holy man and Abbot.

St. Bernard, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a renowned Abbot who was instrumental in the major reform in the monastic practices in the early Medieval era, especially among the Benedictine monks that St. Bernard was an Abbot of, and he was also renowned for his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, St. Bernard was instrumental in his efforts opposing heretical teachings and also in improving the then increasingly lax spirituality, discipline and morality among not just the monks, but also the general Christian population.

He encountered many difficulties throughout his life and ministry, but all these did not hinder or discourage St. Bernard in his dedication to the Lord and His Church. In time, his efforts began to bear fruit as more and more people came to be attracted by his reforms, and many began to commit themselves to monastic life following the rigorous reforms enacted by St. Bernard for stricter discipline and deeper spiritual life.

St. Bernard even attracted his own family members to join religious life, and through his other efforts, his many writings and contributions, he inspired many others through his faith and dedication, and was even instrumental in making peace among states and kingdoms that were then feuding and in conflict with each other. And through all these and many other deeds, St. Bernard of Clairvaux has shown us, what it means for us to live with faith, and to wear our ‘garment’ of faith with joy and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all proceed forth in life, with a new heart and Spirit filled with love and devotion to God. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith, and be ever more committed, each and every moments of our lives, to be good Christians, to be faithful children of God, and to be worthy to enter into the eternal kingdom of God. May God be with us always and guide us all into eternal life that He has prepared for us. Amen.

Thursday, 20 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 22 : 1-14

At that time, Jesus continued speaking to the people in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again, He sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see the wedding guests, and he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding clothes?'”

“But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Thursday, 20 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Thursday, 20 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 36 : 23-28

I will make known the holiness of My great Name, profaned among the nations because of you; and they will know that I am YHVH, when I show them My holiness among you. For I will gather you from all the nations and bring you back to your own land. Then I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean – cleansed from the defilement of all your idols.

I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put My Spirit within you and move you to follow My decrees and keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you shall be My people and I will be your God.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard first of all from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the description of a great vision that Isaiah received, as he saw the marvellous glory of God, the magnificent Throne of God and His divine majesty, enthroned among the Seraphim and Cherubim, the greatest among the Angels of God. The Lord showed Isaiah that vision to strengthen him and to make him know how He has chosen him to bear His words to the people and to proclaim His truth and prophesy in His Name.

And therefore, from then on, Isaiah after he enthusiastically answered God’s call with, ‘Here I am! Send me!’, went on to serve the people, speaking God’s words among them, encouraging them as shown at the moment when king Sennacherib of Assyria came up to besiege Jerusalem with a mighty army and mocked both God and the king, Isaiah reassured both the king of Judah and the people, that God would be with them and that for all the boasts and hubris of the Assyrian king, he was nothing compared to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sure enough, no sooner that the Assyrian king had made his boast, blaspheming against God, that the Lord sent His Angels against the king’s mighty army, and wiped them all out with a great disaster and plague, that when morning broke, hundreds of thousands were dead and the Assyrian king Sennacherib had to abandon his siege and retreat back to his lands in shame. Through this, God showed that He is truly the One in charge, and the Master over all things.

And through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has also promised His people that He would bring them salvation and liberation, as He renewed His promise of the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was extensively spoken about in many of Isaiah’s prophecies. Through all these assurances, the Lord again wanted His people to have faith in Him and to keep their trust in Him, that despite everything that they might have suffered and endured because of their sins, their wickedness and disobedience, but God was always ready to welcome them back and be reconciled with them.

This reconciliation came about and was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the One Whom the prophet Isaiah had been prophesying about. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the whole world has seen the salvation of God, and the world that was once filled with darkness and uncertainty, have seen the light and hope of God, finally revealed to all. And Christ reiterated again and again, including in what we have heard in our Gospel today, how we are truly fortunate to have God Who loves us all dearly and considers us precious.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord spoke of the trust that we ought to have in God because of just how precious we are in the sight of God, how beloved we are and how fortunate we are because every single one of us are blessed and important to God, no matter how small or insignificant we may think we are. The Lord has shown again from time to time, throughout history, how He has protected His faithful ones and provided for them in their time of need. And even at the darkest and the most vulnerable moments, when we mankind have no where else and nothing and no one else to turn to, the Lord is and will always be there for us.

But are we willing to accept Him? Are we even aware that He is always there for us, providing for us and granting us what we need? The Lord has shown us His ever present love and attention, but many of us have abandoned Him, left Him for other things, for worldly comforts and desires, for all sorts of temptations that made us more and more distant, and became more and more separated from God. That is why today we are reminded through these Scripture passages, to turn once again towards God if we have forgotten about Him or abandoned Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have to remember how we are truly beloved by God and precious to Him, and then, even more importantly, we are called by God to do His will, to follow in the footsteps of the prophet Isaiah and help others to find their way back to God, and to remind them all of how great and loving God has been towards us. All of us have been called and share in this calling through our baptism, that we all are charged with spreading the word of God, to lead others to Him.

St. Benedict, holy Abbot and great father of Christian monasticism in the Western Christendom can be our great source of inspiration, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. Benedict, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was a great and holy servant of God, renowned for his piety and commitment to live a life of purity and prayer dedicated to God. He was born in a Roman noble family and had a good upbringing and life, but as he continued his education in Rome, the immorality and wickedness he witnessed made him to want to seek God.

As a result, he and his sister, St. Scholastica, began to seek God through prayerful life and retreat away from the world. Through his efforts and example, the foundations for Christian monastic practices in the Western Christendom were established, as he inspired many others to follow him in a life of asceticism and prayer dedicated to God, living in a close-knit community, and wrote the rule which would be remembered for many centuries and generations since, the Rule of St. Benedict, which would also inspire the rules in the many other monastic orders.

Through his life, St. Benedict inspired many people to turn once again towards the Lord, some of whom decided to follow his way of life and become an ascetic and monk, while others endeavoured to lead a better life more connected to God, through greater charity, life more attuned to God and more righteous and just in all of their dealings. Are we able to inspire others just as St. Benedict had done? That is why we need to follow God wholeheartedly and make our lives a great reflection of our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He make us all great instruments of His presence in this world. May He grant us the strength and courage to be ever faithful, dedicated to Him as how the prophet Isaiah and the many other prophets, and as St. Benedict of Nursia and the many other holy saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. May all of us be ever faithful, and be great and committed disciples of the Lord, in words, deeds and actions, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”