Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of the promise of God’s salvation and His ever present loving kindness in our midst, because we are all so fortunate to have been beloved by God. Each and every one of us are precious in the sight of God, without any exception. God is generous with His love and He will always be faithful to the Covenant He has made with us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord guiding His people Israel as they went in hurry out of the land of Egypt right after their very first Passover celebration, when the Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go free after the Lord sent the last Great Plague on the Egyptians, killing all the firstborn children of Egypt. God brought them and provided for them, and asked them to bring unleavened bread along with them as sustenance along the journey.

In the Gospel passage, we heard yet another time when the Lord revealed His salvation and great love for His people, through none other than the Saviour He Himself has promised, in Jesus Christ, His own Begotten Son, through Whom the whole race of mankind was to be saved from eternal damnation and from the fate of sure destruction. The Lord Who has once saved His people, now committed Himself to save all of them from certain death.

The liberation of Israel under the leadership of Moses in the Old Testament was indeed the prefigurement and prelude to the true liberation of not just Israel, but that of all mankind under the leadership of Christ. Just as the Israelites suffered under the tyranny of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, all of us mankind have suffered greatly under the bondage of sin, which corrupted us and brought us closer to eternal damnation.

God, Who loves each and every one of us, does not want destruction to be our fate, and therefore, He sent us the promised salvation through Christ, His own Son, by Whose wonders and works, He revealed the true extent of His love and generous mercy towards us, His own beloved people. Even though we have sinned against Him, constantly being stubborn and rebelled against Him, He still loves each one of us nonetheless.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, if God has loved us so much that He has been willing to show us all these wonderful love and blessings, shall we not then strive to show Him the same kind of love and commitment? Shall we not devote our time, effort and attention to He Who has been so generous and kind to us? Let us all think about this even as we carry on living our lives faithfully as Christians.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Apollinaris, a holy bishop and martyr, whose example in faith and whose dedication to the Lord can be a source of inspiration for us in how we should live our own lives with faith and dedication to the Lord. St. Apollinaris was one of the earliest bishops of the Church, successor to the holy Apostles of Christ. He was appointed as the first Bishop of Ravenna in what is today Italy, near the capital of the Roman Empire.

He was persecuted and suffered greatly with his flock during the persecution of Christians by the early Roman Emperors, but he continued to evangelise to the people and preach the Good News regardless, performing many miracles and wonders before the people. He was oppressed and made to suffer and it was told that later on he was arrested and persecuted as the leader of the Church in Ravenna, and yet, despite all these, he did not give up his efforts.

Instead, he continued to serve the Church faithfully and ministered to the people of God to the best of his abilities, which showed his dedication, commitment and love for God, as such courage and dedication would not have been possible without a heart that is so filled with genuine love for God and with true faith in Him. God has a centre part in his life, and this is what each and every one of us as Christians should be doing as well.

Let us all therefore contemplate and strive to do our best from now on, to become ever better Christians, through our own words, actions and deeds. May the Lord continue to guide us down the path to salvation in Him, and bless us all in our every good endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. But He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : Here is My Servant, Whom I have chosen; the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him; and He will announce My judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick until He brings justice to victory, and in Him, all the nations will put their hope.

Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 135 : 1, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 23, 24

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His kindness endures forever.

He slew the firstborn of Egypt, His kindness endures forever.

And brought Israel out, His kindness endures forever.

With strong hand and outstretched arm, His kindness endures forever.

He splits the Sea of Reeds, His kindness endures forever.

And made Israel pass through it, His kindness endures forever.

Drowning Pharaoh and his army, His kindness endures forever.

He remembered us in our humiliation, His kindness endures forever.

And freed us from our oppressors, His kindness endures forever.

Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

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

Exodus 12 : 37-42

The Israelites left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand of them on the march, counting the men only, and not the children. A great number of other people of all descriptions went with them, as well as sheep and cattle in droves.

With the dough they had brought with them from Egypt, they made cakes of unleavened bread. It had not risen, for when they were driven from Egypt they could not delay and had not even provided themselves with food. The Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. It was at the end of these four hundred and thirty years to the very day that the armies of YHVH left Egypt.

This is the watch for YHVH Who brought Israel out of Egypt. This night is for YHVH, and all the Israelites are also to keep vigil on this night, year after year, for all time.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture where we heard first of all the beginning of the Book of Exodus in which the people of Israel who have been living for many years in the land of Egypt were resented by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, who were afraid at their continuous growth and thriving community. The Pharaoh resorted to enslaving the Israelites and putting them under strict control and attempted even to wipe their young generation by ordering Hebrew boys to be killed.

