Thursday, 24 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture readings chosen for this day, the Lord wants to remind us through His Church that the reality of us being Christians, believing in Him and following His path through our lives is one of struggle, where challenges and trials, opposition and even persecution are likely part of our journey as we proceed on with faith. We cannot escape from this reality, and we have to endure it as best as we can as faithful Christians.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans placed it very bluntly before us, the reality of how God and sin are standing on the opposite ends of each other. If God is all good and righteousness, then sin is all evil and wicked, and sin is the disobedience against God and caused by our rebellion against His will. And while sin on one side brings about corruption and death, on the other hand, God brings about purification and life.

St. Paul made his assessment and comments to the faithful and the Church in Rome in the context of how Rome being the centre and heart of the whole Roman Empire was the place where paganism and its practices of all kinds were at the most numerous and common. St. Paul spoke out against those evil practices which saw hedonistic celebrations and even human sacrifices practices in some pagan rituals, all the corrupt and wicked practices of men.

And being in Rome, those faithful people of God were constantly under difficult conditions, being exposed to the pagan practices and customs all the time, all around them. They were also required by law to treat the Roman Emperors as if they were divine and offer sacrifices to them and the pagan gods. Disobedience can mean terrible suffering and persecution, and even death and martyrdom.

But that was exactly what the Lord Himself had spoken and revealed to His disciples as we heard it ourselves in our Gospel passage today. The Lord plainly spoke of how His coming into the world would not herald an era of peace and harmony unlike what some people would think, as at that time many among the Jews thought that the Messiah would come and restore the glorious kingdom of Israel of old and bring peace to the whole land.

Instead, God revealed that His coming would instead bring about divisions and challenges for those who are faithful to Him, wherever they are and in whichever time period they belong to. And this has been proven right again and again throughout the long history of the Church, even to this present day, to varying degrees of difficulties. Some encountered great opposition, suffering and even martyrdom from those who are close to them, caused by their own friends and families.

Many of the holy martyrs of the Church had to go up against opposition from their loved ones, their own family members and friends, not counting all the others who are against them and their enemies. And this kind of persecution and rejection of our Christian truths and values still remain even to this present day where all around the world, opposition and challenges to our Christian faith, teachings and practices of the Church remain and even growing strong and intensifying.

In our world today especially there is a great rise in secularism and in apathetic and even hostile attitudes against the Faith, with more and more people succumbing to this apathy and ignorance of God’s truth and love. Many people sought satisfaction and joy in worldly things and ambitions, in the pursuit of power, glory, fame and material goods and wealth. And God’s ways are increasingly being forgotten and pushed aside in our communities.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how then do we react to all these things happening around us, all the pressures for us to conform to the general norms and ways of the society that increasingly overlooked, has forgotten and abandoned God for the pagan and ungodly idols of this world, the idol of worldly desires, the idol of human pride, the idol of wealth and fame, the idol of pleasures of the body and mind among many others?

Today all of us should look upon the examples set by one saint whose feast we celebrate today, the famous founder of the Claretians religious order, St. Anthony Mary Claret, a holy bishop and a dedicated servant of God. St. Anthony Mary Claret was a holy and pious man, dedicated in his service to his flock and the people, renowned for his good sermons that drew people from afar. He spent many hours ministering to them and spending a lot of time especially in the confessionals.

He helped to organise the works of the Church in the places he has been assigned to, and he dutifully did all that he had been entrusted to do, including being the confessor to the then Queen of Spain among many others. He wrote extensively on the matters of the faith and placed great emphasis on the growth and development of Christian education and upbringing among the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see, St. Anthony Mary Claret dedicated his life to God, stood by Him and walked down the path He has shown us all as well. He certainly did not have it easy, sacrificing countless hours to minister to the people and definitely having faced rejections and oppositions from time to time. Are we able to imitate his good examples in life and his good faith in our own lives?

Let us all stand by God and renew our faith and commitment to Him, and let us draw ever closer to Him so that we may grow ever deeper in our love for Him and dedicate ourselves to His cause from now on. Let our every words, actions and deeds bring greater glory to God, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 24 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 12 : 49-53

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what anguish I feel until it is finished! Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, in one house five will be divided : three against two, and two against three.”

“They will be divided, father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Thursday, 24 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 24 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Romans 6 : 19-23

You see, that I speak in a very human way, taking into account that you are not fully mature. There was a time, when you let your members be slaves of impurity and disorder, walking in the way of sin; convert them, now, into servants of righteousness, to the point of becoming holy.

When you were slaves of sin, you did not feel under obligation to righteousness, but what were the fruits of those actions, of which you are now ashamed? Such things bring death. Now, however, you have been freed from sin and serve God. You are bearing fruit, and growing in holiness, and the result will be life everlasting.

