Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God’s call for us to repent from our sinful ways, to turn away from our wickedness, all the selfish attitudes we have shown all these while we embraced the ways of worldliness and sin. Through His prophets and messengers, His saints and the Church, God has called us and reminded us yet again and again to be faithful to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah’s words, speaking God’s intentions and will to His people, which can be summarised as such that He sought not the sacrifices and offerings, festivals and customary celebrations from His people, but rather, real love and genuine faith. He essentially wanted His people to be truthful in their faith and dedication to Him, and not be hypocrites who claimed to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways totally contrary to His teachings and ways.

The Lord has told them that what He wanted from them was real love, dedication and commitment, and not merely just empty show of faith, for it is indeed possible for one to obey the precepts of the Law but without the right intentions, or because it was merely done out of obligation and fulfilling what we considered as a mere formality. These are not what the Lord wanted, and He made it clear to His people through His prophet Isaiah, and this was because many among the people still committed sin against God and lived in state of sin despite outwardly obeying the Law.

This is similar to what the Lord Jesus also saw and encountered among the people when He came into the world, bearing the truth and Good News of salvation. Many among the people paid just lip service for God, and some among them like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law became distracted with their role, misunderstanding the intention of God’s will and Law, and they made a show of their faith for praise and respect from the other people, and not because they genuinely and wholly loved God from their hearts.

And the disagreement that rose out of these led to friction and difficulties, challenges and trials facing the followers of God, that had begun even since the time of the ancient prophets, as they faced stubborn people who refused to change their ways, and ended up with them being persecuted and troubled by those who refused to accept them and listen to their truth. The same treatment would be faced and endured by the Lord and His Apostles, His disciples and followers, even as the Lord Jesus performed His ministry, and afterwards as the early Christians continued the Lord’s works.

And the Lord in today’s Gospel passage also told His disciples a kind of jarring message as He told them that whoever loved father, mother, brothers or sisters, or their loved ones and spouses more than they loved God, were not fit to become His followers. Actually what the Lord wanted to tell them and all of us was really that, not that He wanted us to abandon our family and loved ones or to hate them. On the contrary, He definitely wants us all to love our parents, our brethren, our loved ones and family members, our friends and other people. But, what is important that, beyond all these, we must love God even a lot more.

And through what He had explained and revealed, and what we have discussed today, through the readings of the Scripture we can see that being followers of Christ is not necessarily easy for us to do. There will be plenty of challenges and trials ahead, and often we may have to make choices that will put us in quandary of having to choose between God and those whom we know. But if our faith in God is genuine and strong, our commitment to Him and dedication are pure, then we will surely have the right focus and attention, that is on God and not on other things.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Henry, a great leader and a humble man before God, whom as Emperor Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was the secular leader of Christendom ordained by God, and by influence, power and prestige, were probably second throughout Christendom just after the Pope, the Vicar of Christ himself. He was a great leader who was dedicated to his people and kingdom, and responsibly carried out the duties of Christian leadership placed in his hands.

He generously gave to the poor and strengthened the foundations of his realm, while at the same time, supporting the Church and its works, spreading the Christian faith far and wide, sending missionaries to pagan areas and converting many to the true faith, while consolidating the areas already under Christian rule. He established a strong relationship with the Pope and the Church, and in the meantime remaining humble and virtuous, with strong personal piety and dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Henry the pious and God-loving Holy Roman Emperor is our great inspiration on how we ourselves can also be righteous and just, dedicated and committed to God. Are we willing and able to follow in his footsteps and be dedicated to God through our daily actions and interactions with one another? Let us all reflect on these, and let us be truly faithful from now on, not just merely paying lip service and empty formality, striving to be good and genuine Christians moving on with our lives.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all with our faith, and may He grant us His providence and with much courage to carry on living as good and faithful Christians from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints of God, especially St. Henry, our role model in faith. Amen.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man.”

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and proclaim His message in their towns.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Isaiah 1 : 10-17

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. “What do I care,” says YHVH, “for your endless sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings, and the fat of your bulls. The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats I abhor, when you come before Me and trample on My courts. Who asked you to visit Me? I am fed up with your oblations. I grow sick with your incense.

Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings, evil with holy assemblies, I can no longer bear. I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts. They burden Me. When you stretch out your hands I will close My eyes; the more you pray, the more I refuse to listen, for your hands are bloody.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.

Saturday, 17 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the love which each and every one of us as Christians ought to show to our fellow brothers and sisters, even to strangers in our midst, especially if we know that they are in need of our love, care and attention.

In the first reading, we heard the exhortation from St. John in his Epistle, speaking of the care and the love that the Christian believers have to show each other, for everyone who comes to enjoy the hospitality of the followers of Christ. For we have to imitate nothing less than the very examples of Our Lord Himself, Who has shown us the example of perfect love and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then in the Gospel passage today, we heard about the parable which the Lord Jesus used in highlighting this love that the Lord has given us. For in that parable, the Lord spoke of an evil judge who had no fear of anyone, and not even of God. And yet, when an old widow came to him repeatedly and incessantly demanding him to fight for her rights, the evil judge eventually caved in to her demands.

The evil judge mentioned in the parable did things as he did not because he cared for the poor, old widow, but because he could not wait to get rid of her incessant demands and desires to see her wishes fulfilled. And this must be understood in the context of how the Lord, Our Father loves each and every one of us so greatly, that if such a wicked man like the evil judge was willing to listen to the wishes of the old widow, then all the more that God, Our loving Father will do for our sake if we ask Him.

