Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 all of us are reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to put our faith and trust in the Lord, seeking Him for His forgiveness and mercy. We must not be afraid or doubtful because we have to know that God has always looked kindly upon us and desiring for us to find our way back to Him, to be reconciled and reunited fully with Him in love.

And that is why we heard the passage from our Gospel reading today, detailing the moment when the Lord had an encounter during a meal hosted by the Pharisees for Him, as a sinful woman, widely known for her vices and sins, came to seek Him and brought an alabaster jar full of perfume before the Lord. She wept and cried on the Lord’s feet, before wiping those feet dry with her own hair, and then she used the perfume to anoint the Lord’s feet.

If we understand her context and background, then we can truly understand how significant this event was to all those who witnessed it. For that sinful woman was likely a prostitute, whom the Pharisees often looked down on and despised. The Pharisees must have been shocked that the Lord Jesus allowed such a sinner to approach Him and less still allowing her to touch Him, as at that time, even coming close to a sinner could be considered as a defilement, and hence people would distance themselves from those considered as sinners.

Yet, that sinful woman humbled herself such before the Lord and everyone present, throwing aside all pride and ego, and using her hair, the crown of her beauty, to wipe the feet of the Lord, using her precious treasure to wipe clean the part of the body considered as dirty. She came to the Lord with tears and sorrow, all because she knew how sinful she had been, and came seeking the Lord for forgiveness and healing. She gave it all to the Lord, anointing His feet with expensive perfume, honouring Him before all who saw it.

Yet, those Pharisees still failed to see the truth of God’s love, and still judged Him based on what they had seen and based on their own prejudices. They refused to see the sinners as their own fellow brethren, and preferred to remain in their arrogant and self-serving attitude, in being proud of their piety and privileged position within the community, looking down on all those who disagreed with them and who did not follow the Law and commandments of God in the manner that they had done.

God told them that He came into this world seeking for sinners, for their redemption and healing, so that they might be reconciled with Him and be forgiven from their sins, saved from the destruction that threatened them. He told the Pharisees the parable highlighting how those who had their debts forgiven more would have been more appreciative of the forgiveness, and that was a way for the Lord to tell them that they must not look down on the prostitutes, or tax collectors, the diseased, those possessed by evil spirits and others they deemed as sinners.

Everyone, after all, were sinners all the same, all equal before God and all deserving the same love from God. God wants us all to know this truth, and as we heard the Scripture passages today, we are again reminded of the grace that we have received from Him, the generous extension of His forgiveness and mercy, the love which He has lavished upon us all. And since we have been loved in such a manner, as God called us all to seek Him and be reconciled with Him, let us all remember what He told the sinful woman, that we ought to go forth in peace and sin no more. In our lives, we have to always be vigilant, resisting the temptations to sin that are always present all around us.

It does not matter how great the sins we have once committed. For as long as we are truly sincere in seeking the Lord, like that of the sinful woman, in being repentant and humble, in allowing God to come and heal us, then we shall be secure in the Lord and in the inheritance that He has promised to us. We should not be afraid to seek Him, as if we seek Him with a genuine heart full of remorse for our sins, and desiring to be reconciled and reunited with Him, God will surely hear us and grant us our longing for Him.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith from now on, embracing Him in the manner of our holy predecessors, especially that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, whose feasts we are celebrating today. They were truly great and honourable servants of God who gave themselves wholeheartedly to the missions entrusted to them by the Lord. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage during the difficult years of intense persecution of the Church and the Christian faithful by the Roman state. They were both eventually martyred and died defending their faith.

At that time, the Church was not only facing persecution from the pagan authorities but also in fact suffering from internal divisions, particularly by those who adamantly refused to allow the readmission and acceptance of those Christians who had lapsed from their faith, who disagreed with the stand of the Church fathers, on the forgiveness of sinners. Those were lead by a particular priest called Novatian, who led the Church into schism with his followers on one side, and Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian on the other.

Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian championed the rights of those who had lapsed from their faith, either by their choice or coercion, pressure or other reasons, having abandoned their faith in God only to return later on back to the Holy Mother Church. Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian supported the rights of those Christians to return, against the Novatianists who argued that once they apostatised, there could be no forgiveness or return for them. Those so-called purists were in fact reminiscent of the attitudes showed by the Pharisees in our Gospel passage today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those two holy men of God, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian had done their all to show God’s love and mercy to repentant sinners. Therefore, we too should follow in their footsteps. First of all, are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord, in turning away from the path of sin and wholeheartedly repenting from our past sins? And are we willing to help one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in seeking God?

Instead of looking down on others and thinking that we are in any way better, holier or more worthy than them, let us all reflect on our own sins and all that we have done in our past, all that we have failed to do in obeying the will of God, and in extending our love to one another, just as the Lord has called us all to do. Let us all reflect on this, and strive to become better Christians from now on. Let us all be exemplary in our way of life and show better care and concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in our every living moments.

May the Lord be with us all and may He guide us in our journey, so that each and every one of us will be more willing to be more committed to God, and strive to abandon our past sinfulness, embracing instead the path of God while inspiring others to turn away from their sins, by our own virtuous life examples, through which God may be glorified, and more may come to know of Him and His love for each and every one of us. Amen.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 110 : 7-8, 9, 10

The works of His hands are faithful and just, trustworthy are all His precepts, ordained to last forever, bearers of truth and uprightness.

He has sent His people deliverance and made with them a Covenant forever. His Holy Name is to be revered!

The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are those who live by His precepts. To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 Timothy 4 : 12-16

Let no one reproach you on account of your youth. Be a model to the believers, in the way you speak and act, in your love, your faith and purity of life. Devote yourself to reading, preaching and teaching, until I come.

Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on you with prophetic words, when the elders laid their hands upon you. Think about it, and practice it, so that your progress may be seen by all. Take heed of yourself, and attend to your teaching. Be steadfast in doing this, and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Friday, 3 September 2021 : 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, today as we heard the Word of God from the Scriptures, we are all called to remember that we are part of God’s One Church, the One Body of Christ, which is made from the unity of all those who are faithful to God and believe in Him, and with whom God Himself has established a New Covenant through Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, His Son. He has united us to Himself through Christ, Who became the Mediator of the New Covenant and the Head of the living Church.

In our first reading today, that was what St. Paul highlighted in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Colossae on Christ being the Head of the Church and the One through Whom the Lord had endeavoured to save His people, by His suffering and death on the Cross, His Passion and then His Resurrection, risen from the dead, so that all of us who share in His humanity, and who believe in Him wholeheartedly shall receive from Him the assurance of eternal life and true joy and glory.

However, in order for us to be His true disciples, and to be able to wholeheartedly believe in Him, all of us need to heed what He Himself had mentioned to His disciples as we heard in the Gospel passage today, when He taught them using the parable of the wine and the wineskins, and the cloth and the patches. Through that parable, the Lord wanted to make it clear that following Him would require a fundamental change of heart and attitude, and we have to embrace His truth and teachings with true sincerity and devotion.

Just as the people at that time knew that old wineskin cannot be used to store new wine, and neither can new wineskin be used to store old wine, as they are incompatible, and just as old torn cloth cannot be repaired by new patch of fabric and vice versa, therefore, the Lord’s path and His truth is something that is not compatible with our sinful and wicked ways, the path that the world has shown us. As long as we continue to act in ways that are aligned with the excesses and wickedness of our old, sinful ways, then we cannot be truly worthy of the Lord.

