Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to be faithful to God, and to believe in Him and His providence, to do His will because all of us who are faithful to Him and remain true to our commitment to Him will not be disappointed, as God knows all of our actions and dealings, and whatever we have done, our every small little actions, for the greater glory of His Name, shall be rewarded in the end.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken to His people through the prophet Joel, who was active during the years following the return of the descendants of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. To put things in context, the people of Israel had by then endured a lot of humiliations and sufferings because of their past sins, due to their stubborn refusal to follow the Lord and to believe in His words and the prophets that had been sent to them.

They had been beaten, oppressed and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Their cities and towns were destroyed, and they were forced to leave their ancestral homeland for a faraway exile in Assyria and Babylon, and seeing pagans and foreigners taking over the ownership of their lands. Their Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God was destroyed, a House which they themselves had long forgotten and abandoned for the worship of pagan gods and idols.

The Lord never forgot about His people though, and continued to love them despite of all the troubles and the betrayals they had done to Him. He loved them regardless and desired to reconcile themselves to Him, to love them once again and to extend His merciful hands to be reunited with them. He guided them and sent His prophets to them, and after many decades, gathered them back and through King Cyrus of Persia, led them back to their homeland, and allowing them to rebuild their towns and the Temple of God.

Therefore, through the prophet Joel, God wanted to remind His people to stand by His side and to remain faithful to Him so that they will no longer experience those periods of sufferings and challenges, and even if they were to suffer from difficulties and challenges, the Lord would be by their side and they would triumph together with Him, for He will come in the end to gather them all and lead them into the true joy and glory with Him, at the very end of time.

As we heard in our short Gospel passage today, we are all then reminded that in order to do this, what we all need to do is to be faithful to God and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly, by doing His will and obeying His laws and commandments. To do the will of God is the calling for us all as Christians, and we should do our very best to live a virtuous and exemplary life, to the best of our ability, so that even in the smallest things that we do, we will always remain faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us also follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors, namely St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom, as well as St. John Leonardi, faithful servants of God and saints whose feasts we are celebrating today. We should delve into their lives’ examples and be inspired with how they had led lives that were centred and focused on God, and how they had shown great faith despite the many challenges and trials they had encountered in life.

St. Denis was the Bishop of Paris during the time of the later Roman Empire, during a time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors and the state. St. Denis was sent from Rome by Pope St. Fabian, and was tasked with the evangelisation and conversion of Roman Gaul, together with several other missionaries. They encountered great challenges while having a lot of successes as well, and that time, when the Emperor Decius declared a great persecution against Christians, he and the other missionaries were arrested.

St. Denis and his companions were tortured and made to suffer for their faith in God, and they refused to give in, and finally, were led to their execution, which St. Denis suffered by beheading, together with his fellow martyrs. However, in a most miraculous and amazing occasion, St. Denis remained alive even after he was beheaded, and he picked up his head, and the head preached to the people as he walked for many kilometres, to many awed witnesses and even those who were involved in the execution. It was at the place where he stopped and finally passed into heavenly glory, that he was buried and where a great church, the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris now stands.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was an Italian priest and founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, who lived about five centuries ago. As a priest, he was remembered for his great dedication to his flock, the parishioners and the other members of the faithful whom he dedicated himself to, in the formation of young adults in the faith among other things. He also popularised the devotion of the Forty Hours and the Eucharist to the faithful, which was meant to bring them closer to God.

St. John Leonardi also worked hard to implement the many reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent, while also proposing to the Pope for the formation of a religious order that is focused on the reforms of the Church and greater discipline in faith, which eventually became a reality with the foundation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, gathering many like-minded people who seek to serve the Lord following the charism and efforts of St. John Leonardi. Through his faith and dedication, and his perseverance, in facing the challenges and opposition he had for his efforts, St. John Leonardi has shown us, just as St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom had, on how to be truly faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord and let us do our very best to follow Him, and to walk in His path, so that in everything we do, we will always glorify Him and be exemplary and inspirational in our way of life, such that many more people may come to believe in the Lord through us and our examples. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us in our journey of faith, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully from now on. Amen.

