Monday, 13 June 2022 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded that we cannot let the desires in us and greed to bring ruin to ourselves, as the lessons of the past contained in the Scriptures should remind us. Instead, as Christians we have to heed the words that the Lord Himself had told us, that we must not be a people of greed and hatred, of anger and jealousy. Instead, we have to be filled with the same genuine love that God has for each and every one of us, and because of this, we are all called to be righteous, loving and exemplary in all of our actions, words and deeds.

In our first reading today, we heard from the First Book of Kings the account of the encounter between king Ahab of Israel and Naboth, the vineyard owner from whom Ahab wanted to purchase the vineyard from. King Ahab has strongly desired that vineyard, but Naboth refused as that vineyard was on the land that he had inherited from his forefathers. By Law, Naboth was entitled to keep the land of his inheritance, and not even Ahab as king could lawfully force Naboth to sell his land to him. This made Ahab very upset and his wicked wife, Jezebel, plotted and arranged that Naboth was to be falsely accused of blasphemy and of faults that he had not committed.

That was how Ahab managed to unlawfully and illicitly gain ownership of Naboth’s vineyard, and that was a great sin that he committed before God and men alike. That was not what the Lord had told His people to do, and as king, Ahab was expected of an even greater standard and obedience to the ways of the Lord, to His Law and commandments. But Ahab failed it all, and he allowed his wife to mislead and misguide him, and to enforce policies and practices that promoted pagan worship, idolatry, and also the act of tyranny and wickedness as what Jezebel had done in the name of Ahab in persecuting and then seizing the lands of Naboth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord telling His disciples that while Jewish traditions and customs demanded that ‘an eye is ought to be repaid with an eye, and a tooth repaid with a tooth’, they should not be following that path any longer, as He has shown them the better path, the path that He expected all Christians to follow, the path of His love. The old customs and practices were done in accordance to the principles of divine justice and retribution according to their understanding of the old laws of Moses, which had been misinterpreted and misunderstood by the people of God.

Hence, the Lord came to reveal the true intention of His Law, and to call on everyone to turn once again back to Him, abandoning their sinful ways, their selfish desires and greed, and instead embracing His path and following what He has been revealing and showing to us by His own actions. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen the love of God manifested in the flesh, coming into our midst and dwelling among us. He did not just tell His disciples to love one another and to show genuine care and concern, doing more than what had been expected of them, and not to retaliate upon being treated badly, but He Himself did as He told His disciples, in His own actions, in what He had done in loving and forgiving even those who had persecuted Him.

For if we recall what took place during the Lord’s Passion, suffering and death, the Lord Jesus endured bitter rejection and harsh treatment from His enemies, abandoned and betrayed, and was condemned to death and accused of a crime that He was innocent of, and even after all that, He still looked lovingly upon His people, even to all those who had rejected and condemned Him, praying for them and asking His heavenly Father not to hold their actions against them. He showed how a true and genuine Christian love is like, a truly selfless and unconditional love, that does not seek one’s own comfort and benefits, but rather, truly caring for the well-being and the good of the other person.

Compare that love and path of life as compared to what king Ahab and his wife, the wicked Jezebel had plotted and done against Naboth. Then we can obviously see what we are expected to do as Christians, in obeying the will of God, and in following His love, His truth and compassionate ways. Each and every one of us have been called to follow the Lord and to walk in His path in the same manner, and today, we also have the examples of St. Anthony of Padua, the renowned saint and Doctor of the Church, whose faith and commitment to God can be great sources of inspiration for all of us Christians to follow in our own lives. All of us should look upon St. Anthony of Padua, his determination to love his fellow brethren, the poor and the sick, as our examples.

St. Anthony of Padua was a Franciscan friar and priest who was greatly remembered for his eloquent and moving sermons, inspired by the Holy Spirit and by the love that he had for both the Lord and for his fellow brothers and sisters. Many people were touched by his personal sanctity and all the efforts he did in reaching out to those who have been lost to the Lord and His Church, and also for those who were poor, sick and abandoned, ostracised and neglected by the society, and he was remembered for his many works and efforts to bring the people of God back to Him, and to bring the love of God closer to all of His people, wherever he went and ministered to.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as St. Anthony of Padua had inspired numerous people to follow in his examples, let us all also walk in his path, and remembering what the Lord Himself had done for our sake, in His selfless love and in His desire to be reconciled and reunited with us. Let us all ourselves be the beacons of God’s light, and the bearers of His truth, showing the genuine love of God, His compassion and kindness to all of mankind, to those whom we encounter in life daily, and doing our best to follow the Lord in all of our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us, that we may not walk down the same path that king Ahab had walked, and instead of succumbing to the temptations of our desires, let us all seek to live a better and more Christ-like lives from now on. May God be with us and bless our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 13 June 2022 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 38-42

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “You have heard, that it was said : An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this : do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well.”

