Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the loving nature of God, and how we mankind, as God’s beloved children should put our trust in our God, and place ourselves in the caring hands of our loving Father. We heard how the Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel describing the loving nature of God as like of that of fathers, who loved their children.

And because God loves each and every one of us, then He will surely listen to us, should we ask Him to look upon us and to take care of us. He will not purposefully harm us or do something that ends up making us to suffer. When we suffer, in truth, we are actually acting in the manner that we misuse the freedom that God has given to us, which therefore end up causing us to make others suffer in order to satisfy our own personal desires and greed.

That was why, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia chided and rebuked the faithful living in that city because of their lack of faith and ability to live faithfully in accordance to that faith. They have succumbed to the temptations of their flesh, and instead of putting their trust in God, they fell into sin through their wicked and unfaithful attitudes and behaviours.

God reminded us that He is always there for us, ready to welcome us back, even when we have erred, disobeyed and failed to listen to Him. He will not turn a deaf ear to us, should we call upon Him, and crying out for His mercy. But first of all, we must also be willing to commit ourselves to the path of reconciliation, to be ready to be forgiven, and ultimately, ready to make the commitment to change our way of life.

However, the issue for many of us is that, we are often too preoccupied, too busy and too distracted in our lives, that we failed to notice this, and we failed to realise just how much God loves each and every one of us. We have been blinded and made deaf by the distractions, temptations and all the noise present in this world. We have been pulled away by the allure of human desire, of worldly glory and many other things that have been keeping us away from God.

Are we then able to overcome these temptations in life, and rediscover this love which we should have for God, our loving Father? For many of us, we have been wayward in our faith, and we have not been truly faithful, as we spent more time trying to gain for ourselves worldly acceptance and glories of this world. But this is exactly where we end up forgetting about God, His love and His caring nature for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should reflect on what we have just discussed and look deeply into our lives and how we have acted in our lives thus far. Have we been living in this world filled with the desires of worldliness and human greed, in trying to satisfy our own selfish desires and wants? Or have we been truly devoted to the Lord, in all of our actions and deeds?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. John XXIII, also known by his nickname of the ‘Good Pope’. He was the Pope who initiated the Second Vatican Council, in bringing about reform and renewal to the Church, almost six decades ago. He was remembered as a holy and devout servant of God, who spent his whole life, trying to bring the people of God closer to their loving Father.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, in a poor farmer family in northern Italy. He was born into poverty and hard life, and yet, he was raised well and heard the call to priesthood and holiness early in his life. He became a priest and was involved in the social works in the Church among his local community early on, inspired by the examples set by his local bishop, who devoted himself to the care and the well-being of the poor, especially the workers who were oppressed by the then horrible conditions at work.

Later on, he became the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and then later still, the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey. In his role as the representative of the Pope to those countries, he fostered many good relationships both with the state as well as with the Christians belonging to the Eastern Orthodox traditions, who have always treated Catholics with much suspicion and animosity. But Pope St. John XXIII’s persistence in love and kindness have softened many hearts and won much adoration and praise.

In his many other roles and capacities, he was also remembered for his role in saving many Jewish refugees from Europe during the time of the Second World War when millions of Jews were massacred by the NAZI regime in Germany. He also helped to reconcile the relations between the Church and the state in France after the war, and many other good deeds, as the Pope of the Church, when he led the entire Church in the journey of discovering their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, should follow in the footsteps of this holy Pope in our own life, in how we live our lives, in our actions and deeds. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts, and turn ourselves towards God. And if we want to be one with God, then our actions must also show this faith and love which we ought to have for God. May the Lord be our guide and be our help, and bless us always in our every deeds and works. Amen.

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 5-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is travelling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’ Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Do not bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I cannot get up and give you anything.'”

“But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a bother to him, and he will give you all you need. And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

“If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if your child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 1 : 69-70, 71-72: 73-75

In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old.

Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy Covenant.

The oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Galatians 3 : 1-5

How foolish you are, Galatians! How could they bewitch you after Jesus Christ has been presented to you as crucified? I shall ask you only this : Did you receive the Spirit by the practice of the Law, or by believing the message? How can you be such fools : you begin with the Spirit and end up with the flesh!

So, you have experienced all this in vain! Would that, it were not so! Did God give you the Spirit, and work miracles among you because of your observance of the Law, or because you believed in His message?

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.