Tuesday, 6 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all reminded of the sufferings which we may have to face for having remained faithful to the Lord, all the trials and hardships that may be ours if we walk down this path that God has shown us. However, we must not lose faith because God has always been by our side, guiding us and being with us even in our most difficult moments. We are also reminded that in our lives in this world, we may often encounter moments when we are required to make compromises and to do as the world requires of us, as after all, we are still living in this world and are parts of how this world operates and works. We cannot totally and completely separate ourselves from the world, and as Christians, we are all expected to live our lives worthily in this world so as to proclaim by our lives and actions, the truth and glory of God, His Good News and all.

In our first reading today, from the Book of Tobit we heard of the account of how Tobit faced a very unfortunate circumstance of having to endure blindness, of not being able to see anything at all. Yet, despite all that he had to go through, Tobit did not lose heart and remained firmly steadfast in his righteousness and conviction to live honestly, and that caused some friction between him and those who were around him, his brothers and his own wife. Tobit was really suffering, much as another character from the Old Testament had also suffered, namely that of Job. Both Tobit and Job encountered unfortunate incidents that affected even their own flesh and health, with Tobit losing his eyesight while Job had to endure from itchy and painful boils, each of these having negative and debilitating effect on their health and also relationship with others around them.

Nonetheless they both remained righteous, upright and dedicated to God in all things, and they did not let fear or uncertainties to affect or distract them from their faith and trust in the Lord. Indeed, naturally they did waver from time to time, lamenting their conditions and the hardships that they had to face, but they never blamed God for their condition. Instead, they actually blamed themselves for their misfortunes and sufferings, and they convinced others that the Lord alone is the Master and the One Who rule over all things, and He alone is the One Who allows all things to happen, and all of us as His beloved people, as His servants have to follow the Lord and obey Him in all of His Law and commandments, and we must walk in the path that He has shown us. Then, as mentioned, we must also be good and upright in our lives in this world as well, in obeying whatever orders and laws that the worldly authorities around us have for us, as long as they do not directly contradict the Law of God.

In our Gospel passage today, that is what the Lord Jesus mentioned to His disciples and followers, and to those who went to Him to question and test Him, namely the Pharisees and the representatives of the chief priests, as they all tried to test and question Him on the matter of paying taxes to the Roman state and to the Emperor as was required of all those who came under the dominion of the Roman Empire. It was a really difficult situation for the Lord because no matter whether He answered yes or no to the question, He would have faced problem either way. The chief priests and the Pharisees would have wanted to trap the Lord by doing so, as if He answered yes to the question, then they could all accuse and discredit the Lord before the Jewish people, quite a few of whom back then harboured hatred against the Romans and refused to obey the laws and taxes imposed on them.

On the other hand, if the Lord had answered no to the question, then the chief priests and the Pharisees, some of whom had close ties to the Romans, could have then accused Him of disobedience and for trying to incite rebellion against the Roman rule. This was what they would later on accuse of the Lord of doing when they brought Him at the moment of His Passion to the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, of the Lord Jesus claiming Himself to be the King of the Jews. Hence, either way, whether the Lord responded with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the question, it would have led to serious repercussions to the Lord and to His followers. But the Lord did not do that, and instead, He said that one ought to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, as the taxes were paid with the Roman coins that ultimately came from the Roman state itself, and one ought to give to God what belongs to God, that is ultimately, ourselves.

Through what the Lord had told His disciples and those who questioned and tested Him, the Lord wanted to highlight that we should live our lives well and obey whatever the law that the land and our states have, so long as they do not contradict the Divine Law and commandments. At the same time, we should also do our part in fulfilling the Law and commandments of the Lord as is expected of us. We should our lives in a righteous and worthy manner as Tobit and other faithful servants of the Lord, our holy predecessors had done. Are we all able to commit ourselves in such a way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to devote ourselves ever more to the cause of the Lord? These are the things that we should ask ourselves as we continue living up to our Christian calling and mission in life. And we should also look upon the great examples set by our holy predecessors.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Norbert, also known as St. Norbert of Xanten, a German bishop and founder of the religious order known as the Premonstratensian Order of Canons Regular. He was a priest and preacher who was particularly concerned about the lax nature of discipline amongst the priests and the immorality, worldly vices and wickedness that had grown rampant at that time within the Church, among both the clergy and the laity alike. Through his efforts and works, the Premonstre Order of Canons Regular was established, with customs, rules and practices combining aspects of several other more established religious orders, inspiring many people from all origins to come and join his religious order, which soon grew quickly in various places and in different countries.

