Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture passages all of us are reminded to keep our hope and focus on the faithfulness and the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the eternal glory and new life He has promised us, and to remain firm in our path, called as Christians to walk in God’s path, not to be deterred by fear and uncertainty, or by false teachings and erroneous ideas.

Instead, we must adhere closely to what the Lord had taught us through His Church, obeying the Law with our hearts and minds, with sincerity and honesty, that we are truly faithful in all things according to God’s will. And through our Gospel passage today, we have also been reminded not to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in how they acted and in how they practiced their faith.

Contextually, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were those that were very particular on the way the Law of God was practiced by the people, and many of them were mostly concerned with the way the Law was obeyed, as they held a very strict way of interpreting the Law and followed the Law to the letter, enforcing others to follow the Law and obey its tenets in the manner that they prescribed.

But the Lord criticised and rebuked these among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law with the woes He pronounced to them, reminding all of us that this is not the way that we ought to follow or practice the Law of God in our lives. The Law of God is not to be practiced by the letter only, but by both the letter and the spirit of the Law. And what does this exactly mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means we do not just pay lip service and blindly obey the Law without even understanding the meaning, purpose and significance of the Law of God.

For example, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced a very strict interpretation and obedience to the Law, to the smallest details in how they were to be obeyed, but in their obsession with the way how the Law is to be lived and observed, they forgot and misunderstood the Law’s true purpose and meaning. The observance became for many, mostly a formality and even a chore, as they were focused on the petty details of the Law rather than why they ought to be faithful and obey the Law.

That is exactly what happened if we just focus on the ‘letter’ of the Law and not understanding or appreciating the ‘spirit’ of the Law. And in the end, such observance of the Law and actions are meaningless if not accompanied properly with the desire and understanding from the heart, mind and soul. What it means is that, for us to be truly obedient to God and to be faithful, is to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to love Him with all of our heart, such as is the purpose and intention of the Law of God.

In our first reading today, St. Paul told the faithful in Thessalonica exactly this point, that every one of us should remain firm in our faith in God, and not be swayed by worldly temptations and false leads from those who wanted to achieve their own ambitions and mislead us from the path of truth. That is why, we must not follow the misguided path of many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom used the Law as means to promote themselves and their own agenda rather than genuine dedication to God.

How do we then live our lives with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where then we should look at the examples set by our predecessors, those who have been deemed authoritatively by the Church as being worthy of praise and veneration as saints and blesseds. And today in particular, we remember the memory of two saints, in their lives and dedication to the Lord, namely St. Louis, King of France, and St. Joseph Calasanz, a holy priest of God.

St. Louis, also known as King Louis IX of France, was one of the greatest Medieval kings of France, remembered for his great piety and dedication to God, his righteous and good rule over his people. St. Louis was committed to the betterment of his people’s livelihood, exercising justice and prudence over his rule and actions, and helped to strengthen his country in faith as well as in prosperity through his long and just reign as king.

St. Louis was pious and dedicated to God, and he showed his subjects and people true Christian leadership, leading the people down the right path, reforming the government and the Church, and making everyone closer to God through their renewed faith. St. Louis also participated in the Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land from infidels and those who persecuted Christians and pilgrims. Throughout his life, St. Louis has shown us what it means to be exemplary in faith.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a renowned and dedicated pries who spent much of his ministry in reaching out to the homeless and those who were hungry and suffering, those who were without education and care. It was not easy as there were many challenges that St. Joseph Calasanz had to overcome during all of his efforts. He continued to serve the people with dedication and also spent a lot of time to rejuvenate many people in the faith.

St. Joseph Calasanz was particularly remembered for his efforts in extending education to all people, including especially the poor and those who usually had not been able to attain any education previously, as at that time in particular, education was mainly available only for the rich and privileged members of the community. To this extent, St. Joseph Calasanz taught many people on various matters, helping them to gain the important knowledge and make a difference to their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, both St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz have shown us how we as Christians can live our lives and realising the Law of God through genuine commitment and the spending of efforts to love God, first and foremost before all else, and then to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the same manner. They have shown us what we ourselves can do in serving the Lord as good and committed Christians.

Now, are we willing and able to commit ourselves, our time and effort to do this? God has called on each and every one of us to follow Him, and therefore, let us all respond to His call with faith, and do what we can in our lives to serve Him, to glorify Him and to draw ever closer to Him through righteousness and justice, through obedience and understanding of God’s Law and commandments. May God be with us always and guide us through life. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Matthew 23 : 23-26

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the Law : justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.”

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

2 Thessalonians 2 : 1-3a, 14-17

Brothers and sisters, let us speak about the coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, and our gathering to meet Him. Do not be easily unsettled. Do not be alarmed by what a prophet says, or by any report, or by some letter said to be ours, saying, the day of the Lord is at hand. Do not let yourselves be deceived, in any way.

To this end He called you, through the Gospel we preach, for He willed you, to share the glory of Christ Jesus, Our Lord. Because of that, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions that we taught you, by word or by letter. May Christ Jesus, Our Lord, Who has loved us, may God Our Father, Who, in His mercy, gives us everlasting comfort and true hope, strengthen you.

