Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints of our modern day era, one whom we may be quite familiar with, the saint of the World War II era and the NAZI Holocaust, namely St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and martyr, who gave his life for a very noble cause, imitating the very love which God has given to all of us His beloved ones.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a conventual Franciscan friar and priest who worked as a missionary for many years in the East, in Japan and other places such as India, where he was known for his zeal and piety, his contributions to the Church and its development in the mission regions, by the establishment of the Militia Immaculatae or the Army of the Immaculate One in his early years as a friar and then priest, through his personal strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to counter the many works of the devil and the opponents of the Church.

St. Maximilian Kolbe served the Lord faithfully for many years and dedicated his life to bring about the greater glory of God and the salvation of His people. He returned to Poland where he was born in, and continued to serve the Church afterwards in the years just immediately preceding the Second World War. He stayed on when the forces of NAZI Germany overran the entire nation of Poland and beyond.

Eventually, his opposition to the NAZI regime and constant passive resistance through the publications and works his monastery produced led to him being arrested and brought to the infamous concentration camp of Auschwitz. Even there, he continued to serve the people who were in despair and suffering in the worst conditions imaginable in the concentration camp. As a priest and servant of God, he inspired many of the inmates in the camp to remain strong in their faith and in their hope.

And St. Maximilian Kolbe was especially remembered for his courageous and most selfless love, when he offered himself in exchange for another inmate who was about to be executed when an attempt in escaping was foiled. The faithful saint offered himself because the man was in despair over his family that he was to leave behind if he was to be executed. And thus, St. Maximilian Kolbe in fact followed in the example of Christ, in offering himself to suffer for the sake of others.

And through all of these, the good examples of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the words of the Scripture we heard today, we are all reminded to be exemplary in our lives, living our lives with genuine and strong faith. In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses, the one whom God appointed to be the leader of His people Israel in order to rescue them from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt finally went to the end of his earthly life at Mount Nebo.

Moses was not able to enter the land promised by God to the children of Israel, although he was allowed to have a glance at the whole land before he died. It was because of the disobedience that Moses performed out of anger, when he did not do as the Lord commanded when the people pressed hard on him and complained against him and God. But regardless of that and besides that unfortunate occasion, Moses was truly a very faithful servant of God, much as St. Maximilian Kolbe had been.

Moses devoted his life to the Lord and tirelessly served God for many, many years, guiding and leading the people of Israel through to the right path, despite their constant bickering, disobedience and stubbornness in refusing to listen to God and His will. He persevered through all of the challenges and remained true to the very end, serving God with all of his heart and with all of his strength, and therefore, now counted as one of the great saints and elders of the faith.

All of us are reminded today therefore to walk in the footsteps of these holy predecessors of ours, Moses, the many other faithful and holy prophets, the holy Apostles, saints and martyrs of all the ages, and St. Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr of our more recent times. We are called to be true Christians in how we live our lives from now on, that just as those saints and martyrs have been faithful in theirs, and reflect the glory and love of God, we too may do the same with our lives.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord also reminds us that we all have been given responsibilities as members of the Church, the Body of the faithful people of God. In that passage, the Lord exhorted His disciples to take care of one another and pay attention to those who have erred in the practices and beliefs of their faith, and to bring them back to the Lord and to reconcile them with Him in love.

Are we able to what the Lord has commanded us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to do what our holy predecessors had done? Let us all ask for the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and the holy saints of God, that through their prayers God may give us the strength and courage to live faithfully in His presence, from now on and till the end of time. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 18 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you : whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound.”

“In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by My heavenly Father; for where two or there are gathered in My Name, I am there, among them.”

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 65 : 1-3a, 5 and 16-17

Shout with joy to God, all you on earth; sing to the glory of His Name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, “How great are Your deeds!”

Come, and see God’s wonders; His deeds, awesome for humans. All you, who fear God, come, and listen; let me tell you what He has done. I cried aloud to Him, extolling Him with my tongue.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Deuteronomy 34 : 1-12

From the barren plain of Moab, Moses went up to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, opposite Jericho. And YHVH showed him all the Land : from Gilead to Dan, the whole of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim, and of Manasseh, the whole land of Judah, as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the Plains, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.

And YHVH said to him : “This is the land about which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promising it to their descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not enter it.”

Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, according to the will of YHVH. They buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but to this very day, no one knows where his tomb is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died. He did not lose his vigour and his eyes still saw clearly.

The children of Israel mourned for him in the plains of Moab for thirty days. But Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him. The children of Israel obeyed him and did as YHVH had commanded Moses.

