Saturday, 19 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the reassurance which God has given us that He is always with us, protecting us and providing for us, and for always being faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us despite our own inability to commit to that Covenant. In the Scripture passages today, we are reminded of God’s promises to us which He had made from time immemorial and renewed again and again.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s promise to Abraham, the Covenant which He had sealed and made with the father of many nations and our father in faith. Abraham was then without a child although he and his wife were already old and Sarah, his wife past childbearing age, and he had relegated his hopes to have his estates and patrimony passed on to one of his own trusted servants rather than to the heir of his body.

But Abraham trusted in God just as he trusted Him and listened to Him when He called him out of the lands of his ancestors in Ur, Mesopotamia. When God first called Abraham, Abraham entrusted himself in the Lord and left behind family and land, following God to the land which He had promised to him and his descendants, a land which He has blessed Abraham with. And Abraham stayed faithful to the end, devoting himself to God and God fulfilled the promise which He has made with him.

We have seen how God made Abraham to be the father of many nations, blessing the descendants he has gained from the grace of God. What seemed to be impossible for man, God has made possible, for indeed there is nothing that is impossible or too great for God to do. And through his faith, Abraham gained what he has been promised, for God is ever faithful, and even when His people were unfaithful, God is always ever faithful, for according to St. Paul, He cannot deny Himself and the love He has for us all.

And in the Gospel today the Lord again reiterated His faithfulness to the Covenant which He had made with His people, and as long as they are faithful to Him, they will not be disappointed and they will receive what God has promised to them as Abraham had once received. But at the same time, God wants us all to know that just as Abraham did not have it easy through his many years of following and obeying Him, we too will encounter difficulties and challenges along the way.

This was a premonition of what the disciples and the Apostles would have to face as they were sent on their missions to be witnesses of Christ’s truth and salvation. They would face bitter persecutions and challenges during their ministry, being arrested, tortured and rejected by the people they ministered to, and even betrayed and abandoned by those who were close to them, their own families and friends.

But they held on fast to their faith, as Abraham once had, and spent their energy and strength to serve the Lord wholeheartedly despite all those challenges. And today, we have yet more of these holy predecessors of ours, whose lives have been exemplary and whose actions and deeds can become our inspiration as well, as we look upon the examples of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, the Jesuit missionaries of North America as well as St. Paul of the Cross.

The Jesuit missionaries of North America, St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brebeuf and their companions were those who braved the tough challenges of evangelisation in distant lands in the wild and untamed nature of the North American continent, in what is now part of Canada in Quebec. They preached the word of God and His salvation to the natives, many of whom were reluctant and apprehensive of the message of the Gospel they received.

They had to endure bitter cold winters, wild animals and shortages of food, attacks from hostile tribes and torture from those who were captured by those hostile to the missionaries. And yet, they refused to back down and remained strong in their faith and in their strong resolution to serve God. Many of them were martyred but their efforts and their inspiration served to strengthen the faith of many and made firm the foundations of the Church in those lands.

Meanwhile St. Paul of the Cross was a mystic and the founder of the Passionist Order, renowned for his great piety and personal austere lifestyle, through which he inspired many people to live their lives with greater faith and commitment to God. His extensive writings and works became source of strength and conviction for many of those who followed in his footsteps through the centuries since. He showed us all how one can live his life so focused and centred on God and obey His will so well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of our courageous and dedicated, faithful and committed predecessors in faith? Let us all make a new resolution in our lives that from now on we will be ever deeper in our commitment to God and in being ever closer to God. Let us all put our trust in God and be faithful to His Covenant and remember the great love and faithfulness He has always shown us despite our rebelliousness and stubbornness all these while. May God bless us all and be with us always. Amen.

Saturday, 19 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 12 : 8-12

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before people, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the Angels of God. But the one who denies Me before others will be denied before the Angels of God. There will be pardon for the one who criticises the Son of Man, but there will be no pardon for the one who slanders the Holy Spirit.”