And how is this then related to what we have heard in our first reading today? As the Lord is the Head of the Church and we, as Christians, we are all members of the same Body of Christ, this very Church, then it is imperative that we have to align and harmonise ourselves with the Lord. Otherwise, if we profess to believe in the Lord and yet act in a totally contradictory manner, then are we not causing a scandal for the Church, and not only that, but we are even besmirching the good Name of the Lord? That is why each and every one of us must do our best, as we are reminded today, to be faithful in all things.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all willing to embrace the Lord and His path wholeheartedly? Are we willing to commit ourselves to Him and be united with Him not just in mere words or formality, but truly sincerely from the deepest parts of our hearts. Are we willing and able to commit our effort, our time and attention to Him and do whatever we can, even in the smallest of things, to be good and faithful disciples, embracing God’s truth and love in all things, that we may be ever exemplary in our Christian living.

Today, all of us can get the inspiration from a great servant of God whose feast we are celebrating today. Pope St. Gregory the Great was a very well-known Pope, a great Leader of the Universal Church, and a great Reformer of the Church and the faith. The Lord has shown us in this faithful servant of His, what it truly means for us to follow the Lord with all of our hearts, and through his life, Pope St. Gregory the Great also showed us what it means for us to walk faithfully in God’s presence, to be obedient to Him and to be exemplary in our own way of living.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was remembered for his many and immense efforts in advancing the cause of the Church, in reaching out to the pagans and the many peoples who have not yet heard of God, in his many works, writings and letters to various members of the Church and the faithful. He sent many missionaries to places like England and Germany, which helped to establish a firm foundation of the Church and the faith in those places. He was also remembered for his leadership and guidance of the local Roman Church just as he was well-respected for his leadership of the Universal Church.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was also remembered for his role in reforming the Church, its administration as well as its way of worshipping God, by regulating the liturgical practices of the Church, and he was often credited as the one who laid the foundation of the Church music especially in the Western Christendom, of what would be known later on and today as the Gregorian Chant. He helped to reform many other aspects of the Church and helped many parts of the Church to develop and grow spiritually, and through his many efforts and contributions, the Lord’s Church grew greatly and prospered.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope St. Gregory the Great has shown us all what it means to be a faithful and dedicated Christian, to be committed to the path of the Lord and to adapt a way of life that is compatible to the Lord. Are we willing and able to follow him and his examples? Let us all ourselves this question as we discern how we are going to live our lives from now on. And may the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, that we may always strive to do our very best, in whatever we do, to be God’s holy and worthy people. Amen.

Friday, 3 September 2021 : 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 : 33-39

At that time, some people asked Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and say long prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why is it, that Your disciples eat and drink?”

Then Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them. But later, the Bridegroom will be taken from them; and they will fast in those days.”

Jesus also told them this parable : “No one tears a piece from a new coat to put it on an old one; otherwise the new coat will be torn, and the piece taken from the new coat will not match the old coat. No one puts new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and be spilt, and the skins will be destroyed as well.”

“But new wine must be put into fresh skins. Yet, no one who has tasted old wine is eager to drink new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

Friday, 3 September 2021 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Friday, 3 September 2021 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Colossians 1 : 15-20

He is the image of the unseen God, and for all creation, He is the Firstborn, for, in Him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible : thrones, rulers, authorities, powers… All was made through Him and for Him. He is before all and all things hold together, in Him.

And He is the Head of the Body, that is the Church, for He is the first, the first raised from the dead, that He may be the first in everything, for God was pleased to let fullness dwell in Him. Through Him, God willed to reconcile all things to Himself, and through Him, through His Blood shed on the cross, God established peace, on earth as in heaven.

Saturday, 21 August 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to listen to the Lord and follow Him wholeheartedly, to be righteous and good in all things, and not just paying lip service to the Lord. We should have real and genuine love, devotion and desire to follow the Lord, and to look upon good role models that we may walk in the right path and not lose our way to temptations and allures of the evil ones.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of Ruth, one of the ancestors of king David of Israel, who was in fact not counted initially among the Israelites as she was a Moabite woman that belonged to the neighbouring nation of Israel called Moab. But she followed her mother-in-law, an Israelite named Naomi back to the land of Israel after losing her husband, and she was accepted among the Israelites, as Ruth insisted to follow Naomi and accepted the latter’s God as her own God.

