Thursday, 15 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the love which each and every one of us as Christians ought to have for one another. This is shown in the first reading of today, taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to Philemon. In that correspondence, St. Paul spoke of the request which he made of Philemon to take good care of Onesimus, his godson.

This happened at the time when St. Paul was already imprisoned for his activities in preaching the Gospel to the people both the Jews and Gentiles alike. He faced much opposition and endured many rejections from his enemies and from those who refused to believe in the message he preached. He was imprisoned together with Onesimus and many other fellow Christians, and it was likely that Onesimus was released earlier than St. Paul from the prison.

Therefore, what happened was that, St. Paul sent Onesimus back to the community where he met him, the community which Philemon also belonged to. He asked Philemon and the community to accept Onesimus back and to take care of him well, without prejudice and with true love, as if Onesimus was St. Paul himself. This was made likely because St. Paul knew that his time was almost up, and he wanted to make sure everything was well taken care of.

It was likely that St. Paul was about to go forth to his last journey to Rome, where he would eventually meet his martyrdom, and therefore, he sent forth Onesimus, that the community might be able to take good care of him in Christian love. And this is indeed, what the Lord had told His people, by the coming of His kingdom into this world. Not by wonderful and miraculous signs, but through concrete building of a thriving and loving community of the people of God.

In the Gospel passage today, the suffering of Christ was foretold by none other than the Lord Himself, Who told the people and His disciples of His coming passion and suffering. He mentioned how He, the Son of Man, would be rejected and cast out, and would be handed over to the Romans to be crucified for the sake of all the people. And similarly, the Lord had reminded His disciples on various occasion, how they too shall suffer as He has suffered.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there were many of those who opposed the works and efforts of the Lord, who refused to allow the coming of the kingdom of God into our midst. Instead, they trusted more in the providence of worldly powers, goods and abilities. They hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord, and proudly sought to advance their own causes and desires, and in doing so, they failed to realise the potential of the kingdom of God in each one of us.

Today we are called to look once again upon our lives and actions. Have we been truly Christian in our attitudes and interactions with one another? Have we showed love, care and concern for our fellow brethren, especially those who are in need and those who have none to love them? These are the things that we should be doing as Christians, as those who follow the teachings and the examples of Christ, Our Lord and God.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Albert the Great, a truly devoted servant of God and bishop of the Church, who was renowned for his many contributions to the developing and growing Church and its communities in the region now known as Germany. St. Albert the Great was also a member of the Dominican religious order, and wrote very extensively on various matters of the faith. He helped to develop the theology and philosophical teachings of the Church, and his many works inspired many people through the centuries.

At the same time, besides his numerous contributions in the literary and teaching areas of the Church, St. Albert the Great was also remembered for his roles in defusing many conflicts and tensions between various factions of the Church, travelling from places to places, calling the people to righteousness and to abandon their sinful and wrong paths. He devoted himself to the good works of the Church and to the building of Christian communities to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should emulate the examples which had been shown by St. Paul and the other disciples of the Lord, and also St. Albert the Great, and the many other holy men and women of God, who have strived to bring God’s kingdom into our midst, to exist in reality through our Church and how its members exist in love with each other and with God.

Let us all embody this faith and belief which we have in God, in our own actions and deeds throughout life. And let us all turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord from now on, being role models for one another in faith, and in how we show our love to our fellow brethren, especially those who have need of our love. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in our good works of faith. Amen.

Thursday, 15 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 17 : 20-25

At that time, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was to come. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not like something you can observe, and say of it, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘See, there it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you.”

And Jesus said to His disciples, “The time is at hand, when you will long to see one of the glorious days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Then people will tell you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go with them, do not follow them. As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man; but first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.”

Thursday, 15 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

The Lord sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Thursday, 15 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Philemon 7-20

I had great satisfaction and comfort on hearing of your charity, because the hearts of the saints have been cheered by you, brother. Because of this, although in Christ I have the freedom to command what you should do, yet I prefer to request you in love. The one talking is Paul, the old man, now prisoner for Christ. And my request is on behalf of Onesimus, whose father I have become while I was in prison.

This Onesimus has not been helpful to you, but now he will be helpful both to you and to me. In returning him to you, I am sending you my own heart. I would have liked to keep him at my side, to serve me on your behalf while I am in prison for the Gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your agreement, nor impose a good deed upon you without your free consent.

Perhaps Onesimus has been parted from you for a while so that you may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave. For he is very dear brother to me, and he will be even dearer to you. And so, because of our friendship, receive him as if he were I myself.

And if he has caused any harm, or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this and sign it with my own hand : I will pay it…. without further mention of your debt to me, which is you yourself. So, my brother, please do me this favour for the Lord’s sake. Give me this comfort in Christ.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Titus 3 : 1-7

Remind the believers, to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, and to be ready for every good work. Tell them to insult no one; they must not be quarrelsome, but gentle and understanding with everyone. We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient and misled. We were slaves of our desires, seeking pleasures of every kind. We lived in malice and envy, hateful, and hating each other.