He was also appointed as the Archbishop of Magdeburg by the Pope, in which role he instituted wide-ranging reforms in his local diocese, in uprooting the many corrupt practices of the Church and the community at that time. Not everyone approved and supported St. Norbert’s actions, and he faced not a few assassination attempts by those who disagreed with him and his reform works and efforts. Yet, all of those did not discourage St. Norbert who continued to carry out his reforms and works, a spirit and commitment that remain inspirational to countless generations of Christians right up to this day. St. Norbert never wavered in his hard work and efforts to lead more and more souls ever closer towards the Lord, and to help many to become more disciplined in how they lived their lives and in how they carried out their Christian actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all therefore reflect on the words of the Scriptures that we have received and the actions and life of St. Norbert that we have just discussed. Let us all always remember to live our lives worthily of the Lord as we should, and learn to discipline ourselves and keep ourselves aligned to the Lord and to His path at all times. Let us all follow the footsteps of the faithful servants of God and be good examples and role models of faith ourselves, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 12 : 13-17

At that time, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that You are truthful; You are not influenced by anyone, and Your answers do not vary according to who is listening to You, but You truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?”

But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a silver coin and let Me see it.” They brought Him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were greatly astonished.

Tuesday, 6 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 7bc-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

For his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is confident, he needs not fear, he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor, his merits will last forever and his head will be raised in honour.

Tuesday, 6 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Tobit 2 : 9-14

That same night, after I had buried the body, I returned home. I washed myself and went out into the courtyard to sleep against the wall; my face was uncovered because of the heat. I did not see that there were sparrows on the wall of the courtyard and, as my eyes were open, the hot droppings from the sparrows fell into my eyes and formed a white film on my eyes.

I went to find doctors to attend to me for medical treatment but the more ointments they smeared on my eyes, the more blind I became because of the film. Finally I became totally blind. I suffered from blindness for four years. All my brothers were burdened because of me. Ahikar kept me for two years before he departed for Elymiade.

My wife Anna worked hard at a woman’s task, weaving. On the seventh day of the month of March she cut the cloth and delivered it to her employers. They paid her wages and gave her, over and above, a young goat for food. When she returned home the kid began to cry. I said to her, “Where does the little kid come from? Did you steal it? Return it to its owners for we are not allowed to eat anything that is stolen.”

But she said, “It is a gift which has been given to me in addition to my wages.” “I do not believe it. I tell you to return it to its owners.” I was ashamed of her. She replied, “What about your own almsgiving and your good deeds? I have to put up with all this from you.”

Monday, 5 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that as Christians, each and every one of us are to remain committed to the Lord, righteous and just, worthy in how we live our lives and in how we carry out our actions so that we may indeed live our lives in the manner that the Lord has always expected us all to live them, to be good role models and inspirations for one another in all things. The Lord has shown us through His servants and by His own examples what they and He Himself had done in glorifying God, contrasting these with those who had disobeyed the Lord for their own selfish desires and those who have given in to the worldly temptations, those who have wickedly carried out their lives and actions, refusing to listen to the Lord and those who have lived selfishly as the Lord highlighted in today’s Gospel passage.

