Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages, we are called to reflect on the nature of our life, and how we should go about in living our lives. Our life is not just about us, or about our preoccupations in this world, all the temptations and things we possess. Rather, our lives must be based on the foundation of faith, hope and love, the three greatest virtues of our Christian lives.

In this world, we are always subjected to ever changing expectations and demands, as well as diverging customs and ways, and that was why, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord showed His dissatisfaction at the people, whose lack of the Christian virtues troubled Him, in how they treated Him and the prophets, including that of St. John the Baptist. They refused to listen to the word of God and the truth delivered to them, and instead made biased judgments on those whom the Lord had sent to save them.

The Lord however showed that the way forward for us, is not to depend on the ever changing and therefore unreliable judgments and ways of this world. To the world, there is never a satisfactory standard, as different people judge based on their own individual expectations and personal standards, and that was why, what was good for someone might be bad for another, and vice versa.

Instead, the Lord wants us to have this firm foundation of faith, of hope, and of love, as the core tenets of our lives. Faith refers to our commitment to God, and our belief in Him, in His salvation and in His saving help. Meanwhile, hope refers to the hope which we have in God’s love, in His coming deliverance and in the promise which He has made, to all of us who has kept our faith in Him, that He will grant us eternal life and glory with Him.

But all of these, as mentioned in the first reading today, in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, are nothing if not based upon the foundation of the most important virtue of all, that is love. For love is the very reason for the faith and hope which we have in God. We believe in God’s love, and that is our faith, and correspondingly, we also hope for His love. The love of God is at the centre and the focus of our lives.

And from God, love has come into our lives, and we know love because God has given us His love. And love is truly the only constant in our lives, which is universal. It does not matter where we are, in whichever communities or places, love, and that is, true love, is always the same, the selfless giving of oneself and the genuine, compassionate care which one shows to another person.

Without love, then all the things we do in life are empty, meaningless. For first of all, as man, all of us exist fo the greater glory of God, to praise and worship Him Who has created us and loved us. Without God’s love, none of us would have existed. Without His love, we would have fallen into the eternal damnation because of our sins and wickedness. It was because of His love, that God sent us our Saviour, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through Whom, He has released us from our bondage to our sins.

And it is love that makes the world move again, despite all the challenges and difficulties we mankind have encountered for countless millennia and ages. Through all the bitter trials and years of wars, conflicts, all sorts of destructions, it was love that eventually overcame all the bitterness, pain, hatred and sufferings. Indeed, there were many moments when vengeance, hatred, jealousy and all sorts of negative emotions have threatened to overcome us, but eventually love triumphed, again and again.

Without love, there can therefore be no faith, and no hope, and mankind would have always remained bitter forever. It is the warmth of love in our hearts that transformed us mankind from the people of darkness and wickedness that we were, into the people of light, and God’s beloved children. This is what each and every one of us as Christians have been called to, to be like God in all things, especially in love.

Because God is Love, and all of us who belong to God should therefore have love in our lives, in every actions we take and in everything we say and do. And today, we should follow the example of one of His saints, whose life and works were epitome of practicing love in our actions and life. And that saint is St. Januarius, Bishop of Benevento during the time of the Roman persecutions.

St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was remembered for his great piety and dedication to his flock, and his commitment to the Lord became a great source of inspiration even long after he has passed away. His courageous defence of his faith and love for God allowed him to endure the sufferings and the bitterness of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, infamous for its brutality and cruelty.

It was love that allowed St. Januarius to continue to be faithful despite all the challenges he had to encounter, the love for God and for his flock. He chose to endure the bitter sufferings of persecution, rather than to betray the Lord he loved, or to scandalise the faith which would end up in causing his flock to be lost to the faith and fall into hell.

To that extent, God glorified St. Januarius with the gift of His grace, that by his martyrdom and courageous display of faith, he was made saint of the Church, and with a very tangible and visible sample of holiness, by the means of the relic of his blood, which miraculously liquifies during the day of his feast, which is today.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courage and faith, and foremost of all, the love which St. Januarius showed us all, let us all as Christians therefore turn ourselves towards God with a renewed faith, hope and love in Him. Let us all devote our time, attention and love for Him, each and every days of our life, and not to forget our fellow brethren, in caring for the needs of those who need our love and attention, and more.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us. May He continue to love us and bless us, each and every days of our life. Let us all be renewed and become, from now on, true disciples and followers of God, the One Who is Love and perfect in love. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What comparison can I use for the people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not ear bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next, came the Son of Man, eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Corinthians 12 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 13 : 13

Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.