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Psalm)

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

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in YHVH, you, who are blameless; and give praise to His holy Name.

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (First Reading)

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

Joel 4 : 12-21

Rise up, o people, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, nations. Bring a sickle for the harvest is ripe; come and tread, for the wine press is full, and the vats overflow; so great is their wickedness! Multitudes and more multitudes in the Valley of Verdict! The day of YHVH is near in the Valley of Verdict! The sun and the moon become dark, the stars lose their radiance.

YHVH roars from Zion and raises His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth are shaken. Indeed, YHVH is a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites. You will know that I am YHVH, your God, dwelling on Zion, My holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place; and foreigners will never pass through there again.

On that day, the mountains shall drip wine and the hills flow with milk; all the streams of Judah will run with water; and a fountain will spring from the house of YHVH, and water the valley of Shittim. On the other hand, Egypt will be devastated; and Edom will become a deserted wasteland, because they committed violence against Judah and shed innocent blood in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem through all generations. And I shall avenge their blood and not leave it unpunished, for YHVH dwells in Zion.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to follow the Lord and be His disciples in the most sincere way possible. We should commit ourselves to Him just as His disciples and followers had done, as we heard how the Lord’s disciples, the Twelve and the women who always kept the Lord company followed Him wherever He went, doing His will and all the works for His glory.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy of the reminder that St. Paul the Apostle gave to his godson, St. Timothy, one of the earliest successors of the Apostles as the first of the bishops with regards to the concerns on the false teachings and false guidance from those who had promoted their own distorted ideas, as there were, even then, in the earliest days of the Church, the seeds of divisions and dissensions placed by the devil and his forces, in trying to destroy the Church and the faithful people of God.

St. Paul spoke of how there were those who pursued their own agenda and promoted their own flawed ideas that did not have the fullness of truth or Divine inspiration as the Lord’s disciples, the Apostles and their fellow co-workers had received. They instead caused confusion and divisions for their own glory and worldly pursuit, masquerading as a teacher of the faith while being the agent of the evil one, who used them to spread these divisions and confusion, and strike at the most vulnerable among the Lord’s flock.

Hence, St. Paul through his words reminded us that we have to be vigilant against all those that sowed dissension and divisions among us, and all those who sought to have personal gains over that of the people of God. All of us should be careful and do not easily allow the devil to have his way over us. We must remain true to our faith and understand what we believe in so that we will not be swayed by those false teachings and ideas. And it is also a reminder for us that we should not be tempted by worldly desires and end up corrupting others for the sake of our own personal glory.

Today all of us are called to remember the commitment which all of us are called to make as the disciples and followers of the Lord. Looking upon the examples that the Holy Apostles and disciples of the Lord had shown, we can see how they had given their all in serving the Lord, in preaching the truth of God and in delivering His love to all, even at times disregarding their own safety and comfort. They laboured for many years in proclaiming the words of God and enduring many persecutions, and at times they also had to go against the false teachings and heresies as St. Paul himself had to contend with.

Nonetheless, they persevered and committed themselves to the Lord without hesitation, spending a lot of effort and time, keeping their focus on the Lord throughout. They might falter and fail, but with the help, strength and grace from God, they went up again, and again, never giving up the works and efforts for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of their fellow brothers and sisters. It is this spirit and faith that our holy predecessors had, which we all should also have in our own lives, in our own faith in God.

Today, we also remember the memory of two great saints and Doctors of the Church, whose lives have been exemplary and works great and numerous, in leading so many people towards the Lord. First of all, St. Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit Cardinal, as a great reformer of the Church, and had a great and immense contribution to the Church teachings and theology. As a great teacher of theology, he inspired and spearheaded a great part of the efforts of the Counter-Reformation against those who divided the Church with their false and heretical teachings.

