Friday, 21 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the first reading we had, from the Book of Exodus, the account of how the Israelites in Egypt celebrated their very first Passover or Pascha, the moment when the Lord liberated them from the tyranny of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, by sending His Angels to scour the land of Egypt killing all the firstborn ones of the Egyptians while 'passing over' the houses of the Israelites, marked with the blood of the unblemished Passover Lamb.

They have been shown mercy by God, Who looked kindly on them and remembered their suffering and pain in the land of Egypt. He remembered the Covenant which He had established with their forefathers, from the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom He had promised that their descendants would enjoy the inheritance of the Promised Land, a land of flowing milk and honey, and they would be His people and He would be their God.

He has passed over them from death, as He saw the blood of the lamb which He told them to slaughter on the Passover day on their doorposts. And thus while death reigned throughout Egypt, sorrow and wailing could be heard from the houses of the Egyptians, there was peace and serenity, hope and joy coming from the houses of the Israelites.

God gave His people His laws and commandments, in order to guide them to Him and keep them in good faith towards Him. Yet, in the Gospel we heard today, another account of how Jesus our Lord was confronted by the Pharisees, who accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law of the Sabbath, which according to them was that no one was supposed to do anything on the day of the Sabbath.

But the Pharisees totally missed the point of the Law and the purpose of the Sabbath. They were so focused on the applications of the Sabbath law that they ended up forgetting what was the intent of that law in the first place. They imposed the Law without understanding that ultimately it was because of God's love for His people, which He had shown to them since those ages ago, as we remembered how He saved His people at the first Passover.

Yes, it was by none other than Jesus Christ, His own Beloved Son, Whom He sent into the world, that God endeavoured to bring His salvation to the whole world. Christ is the new Paschal or Passover Lamb, by which God made His salvation available for everyone, and not just the Israelites. If the people of Israel was brought free from the land of Egypt, having been passed over from death and freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, then God sent Jesus His Son, to free all of mankind, His people, from their enslavement to sin.

For it was by His ultimate loving sacrifice on the cross that Jesus had endeavoured to liberate us from sin, by bearing those sins and faults we have committed unto Himself, and offering Himself to the Lord as a perfect sacrifice worthy to absolve us all from the multitudes our sins. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb marked the houses of the people of Israel, we all have been bathed and washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the love which God had shown each and every one of us, which we ought to appreciate and then apply in our own lives. We must not be shortsighted and conceited as the Pharisees had been, in how they tried to oppose the Lord Jesus and His good works just because He and His disciples were not operating in the manner that they wanted and expected. And in this, perhaps we should also heed the examples of the holy saint, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a Capuchin friar and priest, who was renowned for his devotion to the Lord, and for his works in evangelising the Gospel and spreading the teachings of the Church among the people of God, particularly to those who have fallen to the false teachings and heresies of the Protestant reformation. Through his works, many people have returned to the faith, and were converted to a new life in God.

All of us should also follow the examples of St. Lawrence of Brindisi and the other holy saints, whose lives are holy and committed to God, no longer that they served themselves and their own wants and desires, but they embraced the love that God had showed them, and sharing this love with one another, they bring many souls to the salvation in God.

May the Lord through the intercession of St. Lawrence of Brindisi and all of His holy saints and people, bring us all closer to Him and to His eternal life and glory promised to all the faithful servants of God. Amen.

Friday, 21 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 12 : 1-8

At that time, it happened that, Jesus walking through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, "Look at Your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!"

Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the Temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty?"

"I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words : It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

Friday, 21 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15 and 16bc, 17-18

How can I repay YHVH for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of YHVH.

It is painful to YHVH to see the death of His faithful. I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid's son. You have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice, I will call on the Name of YHVH. I will carry out my vows to YHVH in the presence of His people.

Friday, 21 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 11 : 10 – Exodus 12 : 14

Moses and Aaron had worked all these marvels in the presence of Pharaoh, but YHVH had made Pharaoh obstinate and he would not let the people of Israel leave his country.

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, "This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons and to what each one can eat."

"You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat."

"That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat the meat lightly cooked and boiled in water but roasted entirely over the fire – the head, the legs and the inner parts. Do not leave any of it until the morning. If any is left till morning, burn it in the fire."

"And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt."

"This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever."

Thursday, 20 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard about the calling of Moses by God, Who called him at the mountain of Horeb in Sinai, calling him to be His servant before Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, in order to free His people Israel from slavery and bondage. God told Moses what to say and do before Pharaoh, and before the people of Israel, that He would deliver them from the slavery in Egypt and bringing them into the land of their forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.