May He encourage your hearts and make you steadfast in every good work and word.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God’s call for us to repent from our sinful ways, to turn away from our wickedness, all the selfish attitudes we have shown all these while we embraced the ways of worldliness and sin. Through His prophets and messengers, His saints and the Church, God has called us and reminded us yet again and again to be faithful to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah’s words, speaking God’s intentions and will to His people, which can be summarised as such that He sought not the sacrifices and offerings, festivals and customary celebrations from His people, but rather, real love and genuine faith. He essentially wanted His people to be truthful in their faith and dedication to Him, and not be hypocrites who claimed to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways totally contrary to His teachings and ways.

The Lord has told them that what He wanted from them was real love, dedication and commitment, and not merely just empty show of faith, for it is indeed possible for one to obey the precepts of the Law but without the right intentions, or because it was merely done out of obligation and fulfilling what we considered as a mere formality. These are not what the Lord wanted, and He made it clear to His people through His prophet Isaiah, and this was because many among the people still committed sin against God and lived in state of sin despite outwardly obeying the Law.

This is similar to what the Lord Jesus also saw and encountered among the people when He came into the world, bearing the truth and Good News of salvation. Many among the people paid just lip service for God, and some among them like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law became distracted with their role, misunderstanding the intention of God’s will and Law, and they made a show of their faith for praise and respect from the other people, and not because they genuinely and wholly loved God from their hearts.

And the disagreement that rose out of these led to friction and difficulties, challenges and trials facing the followers of God, that had begun even since the time of the ancient prophets, as they faced stubborn people who refused to change their ways, and ended up with them being persecuted and troubled by those who refused to accept them and listen to their truth. The same treatment would be faced and endured by the Lord and His Apostles, His disciples and followers, even as the Lord Jesus performed His ministry, and afterwards as the early Christians continued the Lord’s works.

And the Lord in today’s Gospel passage also told His disciples a kind of jarring message as He told them that whoever loved father, mother, brothers or sisters, or their loved ones and spouses more than they loved God, were not fit to become His followers. Actually what the Lord wanted to tell them and all of us was really that, not that He wanted us to abandon our family and loved ones or to hate them. On the contrary, He definitely wants us all to love our parents, our brethren, our loved ones and family members, our friends and other people. But, what is important that, beyond all these, we must love God even a lot more.

And through what He had explained and revealed, and what we have discussed today, through the readings of the Scripture we can see that being followers of Christ is not necessarily easy for us to do. There will be plenty of challenges and trials ahead, and often we may have to make choices that will put us in quandary of having to choose between God and those whom we know. But if our faith in God is genuine and strong, our commitment to Him and dedication are pure, then we will surely have the right focus and attention, that is on God and not on other things.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Henry, a great leader and a humble man before God, whom as Emperor Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was the secular leader of Christendom ordained by God, and by influence, power and prestige, were probably second throughout Christendom just after the Pope, the Vicar of Christ himself. He was a great leader who was dedicated to his people and kingdom, and responsibly carried out the duties of Christian leadership placed in his hands.

He generously gave to the poor and strengthened the foundations of his realm, while at the same time, supporting the Church and its works, spreading the Christian faith far and wide, sending missionaries to pagan areas and converting many to the true faith, while consolidating the areas already under Christian rule. He established a strong relationship with the Pope and the Church, and in the meantime remaining humble and virtuous, with strong personal piety and dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Henry the pious and God-loving Holy Roman Emperor is our great inspiration on how we ourselves can also be righteous and just, dedicated and committed to God. Are we willing and able to follow in his footsteps and be dedicated to God through our daily actions and interactions with one another? Let us all reflect on these, and let us be truly faithful from now on, not just merely paying lip service and empty formality, striving to be good and genuine Christians moving on with our lives.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all with our faith, and may He grant us His providence and with much courage to carry on living as good and faithful Christians from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints of God, especially St. Henry, our role model in faith. Amen.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

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, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Isaiah 1 : 10-17

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. “What do I care,” says YHVH, “for your endless sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings, and the fat of your bulls. The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats I abhor, when you come before Me and trample on My courts. Who asked you to visit Me? I am fed up with your oblations. I grow sick with your incense.

Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings, evil with holy assemblies, I can no longer bear. I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts. They burden Me. When you stretch out your hands I will close My eyes; the more you pray, the more I refuse to listen, for your hands are bloody.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.

Friday, 28 September 2018 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslas, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth, telling us one after another, about the fact that there is time for just everything and anything we do, and this is a very good reminder to each and every one of us that we live not on our own time and terms. In reality, we live in accordance to God’s plan and time, and it is His will that shall be done, and not ours.

This is also related to what we heard in the Gospel passage today, which mentioned the time when the Lord Jesus asked His disciples about the truth of His identity. He asked them who they think that He was, and they mentioned at first all sorts of identities that the people at the time would have thought Who Jesus was, be it a prophet or a servant of God brought back from the dead.