His great knowledge, wisdom and intellectual understanding of theology and other aspects of the faith were very notable, and the Pope himself took note of his efforts and achievements, making him the Rector of the Roman College and eventually as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and as a Cardinal Inquisitor was instrumental in leading through many aspects of Church reforms and in maintaining the integrity of the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition of the Church amidst a period of confusion and division among the faithful.

Then, the other saint whose memory we remember today, namely St. Hildegard of Bingen was canonised just less than a decade ago by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and then declared as a Doctor of the Church in that very same year. Her feast was added definitively to the Roman Calendar this year by Pope Francis, to celebrate her great faith and piety, her deep spiritual relationship with God and numerous works through which she inspired many who came to read of her works in remaining faithful to God.

St. Hildegard of Bingen was remembered as a great mystic and a theologian, who received visions of God throughout her life, as a monastic nun, dedicating her whole life to God. Even since a very young age, St. Hildegard of Bingen had received her visions, and later on in life, she wrote of her visions and experiences, which were widely known later after her passing. In her visions, St. Hildegard experienced the vision of God, in her various senses, experiencing the Light of God, which she described as the Three Shades of the Light of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each of these two wonderful saints served the Lord in their own unique ways, and they followed in the path set by the Lord before them, and following in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. Are we also able to follow in their footsteps and examples, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to embrace the Lord in the same way that they had done, and giving our time, effort and attention wholeheartedly to God? Let us all reflect on this and discern how we can be better disciples of the Lord from now on, in our every words, actions and deeds.

May God be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us with His truth that we may always remain true to Him, and remain committed to His truth, and do not fall into the trap of falsehoods and lies that the devil placed all around us. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Psalm 48 : 6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers ring me round – those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

For no ransom avails for one’s life; there is no price one can give to God for it. For redeeming one’s life demands too high a price, and all is lost forever. Who can remain forever alive and never see the grave?

Fear not, when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great; for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

1 Timothy 6 : 2c-12

Teach and stress these things. Whoever teaches in some other way, not following the sound teaching of our Lord Christ Jesus, and true religious instruction, is conceited, and understands nothing. This one is crazy about controversies and discussions, that result in envy, insults, blows and constant arguments between people of depraved minds, and far from the truth. For them, religion is merely for financial gain.

In reality, religion is a treasure, if we are content with what we have. We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us, then, be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps. A lot of foolish and harmful ambitions plunge them into ruin and destruction.

Indeed, the love of money is the root of every evil. Because of this greed, some have wondered away from the faith, bringing on themselves afflictions of every kind. But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life, to which you were called, when you made the good profession of faith, in the presence of so many witnesses.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 all of us are reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to put our faith and trust in the Lord, seeking Him for His forgiveness and mercy. We must not be afraid or doubtful because we have to know that God has always looked kindly upon us and desiring for us to find our way back to Him, to be reconciled and reunited fully with Him in love.

And that is why we heard the passage from our Gospel reading today, detailing the moment when the Lord had an encounter during a meal hosted by the Pharisees for Him, as a sinful woman, widely known for her vices and sins, came to seek Him and brought an alabaster jar full of perfume before the Lord. She wept and cried on the Lord’s feet, before wiping those feet dry with her own hair, and then she used the perfume to anoint the Lord’s feet.

If we understand her context and background, then we can truly understand how significant this event was to all those who witnessed it. For that sinful woman was likely a prostitute, whom the Pharisees often looked down on and despised. The Pharisees must have been shocked that the Lord Jesus allowed such a sinner to approach Him and less still allowing her to touch Him, as at that time, even coming close to a sinner could be considered as a defilement, and hence people would distance themselves from those considered as sinners.

Yet, that sinful woman humbled herself such before the Lord and everyone present, throwing aside all pride and ego, and using her hair, the crown of her beauty, to wipe the feet of the Lord, using her precious treasure to wipe clean the part of the body considered as dirty. She came to the Lord with tears and sorrow, all because she knew how sinful she had been, and came seeking the Lord for forgiveness and healing. She gave it all to the Lord, anointing His feet with expensive perfume, honouring Him before all who saw it.

