Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, from the first reading in which we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, we heard of the words of anguish spoken by the prophet on behalf of the people highlighting their frustrations and desperation seeing how those who were righteous and faithful suffered and endured bitter trials while those who were wicked seemingly managed to live on without harm or trouble.

But the Lord reassured His people and told them that He will never abandon them no matter what, and that everything will happen as it has been deemed by God, and everything will happen in due time. When we think that why is it that those who were wicked rejoiced and lived while the righteous and the faithful suffered, then we must remember that every bits of sin, no matter how small, will be left untouched, when the Lord judges all of His people at the time of the Last Judgment.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His interaction with a man who approached Him begging on Him to heal his son, who had been afflicted with epileptic activity, which at that time was also one of the signs of the demonic possession. The man said that although he had sought the disciples, but they were not able to heal the child from his condition, and he therefore asked the Lord to help him.

The Lord rebuked His disciples and those who followed Him for their lack of faith, and after immediately healing the man’s child without issue, spoke of just how little faith they truly had in Him, that they doubted Him and doubted the ability and power by which He could have saved the child. We may indeed be a bit confused by everything that happened, but contextually, it was likely that first of all, the disciples thought that the miracles they performed were because of their own power and might, and not by God’s power.

And it was also likely and possible that the disciples themselves had doubts in their hearts and minds, and they had not yet trusted the Lord completely, as what the Apostle St. Thomas frequently showed during the days of his ministry with the Lord, as he constantly spoke out showing his doubt and disagreements with the Lord, in the midst of the other disciples. The other disciples, although they might not be as skeptical as St. Thomas had been in those days, but they were likely to have their doubts as well.

This is just like what the prophet Habakkuk, speaking the sentiments of the people as included in our first reading today, was exactly speaking about. The prophet’s words was a representation of the people’s doubts, and how those doubts in fact became themselves obstacles in the path of the people in realising that God truly cared for each and every one of them. God reassured His people and showed His love, that no power on earth or beyond earth, are capable of standing between us and Him.

Just as the Lord spoke of the coming of reckoning for Assyria and all the enemies of the faithful, thus, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed before all those who doubted Him, either intentionally or unintentionally, those with weak and wavering faith, that He is truly faithful to the Covenant He had made with us, and He will always uphold His words, as He liberated and healed the man’s son from his troubles, from whatever demonic possessions or other shackles he had been troubled with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we still doubt the Lord and do we still lack the faith that God is always with us and by our side even in our darkest times and in our most challenging moments? Especially as many of us suffered during these past weeks and months, losing our jobs and livelihood, suffering in health, in body or in mind, and as we endure the continuing and depressing impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic, the associated economic collapse and troubles, among other things.

Are we still having faith in God, and believe that even in the midst of great challenges, that God is still there with us? If we do not, then perhaps it is because our relationship with God is not strong and good enough as it should have been. As unless we are deeply committed to God, and live in the midst of His love and grace, and appreciating His daily blessings, it is unlikely that our faith in God will be strong and enduring.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why this day as we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints in the Church, namely St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic the Guzman, the Founder of the Order of Preachers, also famously known after their founder as the Dominicans, we ought to look upon St. Dominic as our great example and inspiration in faith. St. Dominic was remembered for his tremendous zeal and commitment in serving the Lord, his great piety and dedication he showed in serving the Lord and His Church.

St. Dominic had been renowned for his piety even from a very young age, when he was still very young and famine ravaged the lands. It was told that St. Dominic donated part of his possessions to help the poor and feed those who had been terribly afflicted by the great hunger. St. Dominic then dedicated himself to be a holy and devout priest, and dedicated his time to preach to the people, especially in his efforts to convert the Cathar heretics who have abandoned the true faith in the region now part of southern France.

As St. Dominic began his efforts in trying to convert the heretics, he began gathering the effort to establish a religious order of like-minded men who would reach out to those who have erred and fell away from the right path, as what the charism of the Order of Preachers is all about. St. Dominic led the efforts of the Dominicans as they were all came to be known for, in preaching the words of truth to the people and calling them to embrace once again the truth and love of God.

