Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us all about the need for us to trust not in our own human power, abilities, greatness or achievements, but rather, in the power and providence of God. Many of us have not trusted enough in God and prefer rather to take matter into our own hands, being concerned and worried about our daily living and focusing on all the wrong things.

In our first reading today we listened to the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and to the faithful in Corinth, that if one were to boast, it would be best for that person not to boast of his own greatness or power, but rather, of the greatness and glory of God. St. Paul himself gave an example, through his own tireless ministry and hard work among the people he did not glorify himself or his own achievements, in the many miracles he performed and in the many things he accomplished, but he continued to glorify and praise God.

Of course, St. Paul also mentioned the temptations and difficulties he faced, the temptations of pride and greed in his heart. After all, he was still just a human being, prone to being tempted by all these wicked and negative feelings, emotions and desires just as we are. But he did not let those things to become obstacles in the way of his faith. On the contrary, he remained firmly convinced and strongly dedicated in his faith in God.

He trusted the Lord rather than his own power, for in the end, none of the means of this world, be it power, money, prestige, fame, glory or whatever it is that we mankind often seek and desire in this world, could have gained him anything that is true and lasting. In our Gospel passage today, this was exactly what the Lord mentioned to His disciples, when He revealed the folly of those who worry and are concerned about their daily needs and wants, be it for things to eat or for things to wear.

And today we celebrate the feast of a few saints, whose lives have been exemplary and filled with great examples of dedication and commitment to God. They are St. Paulinus of Nola, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. All of them put their trust in God and believed firmly in the providence and the power of God rather than in their own human power and capabilities. St. Paulinus of Nola was a bishop and one of the influential leaders of the Church in the final days of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, while St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are the two saints and martyrs of the English Reformation and persecution.

St. Paulinus of Nola was remembered for his dedication to the Lord and for his renunciation of wealth and worldly glory for asceticism and simple living, having been born as a senatorial class member and a privileged noble. He was once an influential governor of the province in Northern Italy and a trusted confidant of the Roman Emperor, before an occasion when after he has been baptised as a Christian and losing his child, he chose to withdraw from the world.

Eventually he became a bishop and served the faithful in the region of Nola, dedicating himself for over twenty years to the flock he had been entrusted with, spending his money, time, energy and effort for the good of the faithful and the Church there. St. Paulinus of Nola truly showed us all what it means to be a faithful Christian, trusting completely in God and doing everything to glorify God and not himself.

And today we also then celebrate the feast of two martyr saints of the English Reformation, the famous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. St. Thomas More was the Chancellor and right-hand man to King Henry VIII, the one who unilaterally initiated the English Reformation due to his insistence to remarry another woman despite still being legally and lawfully married to his Queen, and thus separating the English Church from the Universal Church.

St. John Fisher meanwhile was one of the influential leaders of the Church in the Kingdom of England, as the Bishop of Rochester and a close confidant of King Henry VIII’s father. He was also the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and tutor to King Henry VIII. It was widely told that King Henry VIII’s highly acclaimed treatise ‘Assertio Septem Sacramentorum’ or the ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ against the heresies of Protestantism was actually written by St. John Fisher.

Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were strong opponents of the King’s efforts to remarry another woman according to his desires, and worked very hard to resolve the issue and preventing the rupture in Christendom due to the king’s continued insistence to follow his will. And when the King decided to break away the relationship and Communion with the Universal Church of Rome, the two men remained steadfast in their dedication to the true Church.

Despite the challenges, the persuasions, the coercions and pressures for them to abandon their steadfastness to their faith and to obey instead the demands of the King, amidst the promises that they would continue to enjoy the favour of the King and all sorts of good things and worldly goodness they had thus enjoyed then and more, should they abandon their opposition to the King. But they remained firm in their faith, and as such, died as holy martyrs of the faith.

Through all the examples shown by these great saints, surely all of us should be inspired to live as better Christians, more and more devoted to the Lord, and putting Him above all else in our lives. Let us all not worry about worldly things and concerns, things that are not permanent and things that cannot bring real happiness to us in the first place. Let us turn to God from now on, inspired by the good examples of His holy servants, our holy predecessors from now on. Amen.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 6 : 24-34

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate one and love the other; or he will be loyal to the first and look down on the second. You cannot, at the same time, serve God and money.”

Therefore, I tell you, not to be worried about food and drink for yourself, or about clothes for your body. Is not life more important than food; and is not the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest, and do not store food in barns; and yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more worthy than they are?”

