Sunday, 12 July 2020 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 1-23

At that time, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Then His disciples came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

“Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath. The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the Word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the Word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the Word; but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the Word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the Word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Sunday, 12 July 2020 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 8 : 18-23

I consider, that the suffering of our present life cannot be compared with the glory that will be revealed, and given to us. All creation is eagerly expecting the birth, in glory, of the children of God. For, if now, the created world was unable to attain its purpose, this did not come from itself, but from the one who subjected it.

But it is not without hope; for even the created world, will be freed from this fate of death, and share the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know, that the whole creation groans and suffers the pangs of birth. Not creation alone, but even ourselves; although the Spirit was given to us, as a foretaste of what we are to receive, we groan in our innermost being, eagerly awaiting the day, when God will give us full rights, and rescue our bodies as well.

Sunday, 12 July 2020 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 64 : 10abcd, 10e-11, 12-13, 14

You water the land and care for it, enriching it with natural resources. God’s stream is filled with water.

So You prepare the earth to give us its fruits. You drench the furrows in the land and level the ridges; You soften the soil with showers and bless its crops.

You crown the year with Your goodness; abundance flows everywhere. The deserts have become pasture land, the hills are clothed with gladness.

The meadows, covered with flocks, the valleys, decked with grain – they shout and sing for joy.

Sunday, 12 July 2020 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 55 : 10-11

As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : It will not return to Me idle, but It shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard first of all from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the description of a great vision that Isaiah received, as he saw the marvellous glory of God, the magnificent Throne of God and His divine majesty, enthroned among the Seraphim and Cherubim, the greatest among the Angels of God. The Lord showed Isaiah that vision to strengthen him and to make him know how He has chosen him to bear His words to the people and to proclaim His truth and prophesy in His Name.

And therefore, from then on, Isaiah after he enthusiastically answered God’s call with, ‘Here I am! Send me!’, went on to serve the people, speaking God’s words among them, encouraging them as shown at the moment when king Sennacherib of Assyria came up to besiege Jerusalem with a mighty army and mocked both God and the king, Isaiah reassured both the king of Judah and the people, that God would be with them and that for all the boasts and hubris of the Assyrian king, he was nothing compared to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sure enough, no sooner that the Assyrian king had made his boast, blaspheming against God, that the Lord sent His Angels against the king’s mighty army, and wiped them all out with a great disaster and plague, that when morning broke, hundreds of thousands were dead and the Assyrian king Sennacherib had to abandon his siege and retreat back to his lands in shame. Through this, God showed that He is truly the One in charge, and the Master over all things.

And through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has also promised His people that He would bring them salvation and liberation, as He renewed His promise of the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was extensively spoken about in many of Isaiah’s prophecies. Through all these assurances, the Lord again wanted His people to have faith in Him and to keep their trust in Him, that despite everything that they might have suffered and endured because of their sins, their wickedness and disobedience, but God was always ready to welcome them back and be reconciled with them.

This reconciliation came about and was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the One Whom the prophet Isaiah had been prophesying about. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the whole world has seen the salvation of God, and the world that was once filled with darkness and uncertainty, have seen the light and hope of God, finally revealed to all. And Christ reiterated again and again, including in what we have heard in our Gospel today, how we are truly fortunate to have God Who loves us all dearly and considers us precious.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord spoke of the trust that we ought to have in God because of just how precious we are in the sight of God, how beloved we are and how fortunate we are because every single one of us are blessed and important to God, no matter how small or insignificant we may think we are. The Lord has shown again from time to time, throughout history, how He has protected His faithful ones and provided for them in their time of need. And even at the darkest and the most vulnerable moments, when we mankind have no where else and nothing and no one else to turn to, the Lord is and will always be there for us.

But are we willing to accept Him? Are we even aware that He is always there for us, providing for us and granting us what we need? The Lord has shown us His ever present love and attention, but many of us have abandoned Him, left Him for other things, for worldly comforts and desires, for all sorts of temptations that made us more and more distant, and became more and more separated from God. That is why today we are reminded through these Scripture passages, to turn once again towards God if we have forgotten about Him or abandoned Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have to remember how we are truly beloved by God and precious to Him, and then, even more importantly, we are called by God to do His will, to follow in the footsteps of the prophet Isaiah and help others to find their way back to God, and to remind them all of how great and loving God has been towards us. All of us have been called and share in this calling through our baptism, that we all are charged with spreading the word of God, to lead others to Him.

St. Benedict, holy Abbot and great father of Christian monasticism in the Western Christendom can be our great source of inspiration, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. Benedict, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was a great and holy servant of God, renowned for his piety and commitment to live a life of purity and prayer dedicated to God. He was born in a Roman noble family and had a good upbringing and life, but as he continued his education in Rome, the immorality and wickedness he witnessed made him to want to seek God.