St. Dominic also helped the faithful to renew their faith and commitment in God through the deepening of their spiritual lives, most well-known being through the popularisation of the use of the rosary as a prayer, which eventually would become one of the most popular of devotions in the Church, helping to connect countless souls throughout the ages to the Lord, with the assistance of His blessed mother, Mary.

Through his many great contributions and his establishment of the Dominicans, St. Dominic showed us all that God can do so many great deeds before us, if only that we allow Him to act through each and every one of us just as He had done with St. Dominic. And this is only possible if we lead a life of virtue, faith and love as St. Dominic had done, and all of us are called to follow in his footsteps, in putting our trust and faith in God, and in obeying His will at all times, in our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Him, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 9 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

But YHVH reigns forever, having set up His throne for judgment. He will judge the nations with justice and govern the peoples in righteousness.

YHVH is a rampart for the oppressed, a refuge in times of distress. Those who cherish Your Name, o YHVH, can rely on You, for You have never forsaken those who look to You.

Sing praises to YHVH, enthroned in Zion; proclaim His deeds among the nations. For He Who avenges blood remembers, He does not ignore the cry of the lowly.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Habakkuk 1 : 12 – Habakkuk 2 : 4

But You, are You not YHVH from past ages? You, my holy God, You cannot die. You have set these people to serve Your justice and You have made them firm as a rock, to fulfil Your punishment. YHVH, Your eyes are too pure to tolerate wickedness and You cannot look on oppression. Why, then, do You look on treacherous people and watch in silence while the evildoer swallows up one better than himself?

You treat human beings like the fish in the sea, like reptiles who are nobody’s concern. This nation catches all on its hook, pulls them out with its net and piles them up in its dragnet. Pleased and delighted at their catch, they offer sacrifices to their net and burn incense to their dragnets, since these supplied them with fish in plenty and provided them with food in abundance. Will they continue, then, to constantly empty their nets, slaughtering nations without mercy?

I will stand in my watchtower and take up position on my battlements; I will see what He replies, if there is an answer to my question. Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deferred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that we have all been called to follow the Lord and to focus our attention on Him, as those whom He had called and chosen to be His people. And at the same time we are also reminded that to follow God and to be faithful to Him will often require from us dedication and commitment that may lead us down the path filled with obstacles and challenges.

That is why the Lord said to His disciples as described in our Gospel passage today, that for all those who want to follow Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. This means that we ought to share in the Cross and the sufferings that He had borne for our sake, and strive to seek the Lord and His righteousness above all other things, and to look beyond the false glory, pleasures and satisfactions of the world, resist the temptations and remaining faithful to God.

Indeed, this will not be an easy task, as just the Lord encountered plenty of opposition and challenges from those who disagreed with Him and refused to believe in Him, was persecuted and forced to endure humiliation, punished for the punishment that He was innocent from, and bore the cross of condemnation, and we heard how these enemies also acted against His disciples, that is why as followers of Christ, we too are likely to suffer the same fate as the Lord, hated and despised by the world.

That is why, we are presented with the choice, whether we want to follow the Lord, taking up our crosses in life and walking with Him, or whether we want to follow the path of the world, to embrace the path of disobedience and sins against God. These are the paths and choices presented to us, and unless we have strong faith in God, it is very easy for us to fall into the temptation to walk away from God.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Nahum, we heard of the Lord’s promise to His people that He shall crush the wicked and all those who have oppressed His people. It is the promise that the Lord will be faithful and will stand by His people in the midst of persecution and suffering. He will not abandon them to the darkness, and while for a while they might suffer, in the end, those who have kept their faith in Him will be triumphant while those who opposed Him and rejected Him will be crushed and destroyed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is therefore a kind reminder for us not to easily give in to the temptation to sin and disobey God, although the path of faith may seem to be challenging and daunting. In the end, as the
Lord said, “What worth is it for man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” This shows us that it is better for man to lose the whole world and yet remain in God’s grace. For the pleasures and glory of this world is all but temporary, while the soul is eternal.