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Monday, 13 June 2022 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 5 : 2-3, 5-6, 7

O YHVH, listen to my words and hear my complaint, give heed to my sighs, my King and my God.

You are not a God Who delights in wickedness; evil has no place in You. The arrogant cannot stand before You. You hate all who do evil.

You destroy all who speak falsehood, who thirst for blood and live on lies; all of them YHVH detests.

Monday, 13 June 2022 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Kings 21 : 1-16

Now Naboth, a man from Jezreel, owned a vineyard just beside the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab asked Naboth, “Give me your vineyard which is near my house that I may use it for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange. Or, if you prefer, I will pay you its price.”

But Naboth said to Ahab, “YHVH forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” So Ahab went home angry and sad because of what Naboth had told him, that he would not give him the inheritance of his fathers. So he lay down on his bed with his face turned toward the wall and refused to eat.”

His wife Jezebel came to him and said, “Why are you so angry that you refuse to eat?” He answered, “I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and asked him to sell me his vineyard or to exchange it for another one in exchange; but he answered : I will not give you my vineyard.”

His wife Jezebel said to him, “Are you not king of Israel? Get up and eat and be joyful, for I will give you the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel.” So Jezebel wrote letters using Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and important persons living near Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters : “Declare a fast and put Naboth on trial. Get two scoundrels to accuse him in this way : ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”

The people, the elders and the important persons who lived in his city did as Jezebel had instructed them in the letters she sent to them. They declared a fast and put Naboth on trial. The two worthless fellows came in and sat facing him, accusing Naboth before the people, “Naboth cursed God and the king!” So the people took him outside the city and stoned him to death. They then sent word to Jezebel that Naboth had been stoned and was dead.

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, she told Ahab, “Now take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the man of Jezreel who refused to sell it to you, for Naboth is now dead.” As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he went down to the vineyard of Naboth and took possession of it.

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (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 reminded constantly of our responsibilities and calling as Christians to love one another, to be ever generous in loving and to be filled with love in all of our actions, words and deeds. As Christians we have to put our brethren and others above ourselves, to be ever ready to commit ourselves for the good of our fellow men and women, and to spend the time, effort and attention to reach out with that love to our fellow brethren. We cannot be idle and be ignorant of this calling to love, for if we are truly God’s people, then we will also love in the same way that He has loved us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the conclusion of the matter highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles regarding the disagreements surrounding the commitments and responsibilities expected of the Christian faithful especially related to the old laws, customs and practices of the Jewish people. There were those who desired and even forced the adoption of the Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision and the strict dietary laws on the Gentiles or the non-Jews who converted to the Christian faith. Against these were those who argued that the Church should be more open in engaging the Gentiles and should not make it difficult for them to embrace the Christian faith.

Contextually, the cultural differences and other misunderstandings and prejudices existing between the Jews and the Gentiles were making it difficult for the new Christians to adopt the entire strict and extensive provisions of the Jewish laws as espoused by some of the Jewish Christians. This is because some of those practices and customs were regarded as undesirable, strange and even barbaric by the Romans, Greeks and some other people who were living then all around the Mediterranean, those to whom the Apostles and the other disciples had been ministering and preaching towards.

Hence, the Apostles having discussed and prayed over the matter with the elders of the Church, all of them agreed to not force the Jewish customs and laws on the entire body of the faithful, as doing so is contrary to the Lord’s commandments to love, and in fact as mentioned, is a distraction to the true way of the Lord. Some of those customs and practices were kept by the Pharisees to the extremes which not only turned people away from the Lord, but also ended up causing the laws themselves becoming more important and became the focus of attention rather than the Lord Himself. Hence, the Church commanded the faithful to follow only what the Lord Himself had told them to do, as according to what has been revealed through Christ.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard once again that commandment of love being spoken to us through Our Lord Himself, Who told His disciples to love generously and wholeheartedly, to love one another just as He has loved all of them. The Lord has showed us all His unconditional love, His compassion and loving mercy, that even when we were still sinners and rebellious against Him, His love for us did not change at all. That love transcends even the disgust He has for our sinful ways, and hence, because of that love which He has unconditionally showed us, He endeavoured to come to our midst that He may show us what His love is all about.

The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, embracing His love and mercy. He wants each and every one of us to throw away our attachments to sin and to the wickedness that once permeated our lives. And if we still live in the way and path of sin, all of us are called to turn away from those sins and embrace God’s love anew. Are we all capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord wholeheartedly and then as He has commanded us to do, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same kind of love as well? Are we able to love one another generously and genuinely?

Today we should be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher and missionary, who spent a lot of time and effort in caring for the spiritual needs of the people. He was remembered as one of the greatest preachers that the Church ever had, preaching directly to the public with zeal and honesty, from his heart, speaking to them and showing them what the genuine love of God looks and feels like. He showed the people how God loved them all, and inspired them to love Him and in loving one another as well, distancing themselves from the path of sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we inspired to be more like St. Bernardine of Siena and many other great saints, holy men and women of God who had gone before us, that by our actions, words and deeds, we may truly proclaim the Lord to all those whom we encounter in life, proclaiming His love and kindness, His great generosity and mercy, by our own loving actions to one another? We are all called and chosen as Christians to be the bearers and witnesses of God’s ever amazing love for His people. We are all reminded that by our love, many more will know about God and they will also know that we are His people.