As a result, he and his sister, St. Scholastica, began to seek God through prayerful life and retreat away from the world. Through his efforts and example, the foundations for Christian monastic practices in the Western Christendom were established, as he inspired many others to follow him in a life of asceticism and prayer dedicated to God, living in a close-knit community, and wrote the rule which would be remembered for many centuries and generations since, the Rule of St. Benedict, which would also inspire the rules in the many other monastic orders.

Through his life, St. Benedict inspired many people to turn once again towards the Lord, some of whom decided to follow his way of life and become an ascetic and monk, while others endeavoured to lead a better life more connected to God, through greater charity, life more attuned to God and more righteous and just in all of their dealings. Are we able to inspire others just as St. Benedict had done? That is why we need to follow God wholeheartedly and make our lives a great reflection of our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He make us all great instruments of His presence in this world. May He grant us the strength and courage to be ever faithful, dedicated to Him as how the prophet Isaiah and the many other prophets, and as St. Benedict of Nursia and the many other holy saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. May all of us be ever faithful, and be great and committed disciples of the Lord, in words, deeds and actions, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 6 : 1-8

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him were Seraphs, each with six wings : two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another : “Holy, Holy, Holy is YHVH Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with His glory!”

At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, YHVH Sabaoth.”

Then one of the Seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the Altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?”

I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Friday, 10 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the assurance of love and mercy from God, the assurance that no matter what, God will always be by our side regardless of whatever that had happened or will happen to us, and we can be sure of the Lord’s guidance and protection. That is because, if all else fail and all else fall apart, the Lord alone can be fully trusted and depended upon. His everlasting and enduring love for us is the reason for all these.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Hosea, after many days listening to God’s anger at His people’s constant disobedience and sins, their lack of faith and stubbornness in worshipping idols and performing what were wicked in the sight of God, today we heard that despite all of these, the Lord still truly loved His people, and called on all of them to return to Him, to repent from their sins, turning away from their wickedness and once again embrace God’s righteousness.

The Lord wanted all of them to throw away the shackles of their sins, to put their trust once again in Him instead of all the idols and other worldly powers that they had entrusted themselves to at that time, as many of the people turned instead to Baal, Ashtaroth, and other pagan gods for direction and guidance, instead of turning to God, and they trusted more in politics and worldly connections rather than to trust in God.

As mentioned in the passage today, what was spoken was truly prophetic, as Assyria mentioned in that passage as one of those to whom the Israelites had turned to for support, would in short time, ended up becoming the very one that would destroy the kingdom, its capital Samaria and brought its people into exile. All those who had sought to seek Assyria’s help and support, particularly in the context of the ever-bitter rivalry between the northern kingdom and the neighbouring country of Aram-Damascus would eventually be disappointed as both kingdoms were crushed by the rising Empire.

The Lord through His prophet Hosea was reminding His people that He alone has the power to guide them all to the true happiness and joy, and save them from their predicament and trouble. For He is truly the One with the power and authority to rule over all things, and there is no other things in this world that we can rely on or trust besides the Lord. Unfortunately, we are often too busy or preoccupied, distracted and ignorant to realise just how fortunate we have been, to have been so beloved by God, Who has always been ever so patient towards us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of this same reassurance to His disciples, as He encouraged them and strengthened them, in saying that they should not fear of worry about themselves, should they encounter trials and challenges during their ministry and faithful commitment to His cause. He said all these to strengthen them and prepare them for what they were to experience. Many among the Apostles and disciples would endure prison, torture and suffering, and even death. Many others would endure trials and persecution, rejection and opposition.

The Lord reassured them that He would be with them, standing by them even through their most difficult moments. They would never be alone, or face their oppressors and challengers on their own accord. If they trust in the Lord, the Lord would be their strength and consolation, their guide and protector, and His Spirit would be with them, giving them wisdom and courage, brilliance and perseverance, just as most prominently we can see in St. Stephen’s martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this past year alone, and especially this year, we have seen, witnessed and likely experienced for ourselves, how our usual trust and dependance on worldly matters and things have been shaken and our trust in them destroyed. We see how our society and respective communities were affected badly by all the negative implications of the current pandemic, troubles and conflicts affecting our whole world. When what we have thought all these while to be stable are gone and can no longer be trusted, who or what then can we turn our attention to?

Of course it is the Lord, He Who is ever constant and faithful, Whose love for us is ever present and enduring, even amidst all of our infidelities and lack of faith. God has shown us yet again and again, how He is ever patient, in calling us to return to Him and to be reconciled to Him. Yet, at the same time, we also have to realise that He is calling us to repent and turn away from our sins and wickedness, for if we constantly being stubborn and refuse His mercy, then it is by those sins that we will be condemned and judged.

Let us all turn towards God with a renewed love and dedication, that from now on we will draw ever closer to God, and be filled with deeper and more genuine faith in Him from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He be our inspiration, strength, guide and protector as we continue to journey through life with faith. May God bless us always, in all of our good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 10 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.”