Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded that as Christians, it is our primary objective in life to love, and not just any kind of love, but love in a selfless way, to love God with all of our might and strength, and to give of ourselves with love to one another, and not to be selfish and haughty, but rather place ourselves in the way of God’s love.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth reminding all of them of the importance of love to all of them, and how love is at the core of the Christian tenet, virtues and teaching. He highlighted how without love, then no matter whatever gifts and talents, graces and abilities we have received, then everything is meaningless.

And the Apostle also highlighted that true love is pure, and is truly wonderful, and that love is never selfish and is about caring and truly being attentive and concerned about the needs of others. St. Paul essentially exhorted all the faithful to follow the examples of the Lord and His Apostles in love, in being generous in giving and in the sharing of that love, rather than following the selfish ways of the world.

It is by our love that we will be recognised as Christians, as God’s own beloved ones and people, as His followers and those who have lived according to His Law and His ways. That is what is alluded in our Gospel passage today when we heard the Lord speaking about how the people failed to recognise Him and St. John the Baptist. He elaborated how the people looked down and were judgmental against St. John the Baptist because of his appearance, and the same people also judged against the Lord because He interacted and reached out to sinners.

All of these were caused by their lack of love, their inability to appreciate God’s love and all that He has done for the sake of us all mankind. They were too engrossed and preoccupied in themselves that they have ended up being blinded to the truth and the love of God. That is precisely why, despite their intelligence and great power, but without love, all these were of no use, as these referred to many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who criticised St. John the Baptist and the Lord, being considered the most well-educated and influential among the Jews.

It was those who did not hold on to their pride and ego, their preconceived notion of superiority that came to believe the Lord wholeheartedly and genuinely, for they perceived God’s love in the way that those who had allowed their pride and desires to get the better of them could not. They saw the Lord and all that He had done for the sake of His people, and came to believe in Him not just through words but also through His loving actions.

Meanwhile, the Lord often rebuked the Pharisees and also warned those who listened to Him, not to follow the examples of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who did not follow the Law in the manner that they should have. He told them to listen to these teachers of the faith, but not to follow their examples, as their actions and deeds, their behaviours were done in order to satisfy their own personal desires and greed, and hence, they were misguided and in turn, could misguide others in their journey towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, today’s set of Scripture readings remind us that the Lord has called us to be His faithful witnesses in all things and in all occasions, and the best way for us to do that, is to be His witnesses of love, that is by showing love in each and every one of our daily lives’ actions, being genuine in our love and tender care for each other, in the concern we show towards others who are suffering and less fortunate than us.

And perhaps we can learn a lot and be inspired by the examples set by today’s two great saints, whose lives had been exemplary and filled with God’s love. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were holy servants of God who dedicated their lives to the service of God and for the love of Him and their fellow brethren. Both were martyrs who died under great persecution, firm in their faith and unwilling to abandon the Lord Whom they had served so faithfully.

Pope St. Cornelius was elected as Supreme Pontiff, Pope and Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ at a time when the Church was undergoing great tumult and period of great challenges, both from outside the Church as well as from within the Church itself. The Church was facing great persecutions from the Roman Emperors and their government authority officials, and at the same time, the Church was bitterly divided by those who then supported a charismatic Novatian, an influential priest who was then opposed by those like Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian.

Novatian led those who took a hardline stance on those Christians, known as lapsi or lapsed, because they abandoned their faith in the midst of persecution, either by offering sacrifices to the pagan idols and the Emperor or by publicly renouncing their faith and embracing back paganism once again. Thus, Novatian was the leader of the faction who argued that under no circumstances at all that those who have voluntarily left the faith or even those who had been forced to do so, would be allowed to return to the Church.

But Pope St. Pontian and St. Cyprian were those who argued that those who have lapsed and abandoned the faith, for various reasons and circumstances, and then showed sincere desire to repent and the commitment to be a dedicated Christian once again, then that person can be readmitted to the Church once again. Novatian and his followers argued that the Church did not have the authority to do so, and only God can judge the sinner, but they forgot that God’s love is so great that, if a sinner were to repent sincerely, he will still be forgiven.