What worth is it therefore for us to gain the comforts and pleasures of this world if we end up losing in the battle for our souls? When the souls of the wicked and those who were unrepentant are judged and condemned, they will all suffer for eternity from which there is no recourse or any way out at all. All these for the temporary taste of worldly goodness and joy, and in the end, eternal suffering awaits us all.

And the devil and his forces are always active out there trying to pull us away from God’s path, by tempting us to follow the temptations of our desires, by presenting to us many forms of worldly pleasures and false leads, into which if we succumb to them, it will be difficult for us to get out and escape, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations. What shall we do then? This is where we should thus look on the examples set by our predecessors in faith.

Pope St. Sixtus II, holy Pope and Martyr, together with his many companions were persecuted by the Roman Empire and the pagans, who tried to destroy the Church and crush the faithful. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church during the turbulent days of the Church when persecutions were rampant, and even so, he dedicated his life and effort to unite the Church, and tradition stated that he successfully restored the relations between the Church in Greece and Africa that had been torn apart and divided by certain issues earlier on.

And to the very end, when the Roman Emperor Valerian continued the persecution of the Church and the faithful, Pope St. Sixtus II was among the many faithful arrested for refusing to abandon their faith in God, and despite the efforts to convince them otherwise, and the pressures, Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions in faith chose to remain faithful to the very end, dying as martyrs rather than to enjoy reprieve and comfort by giving in to the state.

Meanwhile, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Cajetan, a priest and also founder of the Religious Order of the Theatines, remembered very well for his care and concern for the poor and the needy, for those who were suffering especially from spiritual sickness and the lack of faith. He chose to dedicate his time, effort and attention to help all those who have lost their compass and guidance in life, and chose to spend much time to care for their needs and guide them back to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see from today’s saints’ examples, we can see how being faithful and doing what the Lord had asked us to do is not something that can easily be done, and we see just what kind of difficulties and trials that they all had to face, and how some had to endure even death in martyrdom for being faithful. But this is exactly what is meant by ‘taking up our crosses and following the Lord’, for being Christians is not one of inaction and comfort, but instead one of dedication and commitment.

Let us all therefore discern carefully from now on, how we will carry on living our lives, with all the opportunities that we have been given. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and be ever more genuine and devoted in our love for God from this moment onwards. May the Lord, our loving God, continue to guide us and help lead us down the right path in life, giving us the strength to carry our crosses faithfully and follow Him wholeheartedly, all the days of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Deuteronomy 32 : 35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Learn this now – that I alone am He; there is no god besides Me. It is I Who give both death and life; it is I Who wound and heal as well and out of My hand no one can deliver.

When I sharpen My glittering sword and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will deal out vengeance upon My foes and retribution upon those who hate Me.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Nahum 2 : 1, 3 and Nahum 3 : 1-3, 6-7

See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings Good News, one who proclaims peace. Judah, celebrate your feasts and carry out your vows. For the wicked have been destroyed, they will not attack you any more. YHVH will now restore Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’s splendour. For they had been plundered, laid waste as a ravaged vineyard.

Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty, o city of unending plunder! But what! Crack of whips, rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs! See the frenzied chargers, the flashing swords and glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded, the dead and dying – we trip over corpses!

I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make of you a shameful show, so that all who look on you will turn their backs in disgust and say : Nineveh – a city of lust – is in ruins. Who will mourn for her? Where can we find one to comfort her?

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate as the whole Universal Church the feast of the great saint, St. John Vianney, the renowned Patron saint of all priests and all those who have dedicated themselves in the sacred priesthood in serving the people of God. St. John Vianney, also known by his epithet of the ‘Curé of Ars’, based on the town in which he based himself at, was a truly great and holy man of God that should be our inspiration in how we should live up our faith.

St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and spent the early days of his youth enduring plenty of difficulties due to the upheavals caused by the French Revolution. Most importantly, for St. John Vianney and his devout family, it was tough for them as many people especially those who supported the revolution who persecuted the Church and those who remained faithful, and they often had to travel far in order to find and participate regularly in the Holy Mass as priests were being persecuted and many were martyred, and celebrations of the Mass sometimes had to be done in secret.