In our first reading today from the Book of Tobit we heard the story of Tobit, an Israelite exile hailing from the tribe of Naphtali, which dwelled in the northern kingdom of Israel after it was separated from Judah under the House of David. Tobit and many others in the northern kingdom were carried off from their homeland by force through the conquest done by the Assyrians who have conquered their homeland and kingdom, destroyed their cities and towns, and then brought them away from their ancestral lands while bringing many other people from all parts of their Empire to dwell on those lands. Tobit and his family was therefore brought to the region of Assyria itself, around Nineveh, where they dwelled, and as we heard in our first reading today, life went on initially as rather normal for them, with Tobit continuing to carry out his life, supporting fellow Israelites in exile in their lives after they had left their homeland.

It was there and then that Tobit faced the harsh reality of the situation when he heard from his son Tobias that one of his fellow Israelites had been strangled and killed, which disturbed Tobit greatly. Tobit went on to bury the man and became distressed, having been a truly righteous and selfless man who had not placed himself and his own desires above that of the rest. We can see that Tobit was truly an upright and just man, who loved others just as much as himself, not caring even about his own reputation, safety and personal matters, and who was also faithful to God despite the faithlessness among most of the people of Israel that had led to them ending up in exile in the first place. Despite the ridicule and the contempt from his neighbours, Tobit still did what he had done because of his faith and principles.

Later on when he became blind by an unfortunate accident, Tobit remained faithful and trusting in God, and sending his own son Tobias to settle matters for his family, God would help them all and bless Tobit and his whole family if we continue to read on the rest of the story of Tobit and his son Tobias. This is a reminder that God never abandons His people, and for all those who are faithful to Him, God will always be with them, guiding them and providing them at the time of their need, giving them His help and assistance through His mysterious ways and at His appointed time, just as He did to Tobit and his family without them all realising at first. Then, linking to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, we are reminded to be similarly upright in life, and not be like those wicked tenants who were selfish and who allowed themselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and greed.

In that Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus telling His disciples about this matter using a parable, namely the parable of the wicked and evil tenants. It was told that the tenants who had leased a vineyard and its plots from its owner had reneged on their dues and supposed pay for the lease, and they refused the efforts from the master of the vineyard to collect their due payment, even harassing, persecuting and murdering all those servants who had been sent to them to remind them. In the end, they did not even respect or listen to the son of the master who was sent to them, and in fact, they even plotted against him and had evil designs and wicked desires in their heart to seize full control of the vineyard for themselves. It was then that the master therefore struck at those evil tenants and destroyed them.

These are all reminders for us to stay upright in our lives as Tobit and others had done before us, and not to give in to the temptations of worldly desires and greed, all of which can lead us down the slippery slope of sin and evil, that will bring us to our downfall, if we are not vigilant and ever careful. All of us should do our best not to allow all these things to happen to us, and hence, that is why we are always reminded to keep an eye on our actions and way of life, and be willing to listen to the Lord speaking to us, reminding us in our path and journey in life so that we do not end up falling away from the path that He has shown us. We are reminded that we all should also be humble, humble in being able to listen to the words of the Lord speaking in our hearts and minds, guiding us to Himself. And besides that, we also have our holy predecessors, the saints whose lives may inspire us.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Boniface, a great bishop and martyr who had dedicated his life and all of his works for the greater glory of God. He was an English Benedictine monk who was especially remembered for his efforts in evangelising amongst the Germanic people in the northern parts of what is Germany today, proclaiming the Good News and salvation of God to many of the people there who still believed in pagan and false gods and beliefs. He was born in England to a rather prominent family and then against the wishes of his father, learnt theology and eventually became a monk and priest. St. Boniface was then appointed as a missionary to the region in northern part of Germany and what is today Netherlands known as Frisia. In his mission to Frisia, the Pope appointed him as a missionary bishop to establish the Church in that region and to convert the people there to the true faith.

