Saturday, 27 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of the importance of obeying the Law and commandments of the Lord in our lives, to be obedient to God and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His cause. The Lord has called us all to follow Him and this is what we should be doing with our lives, to walk in His path faithfully and to do what He has asked us to do.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Deuteronomy the account of the moment when Moses spoke to the people of Israel with regards to the Law and the Commandments that God has revealed to them through him. God has given His people those laws and commandments in order to help and guide the people in their path and journey that they may remain firm and faithful to the path that He has shown them and not fall instead to the false ways and the temptations of the world.

Moses reminded the people to obey the ways of the Lord and to keep faithfully His precepts within their hearts, to understand and appreciate what it means to be God’s beloved and chosen people, that is to be those whom God had favoured and blessed. God has established His Covenant with Abraham, their forefathers and their other ancestors, and thus, as part of the Covenant that God had made and subsequently renewed with them, the people of Israel had to keep the Law and the commandments faithfully.

However, as history showed it through the accounts of the Scripture and others, the people of Israel did not always remain faithful. They fell again and again into sinful ways, abandoning God for the comforts of life and the allures of pagan idols and gods, and they forsake the Law and the commandments which they and their ancestors had sworn to keep as part of the Covenant between God and them.

Yet, as we can see throughout the Scriptures in the Old Testament, the Lord did not give up on His people as He kept on sending messengers and prophets, one after another to remind the people and to help them in finding their path back towards Him. The Lord then sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, to our midst to be the fulfilment of all the prophecies and the promises He has made, in saving those whom He loved, the sons and daughters of mankind.

And in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord told His disciples to show love to one another generously, especially towards those who have despised and been angry towards them, those who had persecuted them and made their lives difficult. The Lord wanted them all to show true love and generous charity, care and compassion towards one another, in the same way that He has loved them, for indeed, that is the true essence, meaning and purpose of the Law which He has imparted to all of them through Moses and the prophets.

Through the Lord and His revelation of truth, the waywardness of the people and all those who professed to follow the Law like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been exposed. Instead of just merely focusing on the superficial and the minute details of the Law and its many rules and regulations, but not understanding the true meaning and purpose of the Law, the Lord wanted all of us to be able to truly understand what His Law is all about, and ultimately how we can bring ourselves closer to Him through our true and wonderful obedience to His Law and commandments.

Many of our predecessors had not been faithful because they failed to understand that in order to have true and genuine faith in the Lord, we need to practice what we believe in within our own lives, to show the love we ought to have for God and to love Him just as He has loved us all these while. And the same love we should also show to our fellow brethren, to all those whom we encounter, and even, as the Lord Himself said, to show love to those who have not loved us and despised us. This is our calling as Christians, to be holy in life and to be exemplary in how we act towards one another.

And today we can also imitate the good examples set by St. Gregory of Narek, an Armenian saint and Abbot just recently elevated to the position of a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis and inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration in the Universal Church. St. Gregory of Narek was renowned for his piety and great contributions to the faith in Armenia where he was a priest and abbot, especially for his works on the literature work of the Book of Lamentations, a great compilation of poetry and other literary expressions of the love for God.

St. Gregory of Narek also worked on other literary pieces of work, and he was renowned for his piety as well, which inspired so many people throughout history. He showed his love for God through his own unique way, and we too can follow in his dedication and desire to love God in our own way of life. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all consider this carefully throughout this season of Lent so that we may make best use of this time to glorify the Lord anew through our lives.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us so that we may always persevere in faith despite all the challenges and the many temptations that we face daily in life. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 27 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 27 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

Saturday, 27 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

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.”