The Pharaoh and the Egyptians treated the Israelites very terribly and they suffered a lot over those years when they were in slavery. But God did not forget about them or abandon them in the moments of their difficulty. Eventually, He sent them a deliverer, in the person of Moses, whom He prepared and protected despite the Pharaoh’s orders to kill all the newborn male babies of Israel. In time to come, he would be the one through whom God worked to free His people from bondage.

In the Gospel passage, God sent yet another Deliverer, and this One was sent into the world to save not just the people of Israel, but in fact the whole race of man, from our slavery, that is much worse than the slavery of the Israelites. For all of us mankind are in truth, have been enslaved to sin, because of our disobedience against God and His will. And sin has therefore subjugated us to its power, and because of that, we have been subjected to death as well.

Unless we are freed from this bondage to sin, we will end up being drawn deeper and deeper into the power of sin, and in the end, there will be nothing for us but destruction, suffering and pain that never end. But God’s love had made our salvation possible, through the giving of His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Saviour. And Christ, by the power of His divinity and authority, and by His loving sacrifice on the Cross, brought us all into the promise of eternal life free from sin.

Unfortunately, just like when Moses was sent among God’s people, the Lord Jesus encountered a lot of oppositions, a lot of challenges and difficulties. And He put it plainly to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that His coming into the world would not bring about immediately an era of eternal peace and happiness, unlike what the people at that time expected. The people expected that the coming of the Messiah would herald an era of great peace and glory for the people of Israel.

Moses had a lot of challenges as well, because his message to the people of God was initially met with skepticism and doubt, and they grumbled when the Pharaoh hardened his heart and made the people to work even harder when Moses performed great miracles before him and insisted that the Israelites were freed. And after God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, there would be many more challenges that Moses had to endure.

Along the way, the people constantly grumbled and refused to obey the Lord, even putting a golden calf as an idol they worshipped, following the pagan idols of the people they encountered along the way, acting in ways that were wicked and grumbling that they had been led into the desert to die, while they were at least having good life and plenty of food and drink in Egypt although they were enslaved.

In the same way therefore, many of us are also attached and bound by sin, as we resist the efforts of the Lord in bringing us closer to Him and to His righteous ways. The Lord Jesus had to go through a lot of resistance and opposition throughout His years of ministry, and many were against Him, as He Himself said that His coming into the world would bring about controversy, divisions, troubles, and difficulties for all those who follow Him.

The reason for this is because of sin, and because of the dangerous allure of sin that constantly tempts us to pursue the path of sin. And we have to understand that just as God freed His people from the bondage of slavery, He is also freeing us from the bondage we have to sin. In fact, it is God alone Who is capable of freeing us from the bondage to sin. He alone is capable of forgiving our sins.

But are we willing to be forgiven from our sins? It is often that we enjoy living in the state of sin, because sin seems to be better, more attractive and more enjoyable than the path that God shows to us. Therefore, it is important that each and every one of us are aware of the dangers of sin, and that we need to have the strength and resolve to resist the temptation to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps today we can be inspired by the good examples of St. Bonaventure, a devout and holy servant of God, whose life is truly an inspiration for each and every one of us. St. Bonaventure is a Franciscan who was renowned for his great many works and wisdom, for his great contributions to the Church and in the ministry of the episcopate he exercised, and later on as a Cardinal of the Church, he inspired many others through the ages to live an upright life before God.

Are we able to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to turn our hearts and minds totally to God and serve Him from now on with all of our strength? Let us all seek Him with ever greater conviction and be more courageous in living our lives faithfully. There will be plenty of challenges and difficulties along the way, but I believe that with God by our side, everything is possible.

May the Lord be our guide and may He continue to strengthen us along this journey, that we may walk ever more faithfully by His side, each and every days and moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man.”

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and proclaim His message in their towns.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 123 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-8

Had not YHVH been on our side – let Israel say – had not YHVH been on our side, when people rose up against us, then, they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more, and the flood would have engulfed us; the torrent would have swept over us; the raging waters would have swept us away. Blessed be YHVH, Who did not let us be devoured.

Like a bird, our soul escaped from the snare of the fowler; the snare that was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of YHVH, Who made heaven and earth.