In a story still well-remembered to this day, St. Boniface once persuaded many among the pagans as he chopped a great oak tree held sacred by the German pagans, who revered the tree and the spirits. Miraculously a great wind blew upon the oak tree and the whole tree fell down to the ground. Having witnessed the miracle and the fact how St. Boniface was not struck down by their gods and deities for such a supposedly sacrilegious act, many among the pagans believed in God and gave themselves to be baptised by St. Boniface and other missionaries. He went on to establish many churches and institutions in his mission areas, and continued to labour for the good of the Lord and His Church until eventually he was martyred when he and his entourage was beset by a group of Frisian bandits during his last missionary trip to the region.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the courageous examples of Tobit and other faithful servants of God like St. Boniface and many others of our faithful and holy fellow brothers and sisters, our predecessors should inspire us all to also be faithful to God and to be fully dedicated to Him, to give our time and effort, our attention and more to serve the Lord our God at all times. May the Lord continue to bless us all and our every good efforts, works and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 5 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 1-12

At that time, using parables, Jesus went on to say, “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press and built a watch tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenants and went abroad. In due time he sent a servant to receive from the tenants his share of the fruit. But they seized the servant, struck him and sent him back empty-handed.”

“Again the man sent another servant. They also struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent another and they killed him. In the same way they treated many others : some they beat up and others they killed. One was still left, his beloved son. And so, last of all, he sent him to the tenants, for he said, “They will respect my son.”

“But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him and the property will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Now what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

And Jesus added, “Have you not read this text of the Scriptures : The stone which the builders rejected has become the keystone; this is the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it?”

They wanted to arrest Him, for they realised that Jesus meant this parable for them, but they were afraid of the crowd; so they left Him and went away.

Monday, 5 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family, there his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness, He is kind, merciful and upright.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

Monday, 5 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Tobit 1 : 3 and Tobit 2 : 1b-8

I, Tobit, have walked in the ways of truth and justice all the days of my life; I have given many alms to my brethren and to those of my countrymen who were deported with me to Nineveh, a city in the country of the Assyrians.

At the feast of Pentecost, the sacred feast of the Seven Weeks, they prepared a good meal for me and I sat down to eat. I saw the many dishes and said to my son : “Go and bring as many as you can find of our relatives who are in need and who remember the Lord. I will wait here for them.”

When Tobias returned, he said : “Father, one of ours has been strangled and thrown into the public square.” Before I ate anything I hurried out and carried this man into the house and waited till sunset to bury him. When I returned home I washed myself and ate my food in sorrow.

I remembered the prophecy which Amos uttered against Bethel : “Your feasts will be turned into mourning. All your songs will be turned into lamentations,” and I wept. After sunset I went out and, after I had dug a trench, I buried the man. My neighbours mocked me, saying : “He no longer fears to be put to death for doing that; he had to flee but look he is again burying the dead.”

Friday, 2 June 2023 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each one of us are called and reminded to be truly faithful and committed to God, not to forget our obligations and calling to do what He has willed and commanded us to do. All of us as Christians have responded to God’s call and have been chosen as His own beloved ones, as those whom He will bless and guide throughout our lives, by the protection and strength that He would provide for us through His Presence and the Holy Spirit. We must always bear rich fruits of our faith and the Holy Spirit, by doing whatever we can to be exemplary in our way of life and actions, by living our lives earnestly and most faithfully in the manner that the Lord has taught and commanded us all to do.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Sirach in which the prophet Sirach spoke of how people who were wicked and who did not do good things were quickly forgotten or shunned. This is indeed true as those who committed crimes and wicked things, or those who have been selfish in their lives may indeed have good and pleasurable lives, but they would be remembered with infamy and hated by everyone who came after them. Is that what we want to be remembered as, brothers and sisters in Christ? The prophet Sirach also mentioned how those who did not do anything good or evil, were also easily forgotten and not remembered, because they simply had not done anything good and memorable at all, or as mentioned, in doing things that are wicked and unjust.