Yet, those Pharisees still failed to see the truth of God’s love, and still judged Him based on what they had seen and based on their own prejudices. They refused to see the sinners as their own fellow brethren, and preferred to remain in their arrogant and self-serving attitude, in being proud of their piety and privileged position within the community, looking down on all those who disagreed with them and who did not follow the Law and commandments of God in the manner that they had done.

God told them that He came into this world seeking for sinners, for their redemption and healing, so that they might be reconciled with Him and be forgiven from their sins, saved from the destruction that threatened them. He told the Pharisees the parable highlighting how those who had their debts forgiven more would have been more appreciative of the forgiveness, and that was a way for the Lord to tell them that they must not look down on the prostitutes, or tax collectors, the diseased, those possessed by evil spirits and others they deemed as sinners.

Everyone, after all, were sinners all the same, all equal before God and all deserving the same love from God. God wants us all to know this truth, and as we heard the Scripture passages today, we are again reminded of the grace that we have received from Him, the generous extension of His forgiveness and mercy, the love which He has lavished upon us all. And since we have been loved in such a manner, as God called us all to seek Him and be reconciled with Him, let us all remember what He told the sinful woman, that we ought to go forth in peace and sin no more. In our lives, we have to always be vigilant, resisting the temptations to sin that are always present all around us.

It does not matter how great the sins we have once committed. For as long as we are truly sincere in seeking the Lord, like that of the sinful woman, in being repentant and humble, in allowing God to come and heal us, then we shall be secure in the Lord and in the inheritance that He has promised to us. We should not be afraid to seek Him, as if we seek Him with a genuine heart full of remorse for our sins, and desiring to be reconciled and reunited with Him, God will surely hear us and grant us our longing for Him.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith from now on, embracing Him in the manner of our holy predecessors, especially that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, whose feasts we are celebrating today. They were truly great and honourable servants of God who gave themselves wholeheartedly to the missions entrusted to them by the Lord. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage during the difficult years of intense persecution of the Church and the Christian faithful by the Roman state. They were both eventually martyred and died defending their faith.

At that time, the Church was not only facing persecution from the pagan authorities but also in fact suffering from internal divisions, particularly by those who adamantly refused to allow the readmission and acceptance of those Christians who had lapsed from their faith, who disagreed with the stand of the Church fathers, on the forgiveness of sinners. Those were lead by a particular priest called Novatian, who led the Church into schism with his followers on one side, and Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian on the other.

Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian championed the rights of those who had lapsed from their faith, either by their choice or coercion, pressure or other reasons, having abandoned their faith in God only to return later on back to the Holy Mother Church. Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian supported the rights of those Christians to return, against the Novatianists who argued that once they apostatised, there could be no forgiveness or return for them. Those so-called purists were in fact reminiscent of the attitudes showed by the Pharisees in our Gospel passage today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those two holy men of God, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian had done their all to show God’s love and mercy to repentant sinners. Therefore, we too should follow in their footsteps. First of all, are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord, in turning away from the path of sin and wholeheartedly repenting from our past sins? And are we willing to help one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in seeking God?

Instead of looking down on others and thinking that we are in any way better, holier or more worthy than them, let us all reflect on our own sins and all that we have done in our past, all that we have failed to do in obeying the will of God, and in extending our love to one another, just as the Lord has called us all to do. Let us all reflect on this, and strive to become better Christians from now on. Let us all be exemplary in our way of life and show better care and concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in our every living moments.

May the Lord be with us all and may He guide us in our journey, so that each and every one of us will be more willing to be more committed to God, and strive to abandon our past sinfulness, embracing instead the path of God while inspiring others to turn away from their sins, by our own virtuous life examples, through which God may be glorified, and more may come to know of Him and His love for each and every one of us. Amen.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”