And they had also forgotten that the Lord had granted the authority to His Church, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to bind and loosen souls, and therefore the authority to forgive sins as the Lord Himself had explicitly granted to His Apostles, and from them to their successors, to all the ordained priests of the Lord. Any attempts to exclude permanently anyone from the Lord’s grace and salvation, is in fact a great sin for those who did so against God and against those whom they tried to exclude and cast out.

That is why Pope St. Cornelius and St. Pontian tried very hard and went up against all those supporters of Novatian who held that elitist, erroneous and dangerous view of self-righteousness and exclusion of those who could have been saved. They laboured hard to restore unity in the Church and also to reach out to all those who have been separated from the Church, reconcile the people on the two sides of the schism caused by Novatian and his supporters.

In the end, they were persecuted and remained faithful, and under the great persecutions of Christians mentioned earlier, both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were martyred for their faith, and suffered great trials and pains during all these. Yet, we all certainly remember the love and zeal with which they had dedicated themselves to God and to their fellow brethren, showing with concrete action the love of God, by fighting for the cause of those who believe in the power of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards God, inspired anew by Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, that we may grow ever stronger in faith in Him and grow ever deeper in our love, commitment and dedication to serve Him and glorify Him by our every actions, in each and every moments of our lives. May God be with us always, at every stage of this journey of faith we have through life. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What comparison can I use for the people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not ear bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next, came the Son of Man, eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 12 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 13 : 13

Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.

If I could speak all the human and Angelic tongues, but had no love, I would only be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, knowing secret things, with all kinds of knowledge, and had faith great enough to remove mountains, but had no love, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burnt, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me.

Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways. Likewise, at present, we see dimly, as in a mirror, but, then, it shall be face to face. Now, we know, in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now, we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 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 our Scripture readings today, we heard about the call for all of us as Christians to be dedicated to God and to put our trust in Him for everything we do in life, to listen to Him and to follow Him wholeheartedly. We should not allow ourselves to be tempted and swayed by human ambition, pride and desires, but instead, allow ourselves to be led and guided by God.

In our first reading today, the Lord reminds us through His Apostle St. Paul, that for all the great wisdom, intellect, power and ability we have in the world, all of these are nothing and insignificant in the presence of God, and if we are to boast, as St. Paul said, let us all boast of the Lord and not of ourselves and our own abilities. And St. Paul mentioned in that same passage, his own name, that of Apollos as well as Cephas, the Aramaic name for St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all the faithful.

This was because contextually, in the communities of the Christian faithful, there had been intense divisions at the time, especially within the Church in Corinth, to which St. Paul addressed this Epistle, in which segments of the community began to side with certain factions proclaiming that they were for St. Paul, and others were for Apollos, while yet others were proclaiming for Cephas, St. Peter.

St. Paul was the famous preacher and evangeliser who travelled extensively all across the Mediterranean region, establishing the communities of the faithful in many places and was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles for his efforts and commitment, while Apollos was a charismatic Jewish convert to the Christian faith, who gained large following due to his charism, and St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the appointed Vicar of Christ. These figures became the rallying points around which the segments of the Christian faithful coalesced around. All of these factions and divisions among the faithful led to the fracturing of the Church unity and the confusions it caused in the Christian community.

St. Paul therefore asked all the faithful to avoid dwelling in human desires, the desires and ambition for power, and to avoid using human and worldly wisdom and understanding to live their faith in God. Instead, all the faithful should trust in God, put their faith and listen to Him. It is just like what we all heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the account of the calling of the first Apostles, the fishermen of the lake of Galilee, namely, St. Peter and his brother St. Andrew, as well as the two sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John.

At that time, St. Peter and others were fishing in the lake without result even after much efforts overnight. But the Lord told them all to put out into the deep waters, and as soon as they followed His instructions, they gained so much fish that the whole boat could not take the great weight of the fishes caught. St. Peter then immediately recognised that Jesus was no mere ordinary Man, but a great and Holy One of God and trembled before Him, knowing that he was unworthy and a sinner.