On the contrary, the prophet Sirach highlighted how those who have done good and obeyed the Lord’s will and commandments, and those who have been living righteously, if they are remembered, their memories will be great and wonderful, and will inspire many generations afterwards. People will emulate them based on their good actions, words and deeds, and their lives and virtues will be extolled by many of those who may be touched by their great examples and lives. We have seen this in the many people and all those whom the world called as heroes and heroines, and in our Church itself, we have those that the Church had declared to be worthy and righteous, just and inspirational, as the saints and blesseds, whose memories we honour and celebrate every year, in memory of all the good things that they had done.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the account of the Lord Who encountered a fig tree that was barren and did not lay any fruits at all, and the Lord cursed the fig tree, before then clearing the Temple of Jerusalem from all the merchants and money changers carrying out their businesses and works at the courtyard of the Temple and House of God. The Lord chased off all those dishonest people who were notorious for having cheated on all the worshippers and other visitors to the Temple in doing their business, overcharging their customers and getting lots of profits for their services with the tacit approval of the Temple’s chief priests and authorities. These are things that the Lord despised, for all of the wickedness that those people had committed, and hence, He drove all of them out of the House of His Heavenly Father, and told everyone not to make His Father’s House as a den of robbers.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us should get rid from ourselves the darkness and corruptions of sin and evil, and all the things which have often kept us away from the fullness of God’s grace and love. And just as the prophet Sirach had reminded us and as the Lord had done, in driving all of those unscrupulous and cheating merchants away from God’s House, thus, each and every one of us are called to purify ourselves, our hearts, minds and our whole entire beings from the corruptions of sin and from all the wickedness and temptations of the evils of this world. Each and every one of us should make the conscious efforts and the works needed for us to remain true in our faith and in doing what the Lord Himself has taught and told us to do in our lives.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of two great saints whose lives, actions and dedication to God hopefully can inspire each one of us to be faithful to the Lord in the similar manner as well. St. Marcellinus and St. Peter were faithful Christians who were persecuted for their faith, and they were, according to the Christian traditions, either priests or ministers of the faith, with St. Marcellinus reputedly being a priest and St. Peter was an exorcist, who were arrested and tortured during one of the most brutal episodes of Christian persecutions under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. According to the same traditions, the two saints gladly faced martyrdom and prepared the site where they were then beheaded and buried, in a place that was purposefully kept hidden so that they could not be venerated by the other Christians later on.

Nonetheless, according to Church traditions, the Lord inspired two women, named Lucilla and Firmina to discover the martyrdom and burial site of the two great martyrs, and they were properly buried, becoming great inspiration for many other Christians of the later era, right up to our time. The tale of their courageous and unwavering faith amidst the intense trials, hardships and challenges that they had to face as servants and followers of the Lord would inspire countless people of God throughout the subsequent years, decades and centuries, and being commemorated even in the Roman Canon amongst the few martyrs listed there highlighted just how influential both St. Marcellinus and St. Peter had been in the history of the Church throughout the ages. Their lives and examples should therefore also serve as inspirations and examples for us all as well.

May the Lord, our most loving God and Father, our Saviour and King continue to help and guide us throughout our journey, and may the inspiration and good examples showed by His great servants, the martyr saints, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter continue to lead us down the path of faith and righteousness, Christian virtues and dedication so that we may grow ever closer in our relationship with God and in our faith in Him. May our own actions, words and deeds, our every good works and interactions be filled with true Christian faith and way of life, and may we glorify the Lord in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 2 June 2023 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 11 : 11-26

At that time, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. And after He had looked all around, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve. The next day, when they were leaving Bethany, He felt hungry. In the distance, He noticed a fig tree covered with leaves; so He went to see if He could find anything on it.

When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. Then Jesus said to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit!” And His disciples heard these words. When they reached Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple, and began to drive away all the people He saw buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the stools of those who sold pigeons. And He would not let anyone carry anything through the Temple area.

Jesus then taught the people, “Does not God say in the Scriptures : My House will be called a House of Prayer for all the nations? But you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

The chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard of this, and they tried to find a way to destroy Him. They were afraid of Him, because all the people were astonished by His teaching. When evening came, Jesus left the city.

Early next morning, as they walked along the road, the disciples saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter then said to Him, “Master, look! The fig tree You cursed has withered.” And Jesus replied, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and have no doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.”

“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you. And when you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive.”