Ruth helped Naomi and encountered Boaz, one of Naomi’s relatives, who came to like Ruth and through what we have heard in our first reading today, they eventually married each other, by God’s blessings and guidance, and Ruth came to bear Boaz’s son, called Obed. Obed was the grandfather of king David through his father Jesse, who was Obed’s son, and Ruth’s grandson. Therefore, one of the ancestors of the greatest historic kings of Israel hailed from among the pagans, who willingly accepted the Lord and became one of His followers.

Compare this to our Gospel passage today in which we heard about the Lord speaking to the people and His disciples regarding the attitudes and behaviours of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. He spoke to them regarding how those people were outwardly pious and prayed aloud in synagogues, making show of their faith and piety in public places, as most of them did, but they did so for the wrong reasons, as they were led by their vanity and human desires to seek glory and fame rather than true love and faith in God.

The Lord highlighted this as an irony to show how those people who claimed themselves to be faithful and pious, and who liked to look down on others, on those they deemed to be unworthy and sinners, like the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and foreigners and pagans. And yet, Ruth, the pagan Moabite woman, had greater faith than they were, as she embraced the Lord wholeheartedly and was so devoted to her mother-in-law even though she had no reason to do so, as her husband and Naomi’s son had passed away.

This is therefore a reminder for all of us not to have just an external and superficial faith, like that which many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had. And neither should we behave in the way they did, by looking down on others whom they deemed to be inferior and less worthy of God than themselves. That is not what we should be doing as Christians. On the contrary, we should be good role models of our faith in our own actions, in everything we say and do, so that all who see us and witness our works may know the Lord through us.

That is why today, we should look upon the good examples set by Pope St. Pius X, whose feast we are celebrating this day. Pope St. Pius X, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto to a poor family in what is now northern region of Italy, and as he joined the seminary to become priest, he worked hard, and was known as a priest to be both humble and dedicated to his mission, in reaching out to the poor and the needy, and in his works to restore the churches and to advance proper education for the youth.

Eventually he was made a chancellor and rector of the local diocesan seminary, where he worked more wonders in reforming the Church administration and priest formation, and served as caretaker for the local Diocese of Treviso before being chosen as the Bishop of Mantua by the Pope. As bishop and then later on as Cardinal and Patriarch of Venice by the Pope’s appointment, Pope St. Pius X, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto continued to do his best for his flock, in reforming the Church and in reaching out to them.

Cardinal Sarto was elected as the Successor of St. Peter as Pope Pius X, in which capacity, he immediately embarked on serious reforms, particularly against the dangers of heresies of modernism and other irregularities of the faith, began the reform the Canon Law and making important changes to the liturgy and sacred music, placing the Gregorian Chant back in its proper place as the primary form of Church music in liturgical celebrations.

Lastly, Pope St. Pius X was also remembered for his important reforms in lowering the age of the First Communion, that younger children could receive the Lord at a younger age when they have been prepared and are spiritually ready. That is why Pope St. Pius X is also known as the Pope of the Holy Eucharist, in his drive to allow more to receive the Eucharist, both at a younger age and also in the encouragement of frequent partaking of the Eucharist, while previously the people only received the Lord in few occasions throughout the year.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having seen the faith and examples of Pope St. Pius X, let us all be inspired to follow his path and dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord, that we may indeed be inspirational in our own way of living, that we may be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, in words, deeds and actions, and not just being superficial or misguided like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as we discussed earlier.

May the Lord be with us all through this journey of faith, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the resolve and strength to follow the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our might. May God bless us all in our every efforts and endeavours, now and always, and help us to persevere through. Amen.

Saturday, 21 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say; but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even lift a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”