But God, Our Saviour, revealed His eminent goodness and love for humankind, and saved us, not because of good deeds we may have done, but for the sake of His own mercy, to the water of rebirth and renewal, by the Holy Spirit poured over us through Christ Jesus, Our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs, in hope of eternal life.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Titus 2 : 1-8, 11-14

Let your words strengthen sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be sober, serious, wise, sound in faith, love and perseverance. The older women in like manner must behave as befits holy women, not given to gossiping or drinking wine, but as good counsellors, able to teach younger women to love their husbands and children, to be judicious and chaste, to take care of their households, to be kind and submissive to their husbands, lest our faith be attacked.

Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. Set them an example by your own way of doing. Let your teaching be earnest and sincere, and your preaching beyond reproach. Then your opponents will feel ashamed and will have nothing to criticise.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teaching us to reject an irreligious way of life and worldly greed, and to live in this world as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope – the glorious manifestation of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus. He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from every evil and to purify a people He wanted to be His own and dedicated to what is good.

Monday, 12 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the important traits of God’s chief servants and the leaders and elders among the communities of the faithful, then named as overseers and elders. They were the ones who would in time become the first bishops of the Church, as those who were entrusted with the responsibility over the faithful in a certain geographical area.

In what St. Paul shared to St. Titus in his Epistle to him, he mentioned the characteristics of those who are to be chosen as bishops to lead the Church of God, to build up the foundations of the Church in the areas where at that time, it was still growing rapidly. St. Titus himself was also a bishop of the Church, one of the first among those whom the Apostles including St. Paul appointed as their successors in the government and management of the Church.

The bishops must have good qualities of the faith and also in leadership by example. They could not be those who were corrupt and wicked in their ways, or else the faith and the Church would be scandalised. They must be men of good character and showed great commitment to the Lord, which are important traits that all those who are serving the Lord ought to have in their lives and in their ministry.

These are important requirements for those who were called and chosen to be the good shepherds imitating the examples of the one, true Good Shepherd of all, Our Lord Jesus Christ. And they were given enormous responsibilities, that involves the very fate of many souls of man, which if not carefully and correctly managed, could cause those souls to be lost to God forever.

That was what the Lord Jesus mentioned when He said in the Gospel that, those who caused scandal for the faith, the Church and the faithful by their actions were truly not deserving of the Lord and His grace, for by their actions, deeds and maybe words, they have caused others, especially the vulnerable ones like children and others, to fall away from the faith, or to suffer the consequences of the former’s actions.

And sadly, this is what has happened in our Church throughout its long history, and even to this very day. There are scandals facing the Church, its priests, even bishops and the leaders that caused discomfort, pain and suffering among the members of the Church and the faithful, and this has caused some among the faithful to lose faith in God and His Church, and left the true faith behind.

Today, we ought to pray for the Church, for us all the faithful who believe in God, the members of His Church, and especially also for all those who have been called and chosen to become the shepherds of the faithful, that is the priests and bishops. Let us all pray for them, that they may remain faithful and committed to the service of God, and not to be tempted by Satan, the great enemy, who no doubt is trying to destroy the Church and us by attacking and tempting the holy priests and bishops.

We pray that they may have the courage to live up to their faith and calling, and following in the examples of the holy Apostles and martyrs, and especially today we celebrate the feast of a holy servant of God and courageous martyr of the faith, St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, who was an Eastern Catholic bishop living during the contentious time when the foundations for the Eastern Catholic churches were made, at the time when some of the prelates from the breakaway Eastern Orthodox Church wanted to restore communion and unity with Rome and the Pope.

Thus, historically, through the Union of Brest in the year of Our Lord 1596, some of the Eastern prelates and priests declared their obedience to the Roman Catholic Church, the true Church of the Apostles and the Church of God, together with a number of the faithful. But tensions and problems did not end there, and in fact, they began to foster and create difficulties for those who have decided to reunite with the Roman Pontiff.

St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was counted among these courageous prelates who as the bishop and Archeparch in the Ruthenian area of the church, among which there were still many who refused to accept the reunion with the Roman church, and hence, it gave St. Josaphat a lot of problems and difficulties, each of which he took upon patiently and with great faith. In the end, he faced martyrdom in the hands of angry mob who refused to believe in the truth of God.

But his courage and perseverance should be an inspiration to each and every one of us, and especially for those who have been called and chosen to the holy orders. Therefore, let us all pray together as one Church, calling upon God to be with His Church, to protect us and to guide us in our journey, that we will remain faithful and strong despite the challenges we may encounter on our way. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all in our endeavours. Amen.