“When you are brought before the synagogues, and before governors and rulers, do not worry about how you will defend yourself, or what to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you have to say.”

Saturday, 19 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Psalm)

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

Psalm 104 : 6-7, 8-9, 42-43

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is YHVH our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His Covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the Covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

For He remembered His promise to Abraham, His servant. So He led forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with singing.

Saturday, 19 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (First Reading)

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

Romans 4 : 13, 16-18

If God promised Abraham, or rather his descendants, that the world would belong to him, this was not because of his obeying the Law, but because he was just, and a friend of God, through faith.

For that reason, faith is the way, and all is given, by grace; and the promises of Abraham are fulfilled for all his descendants, not only for his children according to the Law, but, also, for all the others, who have believed. Abraham is the father of all of us, as it is written : I will make you the father of many nations. He is our father, in the eyes of Him, Who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence, what does not yet exist, for this is the God in Whom he believed.

Abraham believed, and hoped against all expectation, thus, becoming the father of many nations, as he had been told : See how many will be your descendants.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope 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 speaking to us about the faith that we must have in God and we must not doubt Him any longer, no matter what. We must trust in Him and we must not allow temptations to distract us and to pull us away from Him as what happened to the Israelites of the time of the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord spoke before the people making references to both the Queen of the South as well as the prophet Jonah. And the context of this occasion was that the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked the Lord to perform miracles and signs before them that they might believe in Him and follow Him. Yet, the fact is that the Lord had done numerous miracles before their eyes before they asked Him, and they refused to believe.

In fact, plenty of times when they asked the Lord to show them something miraculous was meant to test Him and to find evidences against Him, as they continued to refuse to listen to Him and closed their hearts and minds against Him. They did not have faith in the Lord and they allowed pride and worldly greed and desires to overcome their rationale and wisdom, and as a result, they refused to believe even though they have seen and witnessed the wonders of God many times.

St. Paul in our first reading passage today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome spoke firmly and courageously of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Whom he was serving as an Apostle, and laid before the faithful in simple and straightforward terms, who the Lord Jesus truly is, the One Whom God had promised to His people as the Saviour of the whole world and by Whose hands, mankind were to be saved.

As a significant proportion of the earliest Christians were members of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the Mediterranean including in Rome, St. Paul alluded to the Lord Jesus being the One Who fulfilled the many prophecies of the prophets of God, the One promised to bring mankind into eternal life and salvation, and by the supreme act of love on the Cross of His sacrifice, Christ brought salvation into the world.

And that was the sign of Jonah as alluded by the Lord Himself in the Gospel passage today. The Lord would descend into the depths of hell until the third day of His resurrection, just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great whale. And just as Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh to remind them of their wickedness that led them to repent from their sins, the Lord Jesus came into this world to call us to repent from our sins.

Through all of these, and what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, we really need to reflect deeply on our own lives and actions thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God all these while or were our faith more of the superficial kind, or just of a formality and paying lip service to God and the Church? We need to discern what we have to do from now on in our lives as faithful Christians, that is as those who truly believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today perhaps we should also look at the inspiring examples shown by this day’s saint, namely Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the early leaders of the Church who endured much difficulties and challenges from even his youth, as it was told that he lived formerly as a slave during his early years. When he was eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter and leader of the Church, he lived through a difficult time of persecution of the Christian faithful.

There were challenges from both outside and from within the Church at the time, as disagreements in the Church leadership actually caused bitter division and election of a rival Pope, St. Hippolytus of Rome. And during those years, persecution of Christians would end up causing the arrest and eventual suffering and martyrdom of Pope St. Callixtus I and many other Christians of his time. Nonetheless, they lived their lives with great faith and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on renew our conviction and commitment to live as better Christians, to be more faithful in all things and to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters around us with ever greater love and faith. May God through the intercession of His faithful saints, especially Pope St. Callixtus I, continue to bless us in our daily lives. Amen.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.