Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the works of God among us, which we often refused to heed or believe in, resulting in many of us choosing down the path of rebellion and disobedience against God, not trusting in God but instead in our own ways and choices, which we often made in contrary to His will, and not following God and His path. As a result, this led to some of us falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin, and we have to avoid that.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos detailing the conversation between Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Amos, the prophet of God. At that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had long rebelled against God and the House of David, following their own path and way of worship, ever since the first king of that northern kingdom, Jeroboam, but not the Jeroboam mentioned in today’s passage, led the people into sin by establishing a parallel centre of worship in Bethel, in opposition to the one and true God Who ought to be worshipped at that time in Jerusalem.

Amaziah complained to this other king Jeroboam, the second Jeroboam to rule over the northern kingdom just a few decades before its ultimate destruction by the Assyrians. Amaziah as the priest of Bethel, likely representing the same pagan worship as instituted by the first king Jeroboam, found Amos, his works and prophecies to be a great annoyance and interference in his domain, and Amaziah complained to the king himself for what the prophet Amos had prophesied against the king and the northern kingdom itself.

Amaziah himself tried to push Amos away and told him off by telling him to go back to his native land of Judah. Yet, to this Amos immediately countered by saying that his mission and calling, and everything he had done come from the Lord and how God called him to do His will. Amos was to be the one to proclaim a warning and judgment of the Lord on the Israelites in the northern kingdom for all of their continued rebellion against God and refusal to obey His Law and their unwillingness to listen to the words of the many prophets that had been sent to their midst.

In our Gospel passage today, similarly we heard the case of when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, some of whom criticised the Lord harshly for His words in proclaiming forgiveness of sins in the midst of Him healing a man who had been paralysed. The Lord had pity on the man and helped him, healing him from his troubles, and through that occasion, He also highlighted that as the Holy One of God, the Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, He has the authority to forgive sins and to deliver us from those sins, and to heal us from our afflictions, be it physical or spiritual in nature.

We heard how the Lord encountered tough opposition not only in what we encountered in the Gospel passage today but also in other occasions, where He and His disciples had to go up against the forces of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law arrayed against them. It was just like how at the time of the prophet Amos who had to go against the wickedness and stubbornness of the people of Israel, whose pride and arrogance in refusing to listen to God became their undoing. Their downfall was because they were not humble enough to admit that they were wrong and mistaken in their path, and unfortunately many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law fell into that same path.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings ought to highlight to us how as Christians each and every one of us are challenged to embrace God’s calling for us all to be great missionaries and witnesses of our faith in the midst of our various communities, within our families and circles of friends and acquaintances among others. Each one of us are called to be like the prophet Amos, and to be like the Lord Himself in standing up courageously for our faith in the midst of opposition and challenges that we may face in our journey of faith. However, it is not just that, as we are also called to be ever vigilant and on guard against the threat from our pride, ego, greed and desire, all of which could lead us down the wrong path to ruin.

Today, we all should follow the good examples of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, those who have defended their faith and committed themselves to the Lord in the face of suffering and persecutions. They were the ones who suffered with St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we have just celebrated yesterday. These First Martyrs of the Roman Church were those who were persecuted, arrested and killed during the years of the first Great Persecution of Christians done by the Roman Emperor Nero, during which many were afflicted and even martyred for their faith, and for their refusal to abandon the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence renew our faith and commitment in God, following the examples of our holy predecessors and that of the Lord Himself, and while also being vigilant and heeding the warning of what we should not be doing based on what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Let us all strive to be good examples and inspiration to one another through our life and actions, all throughout this life, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Amos 7 : 10-17

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent word to king Jeroboam of Israel, “Amos is conspiring against you in the very centre of Israel; what he says goes too far. These are his very words : Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be exiled from its land.”

Amaziah then said to Amos, “Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there by prophesying. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is a king’s sanctuary and a national shrine.”

Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet or one of the fellow prophets. I am a breeder of sheep and a dresser of sycamore trees. But YHVH took me from shepherding the flock and said to me : Go, prophesy to My people Israel. Now hear the word of YHVH, you who say : No more prophesy against Israel, no more insults against the family of Isaac!”