May God help us to be His great disciples, in revealing Him and His love to more and more people all around the world. May He empower us all to remain always faithful to Him at all times, and bless our good works, for His greater glory, bow and always. Amen.

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 8-9, 10-12

My heart is steadfast, o God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul, awake, o harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn.

I will give thanks to You, o Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to You among the nations. For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Let Your Glory be over all the earth!

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 22-31

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of the works of the Lord and His Apostles, through which many people had been saved from the threat of eternal damnation and hell. Through the many works that God has done through His Son, His saving works and through the Church that He has established in this world, the Lord has gathered many of His beloved ones back to Himself, as a Good Shepherd Who truly loves His sheep. He has entrusted to us His Church, to be the shining beacon of His light and truth to the nations.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to the Jewish people who questioned and doubted Him, and whom despite having seen His many miracles and having heard His teachings, wisdom and words still refused to believe and acknowledge that the Lord Jesus is truly the Messiah and Holy One of God. They had seen and witnessed everything the Lord had done, and yet they failed to realise the truth behind all that they had seen and heard. The Lord told them all that His sheep and flock knew Him and would answer His call, Him being the Good Shepherd of all, and all those whom the Lord had called and believed in Him would come to His presence.

This means that as long as those people refused to accept the truth and open their hearts and minds to the Lord, His love and truth, no matter how the Lord had done, how many miracles He performed and all the truths and wisdom that He has spoken about, all these would not mean anything to them unless they were willing to let go of their pride and ego, turning away from their worldly desires and attachments, and all of their stubbornness, then they cannot be those counted among the people of God, as they voluntarily and knowingly rejected Him despite Him having reached out patiently to them out of love.

Those who believe in God on the other hand will find solace and salvation in God, and as long as they have their faith in God and love for Him in their hearts and minds, they will not be falling into damnation and the Lord will always be with them. He reached out to all the people nonetheless, even those who remained stubborn and had hardened their hearts against Him. The Lord would not abandon any of His beloved children to the very last moment. However, the Lord will also judge us all at the same time at the end, and we will have to answer with either our faith and dedication, or with our sins and wickedness.

In our first reading passage today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the works of the Apostles in spreading the words of God’s truth, His Good News and the message of His salvation to more and more people, establishing Christian communities throughout the places that they had visited. We heard how the disciples of the Lord went to the various places throughout the region, serving the Lord and the mission entrusted to them. They carried on the works that the Lord had begun, following in the footsteps of the Lord, Who as the Good Shepherd has willed to gather us all, the lost sheep of His flock.

The Apostles like St. Paul and St. Barnabas, and the Twelve Apostles all dedicated their time and effort to proclaim God’s truth and calling on more and more people to believe in Him. They built up vibrant and expanding community and family of believers which as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles passage today, were called as Christians, those who believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, just as exactly who we are today. We are all Christians because we believe in Christ, in all of His truth and love, in the message of His Good News and the eternal life that He has promised all of us.

And we are called to continue the great works that had been done, as there are still many opportunities and areas where there are still in need of the work of evangelisation, with many people, many souls, the lost sheep of the Lord who are still in need of reconciliation with their Shepherd and Guide, our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We have to continue the works of the Apostles, in proclaiming the truth of God to more and more people all around the world. And we should be inspired by the examples set by St. John of Avila, whose feast we are celebrating today.

St. John of Avila was a great missionary and priest who had dedicated much of his life to the evangelisation to the people in southern regions of what is today Spain, the region of Andalusia, preaching to those who have not truly known God and all those who have followed the false faith and heresies of the past. The great saint spent a lot of time building vibrant communities of the faithful much as how the Apostles had done earlier, and his many writings and works influenced even many more people after his time, calling on them to follow the Lord, their Good Shepherd.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the examples of St. John of Avila, the Apostles and many other saints of God, let us all therefore dedicate ourselves to walk faithfully in the path of God and His love. Let us all seek the Lord and be good role models and examples in our way of life, and may the Lord guide us and strengthen us always, that we may lead others towards Him. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us to be great Christians, as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Good Shepherd, wholeheartedly, at all times. Amen.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 22-30

At that time, the time came for the Feast of the Dedication. It was winter, and Jesus walked back and forth in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him and said to Him, “How long will You keep us in doubt? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have already told you, but you do not believe. The works I do in My Father’s Name proclaim Who I am, but you do not believe because, as I said, you are not My sheep. My sheep hear My voice and I know them; they follow Me and I give them eternal life.”

“They shall never perish, and no one will ever steal them from Me. What the Father has given Me is above everything else, and no one can snatch it from out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.”