That is why, in another part of the Gospels, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples, “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, and knock, and the door will be opened to you.” The reality is such that many of us are not aware of the great love that God has for each one of us, and as a result, we become ignorant of Him and are getting more and more distant from Him due to our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us need to reflect on our own lives, our actions and deeds, that we may see in each and every one of our actions and deeds, the reality of God’s love and the presence of His compassionate love and care in our midst. Have we been doing what St. John the Apostle had been exhorting the faithful? And have we listened to the Lord’s call for us to do what He wants each one of us to do? To love generously and tenderly every single moments of our lives?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a holy woman and devout servant of God, who was once a princess of Hungary married to a nobleman, and whose life remained full of humility, love and compassion for the poor and for the less privileged, despite the status, wealth and position that her noble and royal upbringing and surroundings would have suggested otherwise.

She was very generous with her giving, and many of the poor in the territory her husband ruled as lord benefitted from her generous charity, care and love. St. Elizabeth suffered an early loss of her husband, and was widowed at the age of merely twenty years old. She devoted herself completely to God, entering something akin to a religious life and profession from then on. She continued to live her life with charity and honour, caring for others through prayers and through generosity.

Her sanctity and pious life was noticed by the people, many of whom venerated her and emulated her great examples in life, when she passed away just four years after the passing of her husband. Yet, in such a short span of life, we have seen just how much St. Elizabeth of Hungary had devoted herself in the good works of God.

Let us all follow the Lord, in the footsteps of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and let us all turn towards Him with a renewed and revitalised faith, devoting ourselves, time, effort and attention towards the Lord from now on. May the Lord help us and bless us in our good works for His sake and in our endeavours, that we will draw ever closer to Him and be ever more worthy to welcome Him into our midst. Amen.

Saturday, 17 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my opponent!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Saturday, 17 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Saturday, 17 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

3 John 5-8

Beloved, you do well to care for the brothers and sisters as you do. I mean those coming from other places. They spoke of your charity before the assembled Church. It will be well to provide them with what they need to continue their journey, as if you did it for God.

In reality, they have set out on the road for His Name without accepting anything from the pagans. We should receive such persons, making ourselves their cooperators in the work of the truth.

Friday, 16 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the Scripture passages we listened to, of the coming of the time of reckoning for us all, the moment when the Lord will judge us based on our lives and what we have done in them and what we also have not done in the same lives He has granted to each and every one of us, at the time of judgment, both the particular judgment and the last judgment.

In today’s Gospel passage, the Lord warned His disciples that there would be important decisions to be made in life, where there would be consequences when the wrong choices were made. And this could happen any time, and the time would not be of our own choosing, but the Lord’s good time. He mentioned various historical examples, beginning with Noah, and then to Lot and his wife, and then finally to the moment of the end times.

At the time of Noah, the people lived wickedly and refused to obey God in their actions and ways. They lived in sin and continued to rebel against God, and all were wicked save for Noah and his family, who alone kept faithfully the devotion to God. Noah was asked to build a great Ark by God, to save the creatures of the Lord including his own family.

At the same time, if any one of the people of Noah’s time were willing to repent their ways and believe in God’s premonitions made through Noah, they could have also joined him in the Ark, and be saved. Instead, they refused the opportunity and probably mocked Noah for following God’s commands in building such a huge Ark. This was because they did not see the truth and reality from God. As a result, they all perished in the Great Flood.

Then, for the case of Lot and his family, he lived for a time in the city of Sodom, which together with Gomorrah were populated with people who were wicked and sinful in nature. When two Angels came into their midst disguised as two men, the people of the town came to Lot demanding him to pass to them the two men for them to fornicate with.

As a result of their refusal to repent and continued desire to sin, they were destroyed by a rain of fire and brimstone from heaven. Lot and his family were rescued by the Angels to escape the great destruction and catastrophe. Yet, Lot’s wife as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, fell into temptation, and she turned back to look at Sodom, despite the warning from the Angels not to do so, and thus she also perished, becoming a pillar of salt.

In all of these, God wants each and every one of us to know the reality of His love and mercy, which He gives freely to be taken up by us. If we are willing to be forgiven, then we will be forgiven, and only if we are willing to make the effort to receive God’s mercy through repentance and sincere efforts to make ourselves a better person and avoid sinning any further. And we should not wait, as our time can be up any time, and if it is too late for us to change direction, we can only regret.

Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints, whose lives are truly exemplary. And we should model our lives based on their examples. St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude are great and holy women who were truly devoted to the mission entrusted to them. They exhibited great examples of faith that each and every one of us should also emulate in our own lives.

St. Margaret of Scotland was the queen of Scotland remembered for her great piety and generous charitable acts, ruling justly with her husband, the king of Scotland, caring for both the physical and spiritual well-being of the people of Scotland over whom she was queen. She helped to reform the Scottish church and bring everything in line with the way and form of the universal Church, establishing churches and paths for pilgrims, and caring for the poor and the needy in her kingdom.

Meanwhile, St. Gertrude, also known as St. Gertrude the Great was a renowned mystic who devoted her whole life to God after a life-changing experience. She received many more visions throughout her life, and she was noted for her great spirituality and piety. St. Gertrude’s holiness inspired many others to follow in her examples in faith, and her particular devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was a precursor to the now popular devotion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all model ourselves upon the examples of the holy men and women, saints of God. Let us all turn our hearts and minds to the Lord, and redirect our efforts to serve Him with true faith and dedication. May the Lord bless us always and may He empower us to live faithfully in His presence. Amen.

Friday, 16 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.”

“So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose himself, but whoever gives his life will be born again.”

“I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding corn together, one might be taken and the other left.” Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”