“This is what YHVH says : Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, your land shall be divided up and given to others, and you, yourself, shall die in a foreign land, for Israel shall be driven far from its land.”

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the All Souls’ Day, we remember all of our brethren who have departed before us, all those whom we have known and have left us behind, and even all others, strangers whom we have not met, but indeed have also left this earthly life behind. Today we remember all the souls of the faithful departed, just as yesterday we rejoice together in the glory of the saints, those whom God and His Church had deemed worthy to receive directly the glory of heaven.

And today, we pray for those who have left this earthly life and yet we are not sure of their state after their earthly death, whether they would be worthy enough to merit to enter the kingdom of heaven, or whether they have to suffer in purgatory before they can enter into the kingdom of God, or whether their wickedness or sins had overcome them and made them judged to be worthy of hell instead. It is not us to decide, but God.

For many of us, our instinctive reaction upon thinking of death is fear, that is we are afraid of death, because of this uncertainty of our fate, and ultimately, of course, many of us find it difficult to part with whatever we have attained and possessed in this world, resulting in many of us trying to preserve whatever we have, our life and our youth, with many emphasis placed on trying to prolong our lives and maintaining our youthful appearances.

Many of us grieve very badly upon losing our loved ones to death, mostly because we think that we are not going to see them again, and we cannot bear to be separated from them. It is part of our natural instinct as human beings to grieve and be sad, because after all, when we are no longer able to physically interact with someone we love and care for, we should indeed feel disturbed by that new reality.

But we should not lose hope or despair, for the Lord Himself had made it clear to us in many occasions, that He has come into the world that all of us may have hope, because of His death and resurrection, which showed us all that there is a path out of that darkness and despair, the path to our salvation in our God. And that is the hope which all of us ought to remember today, even as we are saddened by the loss of our beloved.

Remember, brethren, that Christ’s death is followed by His resurrection, and He has promised us all through His disciples, that He will raise all those who are faithful to Him on the last day, and we all will be reunited with one another, with our beloved ones, with our brothers and sisters with whom we may have been temporarily separated. If we believe in this, then truly, we should absolutely have no need to fear death, be it for our own or for others around us, as it is not an end, but rather the transition and the beginning to a new life filled with new joy with our God.

Therefore, today, as we celebrate the Feast of All Souls’ Day, first of all, let us all realise that as I have mentioned yesterday during the Solemnity of All Saints, there are three parts of the Church, the Church Triumphant, consisting of the saints of God, who have been deemed worthy to enjoy immediately the joy of the kingdom of God, the Church Militant, all of us living in this world at the moment, who are living the daily struggles of our lives, and finally the Church Suffering, for whom we are praying for today.

For the Church Suffering consists of all the faithful ones who have lived in the grace of God, died in a state of grace, but which venial or minor sins have not been completely cleared and absolved from them. They are not yet able to be with God, for they cannot bring sin before God, as sin has no place before Him. Nevertheless, they have also been found worthy enough so as to escape the eternal damnation in hell, which is reserved only for those whose evil and wicked deeds truly outweighed their good ones.

So today, firstly, we have to pray for those souls in purgatory, who are suffering the pain of the holy flames of purification, enduring the consequences of their sufferings. We pray that God will lessen their sufferings and ordeal, and be willing to completely absolve our brethren in purgatory of their sins, that they may finally enter into the heavenly kingdom and partake in the glorious inheritance reserved for them.

And secondly, we should also reflect on how we ourselves live our lives in this world. The souls in purgatory knew well what they have committed in life, all the things they have done that landed them in the purgatorial flames instead of immediately enjoying the glorious heaven. And they definitely would not want us to end up where they are as well. In fact, just as we have prayed for them, they too are constantly praying for us.

Knowing just how much we all are related to each other, even beyond the realm of this world, we should all the more be more inspired to live a good and devout Christian life. We should not take chances, brothers and sisters in Christ, for what is at stake is none other than our own souls, the state of our own salvation or whether it would instead be damnation.

