Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 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, on this day as we listened to the Word of God in the Scripture passages we heard, we are reminded of what it truly means for us to be Christians, and in particular, those among of us who have been called to a greater purpose through the service of God, the expectation of their actions and righteousness in life because ultimately all of us Christians must be role models in faith for one another, and those who have been called to the greater service of God are examples and role models for us to follow.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to St. Timothy went through a series of characteristics and attitudes which the elders and leaders of the Church ought to have. These elders, also called as overseers, of which St. Timothy also belonged to, eventually became the successors of the Apostles as the bishops of the Church. St. Paul who helped to establish the Church and firming its foundations throughout the Mediterranean therefore wanted the elders and leaders of the Church to be as devoted and righteous as they can be to inspire and strengthen the rest of the faithful.

This is important because while all of Christians at that time believe in God and profess their faith in the salvation in Jesus Christ, but it is through their leaders, the Apostles and all those whom God had called to be the deacons, the priests and the bishops of the Church that they remained strong and rooted in their faith despite the many persecutions and challenges that they had to go through especially in those earliest years.

If those leaders and servants of God’s people did not live their lives with good faith and with good actions, then it would not bode well among the faithful and in fact could cause scandal of the faith that would end up pushing the people away from God or causing bitter divisions and further challenges within the Church that was already under quite an intense persecution at that time.

From among the deacons themselves, very early on we have heard of St. Stephen who was the very first martyr of the Church, martyred and killed just because he stood up for his faith with courage and spoke with the strength of the Holy Spirit when he was persecuted and accused wrongly of blasphemy by his enemies. And yet, at the same time, he followed Christ’s example in loving even his enemies and forgiving them with his dying breath.

And amongst the priests and bishops there were also innumerable martyrs, all those who have given their lives and all for the greater glory of God and for the love they had for the people entrusted under their care. All of these faithful servants of God had exemplified well what true Christians should be like and how they have followed Christ with all of their hearts and minds, and with all of their strength.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also expected to do the same with our own lives, in how we should follow the footsteps of the Apostles, all those holy bishops, priests, deacons and martyrs of the faith who have given their all for the service of God and His Church. And today, we celebrate the feast of yet another one of these many faithful servants of God, namely St. Robert Bellarmine whose life and devotion to God can be yet another inspiration for us all to follow.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a renowned Italian Cardinal and member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. He was also one of the Church’s few Doctors of the Church for his many contributions to the faith and to the Church, in his courageous stand for his faith amidst the turbulent years in the Church’s history beset by many problems in particular that of the reformation heresy and divisions. He was one of the most important contributors to the Counter Reformation efforts.

St. Robert Bellarmine was remembered for his great many works on theology and other aspects of the faith, and his many devout contributions that eventually made the Pope to decide to elevate him to the Cardinalate in which capacity he continued to serve the Church in various efforts he undertook to purify the Church from corruptions and worldly influences. He worked hard all the time despite the oppositions and challenges he faced from various sources.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Stephen and all of the other holy saints and martyrs, all those who have given their lives to the service of God should become our sources of inspiration in how we should live our own lives with faith from now on, that in each and every days of our lives and in everything we say and do, we will always do them for the greater glory of God.

Let us all grow ever deeper in our commitment and faith towards God, and let us all grow ever closer in our relationship with Him, and be ever more courageous and strong to stand up for our faith especially when we are faced with challenges and difficulties in life. Let us all be good examples of our true Christian faith and our genuine devotion to God, that many others may also follow in our footsteps. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 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 : 11-17

At that time, a little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us. God has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 100 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6

I will sing of Your love and justice; to You, o YHVH, I will sing praise. I will walk the way of integrity – o YHVH, when will You come to me?

With a blameless heart, I will walk within my house. I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the deeds of faithless people.

He who deals with others treacherously, I will silence. He who talks and acts arrogantly, I will not endure.

I will choose from the faithful of the land, those who may dwell with Me; only the upright shall be My servant.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Timothy 3 : 1-13

If someone aspires to the overseer’s ministry, he is, without a doubt, looking for a noble task. It is necessary, that the overseer (or bishop) be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, responsible, judicious, of good manners, hospitable and skilful in teaching.

He must not be addicted to wine, or quarrelsome, but be gentle and peaceful, and not a lover of money, but a man whose household is well-managed, with obedient and well-mannered children. If he cannot govern his own house, how can he lead the assembly of God? He must not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited, and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must enjoy a good reputation among the outsiders, lest people speak evil about him, and he fall into the snare of the devil.

