Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard about the moment when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, as recounted by St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth. And then in the Gospel today, we heard of the Lord healing the servant of a Roman army centurion, by the great faith which he showed before all.

At that occasion, the Roman centurion, which was quite a senior leader within the structure of the Roman army, came to Jesus and begged Him to make his servant better and recover from the illness that affected the servant. He had a great faith in the Lord, as well as astute understanding of the socio-political landscape at the time.

Why is that so? That is because of what the Roman centurion told Jesus when He was about to go to his house in order to heal the centurion’s servant. The centurion spoke the words which each and every one of us now regularly recite during the celebration of the Holy Mass. “Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”

These words showed to us that the centurion understood well the possible negative implications and repercussions should the Lord Jesus came to his house. The Jewish customs and traditions of that time prescribed against entry or visit into the house of a pagan. If one was to enter the house of a pagan, then he or she would be considered as unclean.

As such, the centurion simply asked the Lord to say the words, and he believed that his servant would be healed within an instant. And this ought be contrasted with what we heard of the attitude of many of the people to whom the Lord had come for. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, many of the people and even Our Lord’s own hometown neighbours rejected Him, despite having seen directly with their own eyes the Lord’s wonders and miracles.

The centurion believed with all of his heart, and for his faith, his prayers were listened to by God, and were fulfilled. The Lord praised him for his faith, which not many people in Israel at that time possessed, as we have just discussed. Now, let us ask ourselves, do we have the same faith as what the Roman centurion had?

As we see in our first reading today, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He had with His disciples, just before He was about to suffer and die and fulfil completely the mission He was sent into this world. And it was also to fulfil what He Himself had said earlier on to the people, that He is the Bread of Life, and all who eat of the Flesh and drink of the Blood that He gives, will have eternal life.

Now, the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord are the very focus and centres of our Christian faith. Yet, unfortunately, the reality is that there are still so many of us Christians who have not taken this seriously, or even acted in ways that scandalised this essential Christian truth.

This is evident from how we lack the respect and reverence for the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, treating the Eucharist not as the Lord Himself present in His full and complete Presence, in the Body, Soul and Divinity. Our core Christian faith is that we believe that even though the bread and wine remains as such in appearance, but in reality, in substance and in truth, they have been transformed into the very Presence and Reality of Our Lord Himself.

Then, we cannot do what we have done so far any longer, all of our irreverent attitudes, our lukewarm faith and attitude towards the Holy Mass, our refusal to put our whole heart and indeed, our whole being to be with God, and our failures to put God to be at the centre of our lives.

Let us today follow the example of the Roman centurion, as well as that of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, devoted servant of God and dedicated reformer of the Church. All of them have shown us what it means to be true disciples and followers of God.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a great intellectual and theologian remembered for his many beautiful works and writings, through which he helped to rejuvenate the Church battered and assailed both from inside and outside by divisions, heresies and external threats. He drove the reform of the governance of the Church, taking issue with the bishops and ordinaries who did not commit themselves or reside with their flock.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the many other saints of his era, and past and present holy men and women have shown us that we must have that strong faith in God, and dedication in order to be worthy of God. Indeed, as the army centurion said, ‘I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof’, for he and all of us are sinners. Our sins have made us to be unworthy of God. But are we willing to allow God to exercise His wonderful work of mercy in us?

Remember that the army centurion also asked the Lord to heal his servant, and let us link it with what we always utter during the Mass, ‘but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed’. This is a calling for us all to put our trust in God and turn towards Him, looking forward for His mercy and love. We have to remember that ultimately, each and every one of us are God’s beloved ones.

May the Lord be with us, and continue to shower us with His love. May He empower each and every one of us, that we may continue to grow in faith, modelled after St. Robert Bellarmine, the faithful Roman centurion and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us. May God bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 7 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this, You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o YHVH, I did not seal – You know that very well.

But may all those who seek You, rejoice, and be glad in You; and may all who love Your saving grace continually say, “YHVH is great.”

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Corinthians 11 : 17-26, 33

To continue with my advice, I cannot praise you, for your gatherings are not for the better but for the worse. First, as I have heard, when you gather together, there are divisions among you and I partly believe it. There may have to be different groups among you, so that it becomes clear who among you are genuine.

Your gatherings are no longer the Supper of the Lord, for each one eats at once, his own food, and, while one is hungry, the other is getting drunk. Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or perhaps you despise the Church of God and desire to humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say? Shall I praise you? For this I cannot praise you.

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received, and, that, in my turn, I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.” In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant, in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.”

So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord, until He comes. So then, brothers, when you gather for a meal, wait for one another.

Monday, 3 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we listened to the words of the Lord, speaking to us about the matter of the revelation of His truth, which He revealed to us through first, the prophets and messengers, and later on, in its fullness of truth, through the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and God. He came to us with the Good News of His salvation, that we may come to know of His love and saving grace.