If I could speak all the human and Angelic tongues, but had no love, I would only be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, knowing secret things, with all kinds of knowledge, and had faith great enough to remove mountains, but had no love, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burnt, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me.

Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways. Likewise, at present, we see dimly, as in a mirror, but, then, it shall be face to face. Now, we know, in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now, we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard about the moment when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, as recounted by St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth. And then in the Gospel today, we heard of the Lord healing the servant of a Roman army centurion, by the great faith which he showed before all.

At that occasion, the Roman centurion, which was quite a senior leader within the structure of the Roman army, came to Jesus and begged Him to make his servant better and recover from the illness that affected the servant. He had a great faith in the Lord, as well as astute understanding of the socio-political landscape at the time.

Why is that so? That is because of what the Roman centurion told Jesus when He was about to go to his house in order to heal the centurion’s servant. The centurion spoke the words which each and every one of us now regularly recite during the celebration of the Holy Mass. “Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”

These words showed to us that the centurion understood well the possible negative implications and repercussions should the Lord Jesus came to his house. The Jewish customs and traditions of that time prescribed against entry or visit into the house of a pagan. If one was to enter the house of a pagan, then he or she would be considered as unclean.

As such, the centurion simply asked the Lord to say the words, and he believed that his servant would be healed within an instant. And this ought be contrasted with what we heard of the attitude of many of the people to whom the Lord had come for. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, many of the people and even Our Lord’s own hometown neighbours rejected Him, despite having seen directly with their own eyes the Lord’s wonders and miracles.

The centurion believed with all of his heart, and for his faith, his prayers were listened to by God, and were fulfilled. The Lord praised him for his faith, which not many people in Israel at that time possessed, as we have just discussed. Now, let us ask ourselves, do we have the same faith as what the Roman centurion had?

As we see in our first reading today, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He had with His disciples, just before He was about to suffer and die and fulfil completely the mission He was sent into this world. And it was also to fulfil what He Himself had said earlier on to the people, that He is the Bread of Life, and all who eat of the Flesh and drink of the Blood that He gives, will have eternal life.

Now, the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord are the very focus and centres of our Christian faith. Yet, unfortunately, the reality is that there are still so many of us Christians who have not taken this seriously, or even acted in ways that scandalised this essential Christian truth.

This is evident from how we lack the respect and reverence for the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, treating the Eucharist not as the Lord Himself present in His full and complete Presence, in the Body, Soul and Divinity. Our core Christian faith is that we believe that even though the bread and wine remains as such in appearance, but in reality, in substance and in truth, they have been transformed into the very Presence and Reality of Our Lord Himself.

Then, we cannot do what we have done so far any longer, all of our irreverent attitudes, our lukewarm faith and attitude towards the Holy Mass, our refusal to put our whole heart and indeed, our whole being to be with God, and our failures to put God to be at the centre of our lives.

Let us today follow the example of the Roman centurion, as well as that of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, devoted servant of God and dedicated reformer of the Church. All of them have shown us what it means to be true disciples and followers of God.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a great intellectual and theologian remembered for his many beautiful works and writings, through which he helped to rejuvenate the Church battered and assailed both from inside and outside by divisions, heresies and external threats. He drove the reform of the governance of the Church, taking issue with the bishops and ordinaries who did not commit themselves or reside with their flock.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the many other saints of his era, and past and present holy men and women have shown us that we must have that strong faith in God, and dedication in order to be worthy of God. Indeed, as the army centurion said, ‘I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof’, for he and all of us are sinners. Our sins have made us to be unworthy of God. But are we willing to allow God to exercise His wonderful work of mercy in us?

Remember that the army centurion also asked the Lord to heal his servant, and let us link it with what we always utter during the Mass, ‘but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed’. This is a calling for us all to put our trust in God and turn towards Him, looking forward for His mercy and love. We have to remember that ultimately, each and every one of us are God’s beloved ones.

May the Lord be with us, and continue to shower us with His love. May He empower each and every one of us, that we may continue to grow in faith, modelled after St. Robert Bellarmine, the faithful Roman centurion and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us. May God bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 7 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this, You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o YHVH, I did not seal – You know that very well.

But may all those who seek You, rejoice, and be glad in You; and may all who love Your saving grace continually say, “YHVH is great.”