Deacons, likewise, must be serious and sincere, and moderate in drinking wine, not greedy for money; they must keep the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Let them be first tried and, if found blameless, be accepted as deacons. In the same way, the women must be conscientious, not given to gossip, but reserved and trustworthy.

A deacon must be husband of one wife, and must know how to guide his children and manage his household. Those who serve well as deacons will win honourable rank, with authority to speak of Christian faith.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us and reminding us about faith that each and every one of us should have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between us and God, through what He has done lovingly for our sake, by His sacrifice, suffering and death on the Cross. We must have that trust in His love and providence as what we have heard the army centurion had done in our Gospel today.

For the context, the army centurion or commander who was mentioned in the Gospel today and met the Lord Jesus on the way, asking for His help in healing his very sick servant, was likely a non-Jewish person or a Gentile. That was because the whole region of Judea, Galilee, Samaria and indeed the entire Mediterranean region were under the power and rule of the Roman Empire. Even though at that time parts of the Israel was still somewhat autonomous under the rule of the descendants of King Herod, but many of the state apparatus and the military had been subsumed by the Romans.

It was likely that the army centurion was either a Roman or at least a Greek. And in that context, we can see an even greater surprise and astonishment that would have happened among all those who followed the Lord. The disciples of the Lord definitely would not have expected that an army centurion of such a high rank, feared by many and considered as a pagan would act in such a way that showed just how great his faith was in God and how firm he was in his belief.

The Jews at that time held firm in their pride of being the descendants of God’s chosen people, the Israelites and looked down upon the Gentiles as pagans and unworthy people, and in particular, the many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law exhibited this bias in the strongest manner. Imagine their astonishment if they can see just how strong the faith and how genuine the dedication that army centurion had in the Lord.

And the irony was such that those same people who took great pride in themselves being God’s chosen people, refused to believe in the One Whom God Himself had promised since the beginning of time, the Saviour Whom He had promised to send into the world to bring about its salvation. Instead of welcoming Him and listening to His truth, many of the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and the Jewish people rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him.

Yet, it was that army centurion, supposedly pagan and unworthy in the eyes of the Jews who truly welcomed the Lord into his heart and mind, putting his whole trust to Him without condition and hesitation. And when the army centurion asked of the Lord for a favour saying that he is not worthy to have Him in his place and just by His words alone that his servant would be healed. That in fact showed just how much he trusted in the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is often that we need to see and to experience something directly in order for us to believe in something. For someone to be able to trust just by the weight of words alone means someone must have really trusted in the other person, and that is exactly what the case is for the army centurion in his belief in the Lord. Are we able to have this kind of faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we have to ponder on the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church during the particularly vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. St. Cyprian meanwhile was the influential Bishop of Carthage and Church leader whose works with Pope St. Cornelius were important for the strengthening of the Church through the turbulent times and for the salvation of many souls.

At that time, there was a bitter division in the Church led by the influential Novatian, who held the position that Christians who have left the Church or obeyed the state’s commands of offering sacrifices to the pagan gods and idols could not be welcomed back into the Church and that the Church remained shut off to those people. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian vehemently opposed this argument and strove to show the Church that welcomed sinners who returned to the faith.

Eventually, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian would be martyred for their faith, but this is not before they had worked hard to convince the Church and the Christian communities to remember how each and every one of them were sinners before God, and also for us, remembering what we have listened from the Scriptures, that we must never be proud or be exclusive in our attitudes in faith.

Just as the army centurion was able to show such a great and wonderful faith in God despite being supposedly a pagan and most unlikely to have faith, therefore, we cannot take the position of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or that of Novatian, who took pride in their status as God’s chosen people to the exclusion of others whom they thought to be less worthy or inferior.

Let us all then be open to God’s love and also be open-minded in our interactions with one another, with the intention for the good of one another’s condition in life and faith. Therefore let us all together as one people be more committed and be more faithful, looking upon in particular, the faith of the army centurion which is so genuine and real, and aim that our own faith and devotion to God may be like his. May God bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 27 : 2, 7, 8-9

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your innermost Sanctuary.

YHVH is my strength, my shield; my heart was sure of Him; I have been helped and my heart exults; with my song I give Him thanks.

YHVH is the strength of His people, the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, be their Shepherd and carry them forever.