“Can any of you add a day to your life by worrying about it? Why are you so worried about your clothes? Look at how the flowers in the fields grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field, which blooms today and is to be burnt in an oven tomorrow, how much more will He clothe you? What little faith you have!”

“Do not worry, and say : What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? or : What shall we wear? The pagans busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart, first, on the kingdom and righteousness of God; and all these things will also be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 33 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Come, listen to Me, My children; I will show you how to fear YHVH. If you desire long life; if you want to enjoy prosperity.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

2 Corinthians 12 : 1-10

It is useless to boast; but if I have to, I will go on, to some visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a certain Christian : fourteen years ago he was taken up to the third heaven. Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows. But I know that this man, whether in the body or out of the body – I do not know, God knows – was taken up to Paradise, where he heard words that cannot be told : things which humans cannot express.

Of that man I can indeed boast, but of myself I will not boast except of my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, it would not be foolish of me, for I would speak the truth. However, I better give up, lest somebody think more of me than what is seen in me, or heard from me. Lest I become proud, after so many and extraordinary revelations; I was given a thorn in my flesh, a true messenger of Satan, to slap me in the face. Three times, I prayed to the Lord, that it leave me, but He answered, “My grace is enough for you; My great strength is revealed in weakness.”

Gladly, then, will I boast of my weakness, that the strength of Christ may be mine. So I rejoice, when I suffer infirmities, humiliations, want, persecutions : all for Christ! For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the matter of prayer and fasting, two of the practices of our faith which we constantly do all the time and at the prescribed times of the year. And He reminded all of us to pray and fast with the right attitude and intention, or else we are not doing what is right for us to do as Christians.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? First we must understand the context of what the Lord had said to His disciples at that time, as He compared the practices that the Pharisees at that time did, in showing of their piety and prayers in public, not with the intention to glorify God but glorifying themselves and seeking for attention and human praise. And that is exactly what the Lord does not want His disciples and all of us to do.

The Pharisees were influential group of people who were intelligent and educated at that time, who held sway over a lot of the people, highly respected and honoured because of their role in safeguarding and keeping the customs and practices of the Jewish people, which they came to guard zealously and strongly against anyone or anything that might threaten those practices and customs, and all the privileges that they had earned by safeguarding those customs and laws.

But at that time, their preoccupation and excessive focus on maintaining the customs and the practices of the Jewish people ended up on them focusing on the external appearances and the superficial obedience to those laws and customs, rather than truly appreciating the significance and the real substance and intention of the Law of God. They ended up practicing those customs and laws not because they truly had God in their mind, but a lot of time because they had to do them.

As Christians, all of us are reminded by today’s Scripture readings not to follow the examples of many of the Pharisees who have forgotten the true importance of the Law and the customs they practiced, doing it all for appearances and praise rather than for the true purpose that is to worship, glorify and communicate with God. We must remember that as we live through our faith life, we must practice our faith with sincerity and commitment, not just by paying lip service.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us of the gifts that God has given us, His blessings and wonders, and consequently, as those whom the Lord has blessed, all of us should make good use of the gifts He has given to us, that we may truly be fruitful and bountiful in God. He said, those who have sowed meagrely will reap meagrely, and those who sowed generously will reap generously as well.

Therefore, in our lives we should be exemplary in our faith, and in our actions, in how we pray, in what we do in our daily lives we must reflect our faith and dedication to the Lord. We should put God as the focus and attention of our whole lives, and do our best to glorify Him and not ourselves. And today, we also can follow the examples showed by St. Philip Minh and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs.

At that time, the authorities in Vietnam were very hostile to the Christian faith and the missionaries who worked among the people proclaiming the truth of Christ. They were viewed with suspicion of collaboration with the French and other colonial powers. St. Philip Minh was among the first of the local Vietnamese to be ordained a priest and ministered among his own people before he and many others throughout those difficult years were arrested and made to suffer for their faith.

Yet, these courageous saints did not give up their faith despite the many temptations, persuasions, pressures and coercions to do so. They remained firm in their faith and dedication to the Lord. Had they placed their own safety, well-being and glory before that of the Lord, they would have abandoned God to gain the safety and acceptance of the world. But they showed all of us what it means to be true disciples and followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day let us all be inspired by the examples of the holy saints of God, especially St. Philip Minh and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs. Let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as they have done and do our best to be true disciples of the Lord. May the Lord bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

At that time, “Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father Who is with you in secret; and your Father Who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already.”

“When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, Who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.”

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family; there, his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness; he is kind, merciful and upright.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.