In the Gospel today, then we heard about the Lord Jesus speaking the well-known words, ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.’ And then He continued with, ‘Take My yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’ These words of encouragement are reminders of the time when the people of Israel were enslaved under heavy burdens, the yoke of their slavery.

A yoke is the object placed on top of bulls and buffaloes, or horses and other beasts of burden in order to be the piece that holds up the burdens which are to be carried by those animals. The yoke is placed such that the animals would not be able to easily get rid of it, and it is indeed a heavy burden placed on the back of the animal. It is therefore a symbol of enslavement and burden, which had been placed on God’s people.

God wants to remove the heavy burden from His people, just as He had removed the burden of their slavery in Egypt, where the people of Israel was crushed and persecuted under the Pharaohs who forced them into slave labour, building up his cities and monuments under the worst of conditions. They were tortured and treated badly, their rights were ignored and the Pharaohs even wanted to exterminate Israel as a people, ordering the male Hebrew newborns to be thrown into the Nile River.

God rescued His people, by sending Moses to deliver the people from the hands of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and through Moses God sent ten great plagues that heavily crushed the Egyptians and forced the Pharaoh to relent and let the Israelites go free from slavery. And when the Pharaoh reneged on his words and chased after the Israelites, God destroyed the chariots and the armies of Egypt in the middle of the Red Sea while His people walked through the sea unharmed.

But what most people would have missed out is the fact that when God brought His people to freedom, He was not bringing them to an unbridled freedom or a life where they could just do whatever it was they wanted. No, in fact, this is what Jesus our Lord mentioned in the Gospel, when He said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This means that the people of God were given a new burden, and this burden was for them to be obedient to God and follow all of His ways.

This happened as God established a new Covenant with His people, renewing the one which He had made with Abraham their forefathers. And through that Covenant, God gave His people a set of ten commandments and laws, which He relayed to them through Moses. The people were obliged to obey those laws and commandments, and when they refused to do so, and as they disobeyed the Lord, they perished in the desert.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a reminder to all of us that in order for us to walk faithfully upon God’s path, it will not be a painless or easy process for us. There will be challenges and difficulties, all the things that will be obstacles in our way to the Lord. There will be times when we have the temptations to give up and to turn away from God. There will be times when we will falter and prefer the comforts of the world, just as the Israelites had done before.

But let us remember, brethren, that if we turn away from the Lord and are not faithful to Him, even though we may gain a brief respite in this world, and enjoy acceptance from the world, the Lord will reject us and the consequences for us will be catastrophic. That is why the burden of this world, while it may seem to be lighter and easier, but in reality, it is far worse than the burden of becoming a faithful disciple of the Lord.

Let us not give up, brothers and sisters in Christ, but instead commit ourselves to a new life blessed with faith, following in the example of what St. Apollinaris, a holy bishop and martyr of the Church had done in his life. As we celebrate his feast day today, let us take heed of what he had committed, as he led his flock, the faithful people of God as the bishop of Ravenna in the earliest days of the Church.

St. Apollinaris propagated the faith with zeal among the people, helping to establish the Church foundations in the city of Ravenna and beyond. When the faithful were persecuted by the Roman Emperor and its administration, St. Apollinaris did not give up but continued to labour hard for the sake of the faithful people of God. It was told that he was arrested, exiled from Ravenna with many of his faithful, and as he was faithful to the end, he gladly received martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Apollinaris and the many other holy saints and martyrs of God have lived their lives filled with sincere devotion and commitment, knowing that God will free them all from their slavery to sin and from their fated destruction. Yes, brethren, God has freed us all and He has promised us all eternal life and glory with Him, if only that we are also faithful to Him and to the Covenant He has made with us all through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us all therefore renew our faith in the Lord, and let us all seek to be closer to the Lord, by doing what is right and just, and what is according to God’s will in our lives. May the Lord also help us in our journey towards Him, and may He help us to persevere through the challenges and obstacles we may face on our way. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 20 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Thursday, 20 July 2017 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Psalm 104 : 1 and 5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27

Give thanks to YHVH, call on His Name; make known His works among the nations. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

He remembers His Covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the Covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

YHVH made His people fruitful and much stronger than their foes; whose hearts He turned, to hate His people, to deal deceitfully with His servants.

Then He sent Moses His servant and Aaron whom He had chosen. They performed His signs among them, His miracles in the land of Ham.