No prophet like Moses has appeared again. YHVH conversed with him face to face. What signs and wonders he worked in Egypt against Pharaoh, against his people and all his land! He displayed great power and awesome might in view of all Israel!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us all of the love which God has constantly shown to us, despite all of our disobedience and refusal to love Him. He has always been faithful to the Covenant He made with each and every one of us, and He has blessed us all throughout these lives we have, and everything that we are today, all of these are because of Him and His endless love for us.

In our first reading passage today from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses, who was at the last moments of his life, was speaking to the entire congregation of the people of Israel, those who have survived the whole forty years journey through the desert, having been led and guided by God throughout all those years of ordeal, suffering, trials and time of purification from their sins.

Those who have sinned and disobeyed God had perished in the desert as God Himself had told them, while their sons and daughters and those who remained faithful to God were the only ones who would then enter into the land promised to them and their ancestors, the land of Canaan. Moses reassured them all that God would be with all of them and they had nothing to fear. It was because of that fear which made Israel disobeyed and distrusted the Lord that caused the whole nation to wander in the desert for forty years in the first place.

God has always been faithful, and He continues to love His people generously as He has always been. And that is the clear message of today’s passage from the Book of Deuteronomy. God will care for us and take care of everything we need, but we need to trust in Him and put our whole lives, our whole existence in His care and devote ourselves to His providence and His compassionate mercy.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, reminds us yet again of this love which He has for all of us. By using the example and parable of the lost sheep, He shows that if even any one of us, represented by the sheep of the flock, wanders off and becomes lost, God, as our ever loving and dedicated Shepherd, will go all the way to look for us and to find us, and be reunited with us.

That is exactly what He has done, brothers and sisters in Christ, by willingly humbling Himself and assuming the form of our humanity, in becoming the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, to become the One through Whom we would be saved, by His works and by His ultimate sacrifice of love, the sacrifice of the Cross. God loves us so much that He willingly embraced all the sufferings and the pains of the punishments for our sins, and by His Cross, He unites us all back to Himself, reconciling us all by the atonement for our sins.

But His love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness will not be able to enter into us, if we remain obstinate and stubborn as those Israelites who have disobeyed and rebelled against God. They have closed their hearts and minds against the Lord and preferred to follow the temptations and false promises of Satan instead of listening to and obeying the Lord Who has loved and cared for them throughout all those years.

That is why, all of us need to reexamine our lives and reflect on the other words of the Lord today, Who has mentioned that unless we are like children in the manner of our faith, we will not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Why is this so? That is because we all surely know how children usually behave. Children below a certain age of understanding and knowledge are truly pure and innocent, and they will believe whatever they have heard, seen and experienced wholeheartedly.

And this is exactly the kind of faith that all of us must have as well, a pure love and commitment to God, a genuine dedication and longing for Him. We should not be swayed by the many temptations in life, the temptations of desire, the temptations of worldly glory and the many other things that often prevented us from finding our path towards the Lord. Today, therefore, we should look at the examples shown by two great saints of the early Church who have overcome the temptations of worldly glory and chose to be truly faithful to the Lord.

Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were two great leaders of the early Church during the years of terrible persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Maximinus in the early third century after the birth of Christ. At that time, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were in fact on the opposing sides of the bitter divide between two factions in the Church, when Pope St. Pontian was elected to be the successor of St. Peter. Some of the Church elders has elected St. Hippolytus earlier on as an Antipope.

The bitter division and conflict between the two saints then and their followers threatened to cause great schism in the Church, but eventually, by the grace of God and because of the persecutions against the Church, they were reconciled to each other, and when the Pope was arrested and exiled, Pope St. Pontian chose to voluntarily resign his position, and it was likely that St. Hippolytus did so as well, allowing for the restoration of the full unity in the Church and the continuation of the line of St. Peter even after they were exiled and martyred for their faith.

The example of humility shown by those two saints and their devotion to God and to the people entrusted to them, despite the divisions that occurred temporarily at that time should show us that if we are able to cast off the temptations of pride, of worldly glory and power, of influence and fame, and accept humbly the cross of Christ as Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus had done, we too can share in their glory, through our own virtuous and exemplary lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray to the Lord, asking Him for strength and encouragement, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him and find our way to the salvation He has promised to us all. May all of us be ever more committed and be able to serve Him from now on with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 32 : 3-4a, 7, 8, 9 and 12

For I will proclaim the Name of the Lord and declare the greatness of our God. He is the Rock, and perfect are all His works, just are all His ways.

Recall the days of old, think of the years gone by; your father will teach you about them, your elders will enlighten you.

When the Most High divided humankind and gave the nations their inheritance, He set up boundaries for the people after the number of the sons of God.

But the Lord keeps for Himself His portion Jacob, His chosen one. The Lord alone led them, without the aid of a foreign god.