Then the Lord called on all of them to follow Him, and which they did, abandoning their boats, following Him to be the ‘fishers of men’. Through this, they would gather for the Lord, the ‘fishes’ representing mankind, to the Church, represented by the boat, and therefore into salvation and eternal life in God. This is the mission which God has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and which He also entrusted to all of us in His Great Commission, ‘Go forth and make disciples of all the nations!’

Through all of these God is calling on each and every one of us to be centred and focused on Him, and Him alone, not to trust in our own strength and power, but rather, doing our works through our strength and power drawing from God and His strength. And by drawing on strength from Him, then we are called to go out and ‘put into the deep waters’ which means that we need to get out of our comfort zone and go forth, be genuine and good Christians, to inspire and call others to be good Christians on their own accord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we look forward into how we are to live our lives as good and dedicated Christians, and also rejecting the temptations of human desires and worldly glories, let us all look at our holy predecessor, Pope St. Gregory the Great, the saint and holy Pope whose feast we are celebrating today with great joy, in memory of the great contributions and efforts he had made for the greater glory of God and His Church.

Pope St. Gregory the Great reigned as Pope at a time when the Church was encountering difficulties from both the religious spectre as well as from the secular world, as at that time, not only that secular authorities were falling apart as the remnants of the authority and power of the Roman Emperors ruling from Constantinople began to fall apart and Rome came under threat from foreign invaders, but the discipline in the Church and among the members of the clergy had grown lax.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, an experienced administrator for his days before being a priest and monk, and Pope, did a lot of effort to reform the Church and the administration of both the faithful community as well as the secular governance over the region of Rome and beyond. He improved the livelihood of the people and the governance, improved various aspects of Church life and also the discipline in the Church and among the members of the faithful.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was also remembered for his efforts in spreading the Gospel message and convert more and more souls to the Lord. He sent missionaries to Germany and also England, most famously in sending the missionary St. Augustine of Canterbury to be the first Bishop of Canterbury and therefore laying the strong foundation of the Church in England, as well as in other parts of Christendom.

Of course, we also remember his efforts for what would come to be known by his name, as the Gregorian Chant, in his efforts in standardising Church music and improving its quality, which in time, would come to be a vast multitude of hymns and chants that bring great glory to God and bring even more people ever closer to God by the sacredness of the wonderful hymns and chants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the faith and commitment of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in our faith and life that each and every one of us may become ever more faithful in everything we do, that we may put God at the centre of our life and existence. Let us follow his example and dedicate ourselves to the greater glory of God and His Church. May the Lord help us and be with us, and guide us through this journey of faith through life. Amen.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 1-11

At that time, one day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat, and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 3 : 18-23

Do not deceive yourselves. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes. To this, Scripture says : God catches the wise in their own wisdom. It also says : The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is useless.

Because of this, let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you; Paul, Apollos, Cephas – life, death, the present and the future. Everything is yours, and you, you belong to Christ, and Christ is of God.

Friday, 21 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us continue with the Scriptural discourse on the renewal of our lives by God, and the call which God has given to each and every one of us to be His followers. He has shown us that to be His disciples, we must all follow Him and obey His Law, and if we are faithful in doing so, then in the end, a new and glorious life with God will await us in the end.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard about the great vision of Ezekiel in which the prophet saw a great valley filled with immense amount of dry bones, symbol of death and destruction. And then God showed Ezekiel a great miracle, as those dry bones came together and were made whole again with muscles and sinews, with skin and came back to the human forms recognisable by man. And last of all, God gave those bodies the breath of His Spirit and the entire valley which was just earlier on filled with multitudes of dry bones, were then full of innumerable multitudes of the living.

Through this wonderful vision God wants to reveal to the prophet Ezekiel that through Him, all of us mankind are to receive new life and glory, free from death, which is the consequence of sin, and which in turn is the consequence of disobedience and unfaithfulness. The Lord therefore led His people into new life, new existence and new hope in Him, as He will forgive them all their sins, cleanse them from their faults and corruptions, returning them to the state of grace they were meant to be before the coming of sin.