All these and what the young St. John Vianney saw in the priests who still braved through persecutions and celebrating the Holy Mass in secret during those difficult years inspired him in his own journey and calling to priesthood, and he grew up strong in faith despite the challenges that he had to endure throughout his formative years. He did face difficulties in his academics and studies however, as the Revolution interrupted his crucial young academic formation years.

And the wars that occurred during that time under the reign of the Emperor Napoleon caused further trouble to this young aspirant, as he was drafted to the army and further disrupting his studies. Sickness and other circumstances caused him to unintentionally deserted from the army. Nonetheless, God helped the young man and having been pardoned from the desertion, he could once again continue with his studies, which he nonetheless faced a lot of difficulties from.

As he was struggling with Latin and other academic matters, St. John Vianney was almost expelled or suspended from his formation as a priest, because he was considered too slow and sluggish in his studies, unpromising and uneducated. But thanks to the intervention of a local priest, Abbé Balley, St. John Vianney managed to receive his minor ordination and eventually ordination to the sacred order of priesthood, as his piety was used as a reason to push him through the formation.

Because of his issues, he was assigned to be the parish priest of a small and insignificant village of Ars, a small village of merely just over two hundred individuals. Not only that St. John Vianney got lost as he travelled to the secluded village, but he also faced great difficulties from the indifference showed by most of the people, his parishioners, many of whom did not practice their faith and led a wretched life. St. John Vianney was determined to do what he could in order to resolve the situation.

As the local parish priest, St. John Vianney began to do the work to undo the worst damages caused by the French Revolution among other things, spending much time providing for the needs of the people, and he spent long hours in the confessionals, as more and more people gradually became touched by his efforts and outreach, his commitment, his piety and humble outlook in life. He spent much effort in reaching out to sinners, and long lines came to form as more and more people came to him to confess their sins and seeking his guidance and advice, and miracles were told by those who witnessed it.

For all of these, all the dedication that St. John Vianney had showed, someone who was slow and academically challenged due to the circumstances of his youth and formative years, almost did not succeed in fulfilling his calling to be a priest, all in the end did not matter because what mattered was that St. John Vianney was faithful and true to his faith in God. And in answering God’s call, St. John Vianney gave himself wholeheartedly and with true zeal and love, as a great and true inspiration for all of us to follow.

Are we all willing to follow in the footsteps of St. John Vianney? For all of his dedication and exemplary actions as priest and shepherd to those entrusted under his care, and to countless others who came to him seeking God’s help, St. John Vianney was honoured as the Patron saint of all priests, especially the parish priests. While not all of us are called to be priests, and each one of us have our own vocations and calling in life, be it as priests, as religious brothers or sisters, as lay members of the Church, as responsible members of family in sacred matrimony and those who have dedicated themselves to holy life, all of us are called to look upon the examples of St. John Vianney, humble servant of God, holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be holy and exemplary in life, following the good examples of St. John Vianney. Let us all dedicate ourselves to God anew and serve Him faithfully through our holy and pious lives from now on, that just as St. John Vianney had done, we may also lead more and more people to the salvation in God by our holy lives and faithful examples. St. John Vianney, holy patron of saints, pray for all of us and especially our priests that they may indeed be holy as you were, and that our priests may have the ‘heart of a priest’ like you. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 15 : 1-2, 10-14

At that time, some Pharisees, and teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around Jesus. And they said to Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders? For they, they do not wash their hands before eating.”

Jesus then called the people to Him, and said to them, “Listen and understand : What enters into the mouth does not make a person unclean. What defiles a person is what comes out of his mouth.”

After a while the disciples gathered around Jesus and said, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended by what You said?” Jesus answered, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted. Pay no attention to them! They are blind, leading the blind. When a blind person leads another, the two will fall into a pit.”

Alternative reading (Mass of St. John Vianney)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.