So, on one side is sin : its reward, death; on the other side, is God : He gives us, by grace, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Sacred Scriptures in which we are reminded of the importance for us to stay vigilant and resist the temptation to sin. Sin is a very dangerous threat to us and if we allow sin to have its way with us, we will end up being dragged deeper and deeper into the darkness and in the end, we have nothing left but eternal regret and despair.

And St. Paul reminded us all in his Epistle to the Romans in our first reading today that all of us truly belong to God, and as Christians, we who believe in God and take Him as our Lord and Master should only obey and listen to Him alone, and not to any other things. It is when we allow ourselves to be tempted and swayed that we end up falling into sin, and from sin into eventually damnation.

We are all called to resist the temptation and urge to sin, restraining the desires of our body and mind. As these temptations can easily lead us astray and make us to forget what it is that we, God’s people ought to be doing with our lives, just as the Gospel passage today elaborated further to us. In that passage we heard the Lord Jesus teaching His disciples using a parable describing the actions of the stewards of a master.

In that parable, the actions of a lazy steward was described, as that steward delayed in doing the will of his master when the master was away on a journey. The lazy steward indulged in all sorts of things, in drunkenness and gluttony, and also abused the other male servants and maids. He thought that he could get away with all that because of his position and thinking that the master would not return so soon.

That was when he was truly very wrong, as the master returned and caught that lazy steward in all of his wickedness and he got his well-deserved punishment. This is something that all of us must keep in mind as we go on living our own lives, as the Lord’s way to remind us to be truly faithful to Him. The stewards represent all of us, God’s people and His servants, just as the master is a representation of the Lord, our God.

And sin leads us to fall astray just as the lazy steward fell into those temptations, disobeying his master and failed to do as he has been told and instructed to do. In the end, the lazy steward met a terrible reckoning as he delayed on and assumed that the master would not have come in time for him to rectify everything and sort things out first. He was wrong, and we can be wrong too, if we choose to follow the example of the lazy steward.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must not delay any longer in rejecting sin and in turning away from the path of sin and wickedness we have been walking along all these while. We must embrace God and obey Him from now on, for we do not know when the end of our mortal existence in this world will come to us. If we keep on delaying and dragging our feet, it will come eventually to the point when we will regret for not having done something much earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must realise just how much God loves each and every one of us and how He is always willing to welcome us back to His presence and how He wants to embrace us all with love, forgiving us our sins. But are we willing to be forgiven and to take the necessary steps needed to embrace His love fully by being repentant of all of our sins and by leading a holy life from now on.

Today perhaps we can imitate the good examples of St. John of Capestrano, a holy priest and dedicated servant of God who can show us what it truly means to be a good, dedicated and faithful steward and servant of God. St. John of Capestrano was a member of the Franciscan Order dedicated to the service of God, ministering to the people of God, calling them to a renewed faith and a holy life in God.

He was also remembered for his dedication to God, that he zealously opposed the falsehoods of the many heresies that sprung up during the years of his ministry in the fifteenth century, a few hundred years ago. He went about spreading the truth of God and wrote extensively against the heresies. On top of this, he was remembered for his courageous participation in the Crusade against the enemies of the faithful.

St. John of Capestrano showed us all what it means to be a true disciple and servant of God, and we are all therefore called to follow in his footsteps. Are we able to dedicate ourselves in the same manner as this faithful and holy servant of God? Let us all discern our lives carefully and think of what we can do from now on to serve the Lord ever more courageously and faithfully, delaying no more and embracing fully His ways. May God bless us all in our journey of faith and remain with us always. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 12 : 39-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Pay attention to this : If the master of the house had known at what time the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect.”

Peter said, “Lord, did You tell this parable only for us, or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Imagine, then, the wise and faithful steward, whom the master sets over his other servants, to give them wheat at the proper time. Fortunate is this servant if his master, on coming home, finds him doing his work. Truly, I say to you, the master will put him in charge of all his property.”

“But it may be that the steward thinks, ‘My lord delays in coming,’ and he begins to abuse the male servants and the servant girls, eating and drinking and getting drunk. Then the master will come on a day he does not expect, and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him off, and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.”

“The servant who knew his master’s will, but did not prepare and do what his master wanted, will be soundly beaten; but the one who does unconsciously what deserves punishment, shall receive fewer blows. Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one who has been entrusted with more.”

Wednesday, 23 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 123 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-8

Had not YHVH been on our side – let Israel say – had not YHVH been on our side, when people rose up against us, then, they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more, and the flood would have engulfed us; the torrent would have swept over us; the raging waters would have swept us away. Blessed be YHVH, Who did not let us be devoured.

Like a bird, our soul escaped from the snare of the fowler; the snare was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of YHVH, Who made heaven and earth.