St. Peter then managed to give Him the truth, that He is indeed the Son of the Living God, God’s own Messiah and Saviour, Whom He sent into the world for the salvation of all mankind. However, in the same Gospel passage, immediately after the Lord received St. Peter’s answer, He also told them not to tell anyone about the truth just yet, and revealed to them what must have been uncomfortable truth, that He, as the Messiah, would have to suffer rejection and persecution, and die before He would rise in glory.

Yet, that was what the disciples had to know, that they were not following in the wake of the glorious conquest of the Messiah King, unlike what the Jewish people at the time widely believed, that the Messiah would be the One Who would redeem them and liberate them from the tyranny and the power of the Romans and all of their foreign oppressors, and Who would restore unto them the glory and the majesty of the kingdom of David.

The truth and reality is such that, the Messiah would be a humble and suffering Messiah, Who would be the One persecuted and killed, that by His sufferings, He might gather to Himself all the sufferings intended for us, and because of that, redeem us all from the fate of eternal damnation and destruction. This happened through the crucifixion and later on, the resurrection in glory of the Lord.

Nonetheless, the suffering was truly a great one, so much so that the Lord Himself in His humanity was seriously tempted to give up, as when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane in great anguish and sorrow. But Christ obeyed the Father’s will perfectly and completely, saying that ‘Not My will be done, but let it be Your will that is done’, entrusting Himself to the work of salvation of the cross, despite the pain and suffering that action would bring Him.

In this example, we saw how Jesus showed us the perfect selflessness of God’s servant, putting everything to the will of God, His Father. It was all according to His will and not His own selfish desires, affirming what we have heard in the Book of Ecclesiastes today, all according to God’s plan and not our own plan. His desires and will, and not our desires and will that will be done.

Unfortunately, many of us still lived in the manner unlike what the Lord Himself had shown us. We are so busy pursuing our many desires and worldly concerns, that we end up in the state of worry and fear, uncertainty and also unhappiness, and even anger because we have not gotten what we wanted, or that things do not go according to how we wanted it to be. We put ourselves and our wants even before our obedience and obligations to God.

We worry and we spend so much time trying to gather for ourselves many things of this world, be it glory, fame, influence, wealth, material possessions, and many others. The concerns we have for all these things often fill up our minds and cause us to lose the focus which we really should have for the Lord. And it is when we are distracted that we are most vulnerable to the works of Satan, who is always trying to bring about our downfall, through sin.

This is why, we must actively restrain ourselves, in all the matters of the world, and strive that we should not fall into temptation and sin. And we need to take proactive efforts in order to overcome the pressures, coercions and temptations to sin. Otherwise, we will easily falter in this important journey that is our own lives. And that is why we should follow the examples which our holy predecessors had shown.

Today we celebrate the feast of the holy martyrs, St. Wenceslas of Bohemia and the holy martyrs of Japan, St. Lawrence or Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom. St. Wenceslas was one of the earliest Christian rulers of the land known as Bohemia, the present day Czech Republic, over a thousand years ago. He was remembered for being a righteous and just ruler, who ruled the people with fairness and supported the Christian faith.

However, he encountered much opposition from the nobles and the powerful lords in his lands, who resisted the efforts that St. Wenceslas has done in reforming the governance of the country as well as resenting the popularity which St. Wenceslas enjoyed among the people. St. Wenceslas pushed on with the reforms and good works regardless, and in the end, he had to suffer the effect of rejection, when those same nobles plotted with his brother to murder him.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz is the first native saint of the Philippines, who was falsely accused of murder and hence, had to seek refuge away from his own homeland, and ended up in Japan at the time when Christians and missionaries were persecuted for their faith by the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled over the country then. St. Lawrence Ruiz was among the many Christians who were arrested and tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith.

But St. Lawrence Ruiz refused to abandon the Lord and his faith in Him, and therefore, with many others of the faithful, he was martyred and as a result, gained entry to the glory of God in heaven. His great courage and commitment to God, his righteousness and devotion, together with the justice and goodness shown by St. Wenceslas should be inspirations for us to follow, in how we as Christians live up our faith in our daily lives.

Now, are we willing and ready then to take up our cross and follow Our Lord? The Lord is calling on us to be faithful to Him, and often, this will require from us dedication and necessary sacrifices, in order for us to be able to follow Him wholeheartedly. And it often requires us to get rid of our own personal pride and human desires in order for us to be able to walk in the path of Christ. That is why we must follow the perfect obedience and humility that Our Lord Himself showed to the will of His Father.

May the Lord, through the intercession of His holy saints, St. Wenceslas, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his many companions, martyrs of the faith, awaken in us the love which we ought to have for Him, so that in everything we say and do, we will always strive to do our best to love God and to glorify Him. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all and our endeavours and good works. Amen.

Friday, 28 September 2018 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslas, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 18-22

At that time, one day, when Jesus was praying alone, not far from His disciples, He asked them, “What do people say about Me?” And they answered, “Some say, that You are John the Baptist; others say, that You are Elijah; and still others, that You are one of the Prophets of old, risen from the dead.”

Again Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus spoke to them, giving them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. And He added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”