Friday, 13 July 2018 : 14th 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 we listened to the words of the Scripture beginning with the book of the prophet Hosea, in which the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet, calling in them to repent from their sinful ways and from their wicked paths. They have abandoned the Lord and His ways, and they have not been faithful, as they chose the pagan idols and the wicked false gods instead of God, Who has loved them and cared for them.

God was indeed angry at His people, and because they abandoned Him and placed their trust in things that did not come from God, they also encountered great sufferings in life, having to endure humiliation and persecution, exile and slavery in foreign lands. But God did not forget about His people, and in truth, He continued to love them regardless of their infidelity and rebelliousness.

That is why, through the prophet Hosea, God wanted to let His people to know that He loved them, and He cared for them very much, so much so that, should they repent from their sins, turn towards Him and embrace Him once again as their Lord and Master, He will bless them again, provide for them again, and return to them all that they had lost, their dignity and their livelihood.

Yet, if we read throughout the entirety of the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, we can see, just how the people of God have repeatedly disobeyed God, they fell back into their sinful ways many times, again and again. They fell because of their inability to resist the temptations of the flesh and the many allures of worldliness present before them. They were overcome by their unbridled desire and pride.

It is to these people that the Lord Jesus sent His disciples, to do His works among them and to establish the foundations of the good work of salvation, which is now in the Church. He told them that He was sending them like sheep sent to be amidst the wolves. It was an analogy and metaphor for the kind of persecution, rejection and hostility that the Apostles would have to encounter during their mission and work.

But without these courageous people, who served the Lord wholeheartedly and with passion, there would not have been salvation for those many souls who have been lost and misguided into opposing God’s works. Those souls would have been condemned to eternity in hell, and many more would have been lost forever to the Lord. It was thanks to the hard work and perseverance of these faithful Apostles and disciples of the Lord, that this did not happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to realise that the works of the Apostles have not yet been completed. Instead, it is an ongoing process, as there are always more souls out there waiting to be saved, by receiving the truth and the Good News. And we are the successors of the good works of the Apostles, that by our contributions and works, we may continue to propagate the truth of God and His salvation to many more people.

And as mentioned, just as the Apostles had encountered obstacles, difficulties and opposition throughout their ministry, therefore, we will also likely encounter the same kind of trials and difficulties in our own. But this should not dissuade us from continuing to live our lives with faith, and from caring for those who have been lost and are sundered from God. Rather, it should in fact be an inspiration for us to do even more for the sake of our fellow brethren in need of our help.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate together the feast of St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor as Henry II, the pinnacle and most supreme ruler of the Christendom aside from the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. St. Henry, although a powerful ruler, but he was also remembered for his great piety and dedication to the Lord, and through his rulership, he helped to introduce important reforms that had far-reaching effects throughout the whole Christendom.

St. Henry lived with great piety, carrying out a celibate lifestyle, and devoted his whole life to the service of God. He supported the good works of the Church and helped in the process of the reform of the Church, particularly in the imposition of clerical celibacy and the enforcement of piety and good conduct among the clergy. He was also instrumental in encouraging missionary activities, leading to the conversion of many to the faith.

St. Henry is truly an inspiration to each and every one of us, showing us how to live honourably in faith, and filled with commitment and devotion to the Lord, even amidst difficulties and challenges, and all the obstacles that we will encounter in life. Even as a mighty Emperor, St. Henry also had to face many opposition, and he did so, with great piety and humility, devoting himself wholeheartedly to God.

Therefore, let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, and let us all seek to be ever closer to God and ever more committed every day of our lives, in serving Him through our every words, actions and deeds. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 13 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 10 : 16-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you.”

“Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Friday, 13 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 14 and 17

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

I know You desire truth in the heart; teach me wisdom in my inmost being. Cleanse me, with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise.

Friday, 13 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Holy Scriptures telling us about how difficult it is to follow the Lord and to be the disciples of the kingdom of God, and what is meant to be a true disciple, and what awaits the disciples of the Lord at the end of their earthly life and journey. All these were succinctly presented to us in today’s readings.