However, in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the unfortunate moment when the Lord Jesus went back to His hometown village of Nazareth, where He encountered opposition and rejection from none other than His own fellow countrymen and even perhaps close friends and relatives, all those who have known Him since His youth and lived around Him for many years.

And the Lord Jesus also made the point through His discourse, how prophets and messengers were not welcome in their own lands and homes, and were rejected by those who knew them well. Ironically, it was those who did not know the prophets and the messengers of God, including the example of the Lord Jesus Himself, that were willing to listen to God’s truth.

Now, we must truly wonder, why was it that the prophets and the messengers, including the Lord Jesus Himself were rejected by the people whom they knew well? In order to understand this, then we must understand how human relationships and thinking work. In our own relationships with others, we always want to find out about others, and when we do so, we make ideas, prejudices and bias in our minds, subconsciously.

What does it mean? It means that just as the saying goes, ‘First impression lasts’, we mankind are very easily impressionable by what we see and by what we hear and sense, and therefore, forming an opinion on something or someone almost as immediately as we witness that something or someone. This is what we have done to everyone and everything we encounter in life, as how we judge them by our human intelligence and wisdom.

But what is flawed is that, we often make assumptions and presumptions based on our own limited understanding and limited awareness of what is actually happening. That is what happened to those who rejected the prophets and messengers, just because they thought that they knew those whom God had called to be His servants. They must have argued that just because they knew those who were to be prophet and messengers, then they could not believe the authenticity of what the prophets have taught and declared.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what happened to the Lord in Nazareth as well. He was, in the eyes of the people of Nazareth, a mere Son of the village carpenter, St. Joseph. And a carpenter was a very often overlooked profession, paid lowly and considered as a menial and tough job that no one wanted to do as a profession in their lives, unless they had no choice to do so.

By the standard of that time, carpenters and their families were usually very poor, and because of their poverty, they typically were uneducated. Hence, the people of Nazareth took offence at the Lord Jesus, just simply by the fact that His wisdom, the way He preached and taught to them, and how He had worked His miracles and showed His powers, which words would have reached their ears, could be something that was a reality.

They could not reconcile the fact that all those miracles and wonders, all the wisdom they heard being taught and the truth revealed to them about the fulfilment of the prophecy of the prophets, came about through the mere Son of a carpenter Whom they have seen growing up in their midst. To them, it was an affront and insulting that such things have happened, and they blamed the Lord for that.

In reality, it was their human wisdom and limited understanding, their pride in them that caused them to reject the Lord. They could not stand of being outshone by someone Whom they had known for so many years, Who suddenly revealed Himself as the Messiah of God right in their midst. Thus, they hardened their hearts and shut their ears off, refusing to listen to and accept the truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often that we are also to blame for the same kind of attitude in our own respective lives. Too often it has been that we mankind are not receptive to suggestions and to the truth of God, just because we think that we know everything or that we cannot be wrong. This attitude caused us to shut ourselves off even from the Lord Who is trying to show us the way to the truth.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the great Pope, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was remembered for his great piety and dedication to the growth and reform of the Church and the faith. Pope St. Gregory was remembered for his long years of dedication and service to God, as a monk and later on as the Papal ambassador to the Emperor’s court in Constantinople. He was remembered for being a strict yet dedicated and faithful person.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was in truth a very humble person. When he was elected to the office of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, as the successor of the Apostle St. Peter, leader of the entire Universal Church, he disavowed publicly any form of worldly ambitions and desires, stating clearly that he would devote his whole life to the service of God alone, and nothing else.

And he was remembered for his great commitment to the fulfilment of God’s works in the Church, in his reform of the Christian worship and liturgy and his great charitable efforts to the poor and to the needy, his fervent and strong opposition against all those who espoused heretical thinkings and teachings. His contributions to the Church were immense and yet, he remained after all, humble and focused towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn from the good examples shown by Pope St. Gregory the Great, that we may also learn to be humble and to be committed in living our lives with faith and with humility, that we may open our hearts and minds fully to the Lord, Who wants to show us the truth about Himself and yet, many of us have not allowed Him to speak in our hearts and minds because of our pride and stubbornness.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to bless us with His truth, that we may come to learn more and more about His love, and therefore, come to love Him even deeper in our own lives. May the Lord be our guide through our lives and show us the way to Himself. Pope St. Gregory the Great, holy servant of God, pray for us. Amen.

Monday, 3 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 16-30

At that time, when Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.” All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s Son?”

So He said, “Doubtless you will quote Me the saying : Doctor, heal yourself! Do here, in Your town, what they say You did in Capernaum.” Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country.” Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land.”

“Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet; and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Monday, 3 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102

How I love Your law, meditating on it all day!

Your command – mine – forever – has made me wiser than my enemy.

I have more insight than my teachers, for I meditate on Your decrees,

I have more understanding than the elders, for I abide by Your precepts.

I turn my feet from evil paths, that I may keep step with Your word.

I have not departed from Your decrees, for You, Yourself, have instructed me.