Let us all not wait until it is too late for us, but instead, work together and helping each other to find our way to the Lord, by doing what is right in the sight of God, by our unfailing obedience and commitment, by loving our brethren in need, be generous and be charitable in all things. And let us also not forget about our loving brethren, our beloved relatives and even strangers who are also our brothers and sisters, children of the same God, that we should offer them our prayers and for the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass to be offered for their sake.

Let us pray for one another, that all of us will eventually be able to persevere through all the difficult challenges in this world, and give our best in order to do the will of our God, be no longer lukewarm and hesitant in our faith, but instead be true disciples of our Lord, doing His will in all that we say, act and do. May God bless us all, and may all the souls of our brethren, those who are faithful and have departed, find the rest they need in the Lord. Requiescat in Pace. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later after Jesus healed the servant of a captain in Capernaum, He went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us; God, has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Romans 5 : 5-11

And hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us : when we were still helpless and unable to do anything. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die.

But see how God manifested His love for us : while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and we have become just through His Blood. With much more reason now He will save us from any condemnation. Once enemies, we have been reconciled with God through the death of His Son; with much more reason now we may be saved through His life.

Not only that; we even boast in God because of Christ Jesus, our Lord, through Whom we have been reconciled.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 7-9, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

Hear my voice when I call, o Lord, have mercy on me and answer. My heart says to You, “I seek Your face, o Lord.” Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Isaiah 25 : 6-9

On this mountain YHVH Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain He will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more.

The Lord YHVH will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; He will take away the humiliation of His people all over the world : For YHVH has spoken. On that day you will say : This is our God. We have waited for Him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016 : Solemnity of All Saints, All Saints’ Day (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great Feast and Solemnity of All Saints, when we celebrate together with the whole Church the holy men and women, all those who have been deemed righteous by the Church, worthy of the eternal glory of heaven which God had prepared for them, and which He has also prepared for all of us who remain true to Him in faith.

Brothers and sisters, the celebrations of today, the All Saints’ Day, and tomorrow, the All Souls’ Day, are designed to remind us of the existence of three parts of the Church, both in this world and beyond. And they are the Church Triumphant, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering, each of which are helping each other, particularly that of the Church Militant and Church Suffering in the goal of reaching out to the Lord and to His salvation.

The Church Militant refers to us all who belong to the Church and still living in this world, carrying out our daily activities and works, and that is why we are called the Church Militant, for we should know that every single moment of our earthly life, we are always locked in that constant struggle between the Lord and those He had sent to our aid, our guardian Angels, against those seeking our downfall, chief of which is the devil, Satan, the evil one, whose designs for us are intended to drag us with him into eternal damnation in hell.

Meanwhile those in the Church Suffering are those who have left this earthly life before us, those who have died and yet deemed to be worthy enough to escape eternal damnation in hell, but because of their sins in life, small and venial, not mortal sins, they were deemed to be still unworthy to directly enter the kingdom of God, for sin has no place in the sight of God.

And thus they are suffering now the consequences of their sins, being purified in the holy flames of purgatory, as the Church taught us about the fate of those who were deemed worthy and yet still bearing the remnants of their venial and unrepented sins, which became a barrier in their path to the Lord. They are suffering because they are so close to God, and yet they are not yet able to be with Him until the time comes when their sins are completely absolved.

So, brethren, what about the Church Triumphant? This is the focus of our celebrations today, as the Church Triumphant refers to the holy men and women which by the virtues of their lives, have been deemed to be worthy enough and good enough to merit directly the glory of heaven upon the end of their earthly lives. And therefore, these are the saints we have today, those whom God had raised into heavenly glory to be our role model, and indeed as our helpers.

What does this mean, brethren? First of all, perhaps we should understand first what it means by the term saints. The saints are not deities or gods, as some of us may have misunderstood who they really are. It is not like those in other false faiths and pagans, who prayed to dead people and asked them to do miracles for them, or to grant them something good based on these dead people’s own powers.