In the first reading, the Lord our God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel His servant, telling us about the chastisement He spoke of the prince of Tyre. In that context, we have to understand that Tyre was a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea known as the home of the Phoenician race, who were well known to be master traders and navigators, controlling much of the trade and the wealth at the time.

And thus, Tyre was incredibly wealthy, and in that great abundance and prosperity, we can imagine that it was very easy for its people and its rulers to fall into the familiar traps of hubris and human pride, as well as greed and unbound desires. But the Lord was not just in fact talking about Tyre and its rulers and its people, rather He was truly referring to all of us as well.

How many of us have become proud of our own achievements, our own intellects, especially in how we are able to beat others in some things, and even worse, that we looked down on others around us just because we think that we are in any way better or superior than them? Remember, brethren, that we are God’s creations, and thus whenever we achieve great things, it is truly not because of our own power and might alone that we have accomplished those deeds.

It is a fact which many of us willingly overlooked, and thus it led us into our hubris and unbounded pride and greed. We mankind are by our nature difficult to satisfy, and once we have something that we like, we tend to want and desire for more and more of that which we like. And this is what often prevented us from reaching towards the kingdom of God, as many obstacles and distractions lie on our path to the Lord.

This was what Jesus meant in the Gospel when He spoke of how the rich and the powerful had great difficulties in entering the kingdom of God, alluding to how it will be easier for a camel to enter through the eyes of a needle rather than those who are endowed with wealth, properties, fame and power. And that is because, as the symbolism Jesus used resounded with us, camels usually lower their heads and necks when they want to enter into a place through a doorway that is shorter than they are.

And that was used by God to symbolise humility and the lack of pride and hubris. Jesus was in fact not attacking or discriminating against the rich and the powerful in what He spoke of in the Gospel today. He was not against the rich and the powerful, but instead was against how mankind tend to use their riches and power the moment they have more of them.

Perhaps in this we should see the examples of St. Stephen of Hungary, also known in Hungary as St. Istvan the Great, the first Christian king of Hungary who brought the whole nation of Hungary to the faith. Previously the kingdom of Hungary followed pagan and barbaric ways until St. Stephen of Hungary, the first. Christian king led the whole nation into the faith.

He helped to convert the whole nation of the Hungarians, and even in his position of power and wealth, as well as fame and greatness as king, he remained humble and committed to his duties and responsibilities as a king and leader of his people. He often helped the poor and the less fortunate in his kingdom, serving their needs and caring for them with love and compassion.

St. Stephen the King of Hungary showed his subjects a good example through his leadership and actions. He showed the love of God to them, and how a faithful ought to act in following the Lord, regardless of their wealth, status and standing in the society. This is a lesson which many of us ought to learn from, that we should not be distracted and be tempted by the wealth and possessions we have, and we should resist those pulling forces trying to sever our relationship with God.

Let us all walk in the footsteps of the Lord, and follow Him through the examples of St. Stephen of Hungary, in how we ought to be responsible and be faithful in our words, actions and deeds, and not be swayed by the temptations of wealth, possessions and worldly glory. Let us confidently venture forth and seek the Lord’s kingdom with renewed zeal and faith. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Matthew 19 : 23-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you : it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe Me : it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On hearing this the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see we have given up everything to follow You. What will be our lot?” Jesus answered, “You who have followed Me, listen to My words : on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on His throne in glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.”

“As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for My Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first.”

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Deuteronomy 32 : 26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-36ab

I said I would scatter them afar and blot out their memory among humankind, but I feared the enemy’s boasting, lest the adversary misunderstand.

And say, “We have triumphed, the Lord has not brought this about.” They are a senseless and undiscerning nation. Had they wisdom, they would have known.

For how could one or two men put to flight a thousand or ten thousand, unless their Rock had abandoned them, unless their Lord had given them up?

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.