However, if we are looking forward to this, then we must also be aware that we must follow God’s path, entrust ourselves to Him, obey His will and His commandments. And this means that we must listen to Him and fulfil His Law, as we heard in our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus answered a Pharisee who asked Him, “Which of the commandments of God is the greatest among them?”, and the Lord succinctly summarised the whole Law into two main and most important Law for us.

And that is first and foremost for us to love the Lord, our God with all of our might, with all of our capacities and capabilities, and with every possible opportunities. And then, we should also show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, that we love one another generously, show genuine concern and care for our fellow brethren, and we should reach out to those who need our love so that we help one another to grow ever stronger in love and devotion to God.

It is when we know of God’s love that we may also love Him, and this is why it is important that we practice genuine love in our own lives, in loving one another and showing God’s love in every moments of our lives. Today, we also have a great role model and example, whose faith may inspire us all to be more faithful and to love God with ever greater devotion. As we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pius X, also known as the Pope of the Holy Eucharist, let us remember his life and the many good and inspiring examples that he has set.

Pope St. Pius X was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto in Riese in northern Italy, in a large family of many children. His family was poor, but his parents valued education for their children, and thus, the young Giuseppe went to school each day, walking a long distance every day to reach his school. While his family were poor, but they were happy and faithful to God. The young Giuseppe studied Latin and eventually advanced further in his studies, and was ordained a priest and became the chaplain and parish priest of several parishes.

It was told how the future Pope St. Pius X helped to restore the dilapidated and poorly managed parish, causing many parishioners who had lapsed from the faith to return, thanks to his efforts and dedication in reaching out to those who were in need of guidance and those who who have been lost to the temptations of sin. He did his best to bring education to the poor and the marginalised, likely remembering his own hardships in attaining education in his early years.

He also spent a lot of time ministering and preaching the faith to the people with carefully crafted homilies and sermons, and spent a lot of time in catechising the young, which was told to be so popular that he had to begin evening classes in addition to his daytime classes as they were all fully filled up. For his energy and enthusiasm, his dedication and hard work, his Bishop appointed him as Chancellor and entrusted him with many important work in the diocese.

Eventually he was appointed and ordained as the Bishop of Mantua in northern Italy, in which capacity, he continued to minister passionately to the flock of the Lord placed under his care. He also remained a filial son to his parents, and after his father died, helped to take care of his aged mother, who managed to see her own son honoured and entrusted with the position of the Patriarch of Venice and also elevated to the Cardinalate by the Pope. When his elderly mother passed away, it was her son, Cardinal Sarto who presided over her Requiem.

Even as Cardinal, and later on as the Supreme Pontiff and Pope, Pope St. Pius X remained humble and ever dedicated to his work, in reaching out to the poor and the less fortunate, to the education of young children and to the spiritual growth of the Church and the faithful of all ages and backgrounds. And as Pope he was deeply loved and remembered for his many reforms, in his institution of liturgical reforms especially in the encouragement and expanded use of the Gregorian Chant as the primary sacred music of the Church.

Pope St. Pius X also lowered the age for the reception of Holy Communion that children can be taught to love God and brought closer to Him from the youngest possible age, with proper preparation and catechesis, which is why he is also widely known as the Pope of the Holy Eucharist. He also opposes the heresy of modernism, in attempting to change Church teachings to suit the changing world, and championed the return to the true faith and to restore all things in Christ as how his motto, ‘Instaurare Omnia in Christo’ shows us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope St. Pius X has shown us all how we should live our lives with faith, loving God first and foremost, and also loving our fellow brothers and sisters, our parents, our brethren, our family and relatives, our friends and even strangers, all those whom we encounter and interact with. Are we able and willing to live as genuine Christians from now on if we have yet to do so, following in the footsteps of Pope St. Pius X, holy man and servant of God?

Let us all trust our lives to the Lord, and allow God to bless our lives that each and every one of us may grow ever closer to Him and that we will grow ever more righteous and committed in faith, from now and always. Amen.

Friday, 21 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 22 : 34-40

At that time, when the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned Him to test Him, “Teacher, which commandment of the Law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole Law and prophets are founded on these two commandments.”