Instead, the saints are just like us, brothers and sisters in Christ, and they used to live on this earth as we now do. It is not that like in some mythologies where some men or women became superman or superwoman because they gained some magical or supernatural powers and then used these to bring good or bad things on others. In fact, saints were sinners like us too, and some of the saints were once great and unrepentant sinners, until one moment in their respective lives when they decided to change their lives.

St. Augustine of Hippo for example, was a delinquent young man who caused his mother, St. Monica, plenty of worries and troubles. He lived through all sorts of debauchery and wickedness, and he wandered through one woman to another, fathering even a child with one of them. It seemed that he would go down that path to his ruin, as one after another, he experienced all the vile deeds of the world.

And yet, through the continuous prayers and never-ending support from his mother, and through his own gradual understanding and discovery that his ways had been wrong, eventually he turned around in his life and dedicated his life from then on in righteousness and obedience to God. Through his many works, writings and efforts, he had done so many good things to those whom he had met and touched, and therefore became a source of inspiration for many others.

That is one example of who saints were, and what they had eventually become. St. Francis of Assisi, the renowned holy man and founder of the Franciscan order was once the son and heir of a rich textile merchant, while St. Ignatius of Loyola was the heir and son of another powerful family in Spain, both of whom were brought up to enjoy earthly life in wealth and revelry, but eventually they also realised that what they were doing were not what satisfied them, and therefore they repented and changed their ways, and thereafter became the sources of inspiration for many others, many of whom also eventually became saints themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we rejoice in the glory of the holy saints of God, first of all we have to understand that each and every one of us has the potential to become a saint ourselves, as if we have done what the Lord had asked us to do, and even more, going forward to show love, mercy, care and compassion to those who need these, and inspire many others to do the same, then we will also be found faithful, worthy and just to enter into the glory of heaven, sharing together the joy of the saints we celebrate today.

Then secondly, we should know what the saints can do to help us all still living in this world. They are our intercessors, those who pray for us on our behalf, asking God to show His mercy and guidance to us, and through our request for their intercession, they helped us in guiding our prayers to God, for after all, they are in heaven, at the sides of the Lord.

And indeed, the greatest of all saints is Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, and thus that is why in the Church we also have a very strong devotion to Mary, for through her and her prayers, as she once did in the wedding at Cana, she helped us all in the same manner as her petitions and requests for her Son to help the struggling wedding couple was heard and fulfilled.

The saints are praying for us all the time, and they all are aware of our sufferings and our current state, particularly that many of us who are still heading down the path towards eternal damnation and downfall. They are always working together with our guardian Angels, those whom God had sent to us to help us, so that we will be able to prevail through the difficulties and challenges found in this world, and eventually be able to find our way to God’s salvation and grace.

And last of all, let us all be inspired by the examples of the saints themselves, that we may find our way to God’s salvation by doing what the saints and the Church had shown and taught us to do. For the saints are like stained glass in the churches that we see and often adore because of their beauty. An untempered and undecorated stained is not beautiful, but once it has been decorated and completed, it becomes a sign of beauty, when light passes through it and illuminate the entire church building.

Therefore, in the same manner, we ourselves are empty vessels without meaning if we have no God living truly inside of us. It is God’s light in the saints that made them to have such amazing lives filled with righteousness and good deeds, and through them, God’s works are made evident in this world, inspiring many others to follow them, and we can do the same as well.

As we rejoice today, let us thus not forget what each of us Christians can do and can become, that is as the reflections of the saints, which in turn are the reflections of God and His light. Let us all be beacons of light for the world, and be not afraid to do what we can in order to evangelise and spread the Good News, lighting up the way to our brethren, particularly those who are still not aware of God and His ways, and those who have lost their way amidst the persuasions and temptations of this world.

May the Lord help us on our journey, and may the inspirations of the holy saints become our sustenance and strength, that we too may share in their glory at the end of our own earthly lives, as we have done what the Lord asked us to do, and even more, helping one another to draw ever closer to the Lord our God. Amen.