Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures, telling us about the need for us to discern carefully the path of our life, and listen to the right words of advice, that is the truth of God and not instead the lies and falsehoods of the devil. Otherwise, we may end up walking in the wrong path and fall to the trap of sin, which the devil has prepared laboriously to bring us into our doom.

In the passage taken from the Epistle of St. John, our first reading today, we heard of the distinction between the path of God and the path of the world, those who side with the antichrist. Those who reject the way of the Lord are those who side with the devil, the enemies of God, because they do not agree with the Lord’s way, and do things in manner that is against the commandments and the Law of God, as mentioned by St. John.

How should we then discern so that we will not end up going down the wrong path? Then we need to realise that we have to deepen our understanding and knowledge of God’s ways, by delving deeper into the teachings of the Church, and rediscover the richness of the bounties of God’s truth, which have been preserved well by His Church, and taught to us by His bishops and priests, all those who have been tasked with the preservation and the propagation of truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the way of the Lord is one of love and compassion, of obedience to God and adherence to His ways. And the Lord Himself has summarised the Law into two main, essential laws. First of all, we ought to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with every ounce of our strength. And then, we ought to show the same love towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours, those in our families, and even the strangers whom we encounter in our respective lives.

But as we can easily see and witness all around ourselves and our livelihood, it is not easy to walk in the path that God has set before us, as there will inevitably be conflict and misalignments with the ways and the expectations that come from the world, from the society around us. By our human nature and tendencies, we are often selfish and egoistic, prideful and harbouring hatred in our hearts. We are often jealous of each other and desire what others have but we ourselves do not have.

That is why, it is not easy for us to be faithful to God and to follow His ways. There will be many temptations and even pressures for us to walk away from His path. But if we remain strong in our conviction to love God and persevere in walking down the path He has shown us, then we are assured of the salvation and liberation which God has brought down upon us. We will be deemed worthy of the glorious kingdom and eternal life and joy which will be ours by faith.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort, a renowned Dominican friar and preacher, who lived during the High Middle Ages. He was remembered for his important role in the codification and formalisation of the Canon Law in the Church. But more importantly, he also stood up for his faith and the teachings of the Church, even when his king was against him, who though faithful but ensnared with the temptation of lust with a concubinage relationship.

St. Raymond of Penyafort insisted repeatedly that the king must dismiss his concubine, and the king persistently refused to do so. Eventually, it was told that a miracle happened, when St. Raymond of Penyafort wanted to leave the king behind, having no longer been able to tolerate his wicked behaviour, and when the king insisted that he remain, St. Raymond warned the king of the fate awaiting those who refused to listen to God’s will and repent from their sins, and casting his cloak to the water, he sailed on the cloak as if it was a ship. Having heard of this, the king repented from his sins and became a good Christian from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the faith and virtues of St. Raymond of Penyafort, let us all be inspired by him and the courage he had in resisting wickedness of the world, and in how he had stood up for his faith in God. Let us all also be courageous in how we live up to our faith, by our actions, and be willing to commit ourselves, from now on, to love God with all of our strength, and be courageous in living a life in accordance with God’s will and grace. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 7-8, 10-11

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession.”

Now therefore, learn wisdom, o kings; be warned, o rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and fall at His feet; lest He be angry and you perish when His anger suddenly flares. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 22 – 1 John 4 : 6

Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know He lives in us.

My beloved, do not trust every inspiration. Test the spirits to see whether they come from God, because many false prophets are now in the world. How will you recognise the Spirit of God? Any spirit recognising Jesus as the Christ Who has taken our flesh is of God. But any spirit that does not recognise Jesus is not from God, it is the spirit of the antichrist. You have heard of his coming and even now he is in the world.

You, my dear children, are of God and you have already overcome these people, because the One Who is in you is more powerful than he who is in the world. They are of the world and the world inspires them and those of the world listen to them. We are of God and those who know God listen to us, but those who are not of God ignore us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error as well.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of the Messiah, the joy and happiness that are associated with the coming of the One Who has been awaited for so long by the people of God, Whose coming has been prophesied and foretold for many years by many prophets and messengers of God. And today, we heard of that moment when salvation was finally about to come into the world, and the joy that came with it.

The coming of the Messiah was foretold, that He would be born among the people of God, as the Heir of David, to receive the glorious kingdom of His forefather David. His coming would usher a new time and era, where God would renew the Covenant that He had made with His people Israel. His coming would also herald a new time of peace, and the reunion and gathering of all the scattered people of God back to Him.

Thus, everyone was expecting the coming of the Messiah, hoping that He will come to free His people from the tyranny of the Romans and all those who oppressed them. In the idea of some, the Messiah would come as a mighty, conquering King, Who will defeat the Romans and reestablish the glorious and mighty kingdom of Israel as how it was during the days of the great kings David and Solomon.

Who would have expected the Lord, King and Saviour to have come in the form of a Baby, born not as a mighty Prince or wealthy and powerful Ruler, but instead, through a poor, humble and yet devout young virgin, Mary of Nazareth in Galilee? But to those to whom God has given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they recognised the presence of the Saviour, as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of St. John the Baptist recognised the Lord’s presence in Mary’s womb.

St. John the Baptist, the one foretold to be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah, also recognised his Lord and Saviour. In the other part of the Gospel, we also heard how Simeon the old priest recognised the Lord when the Lord Jesus was brought for His presentation at the Temple, as well as the prophetess Anna. There are many other occasions where the people recognised their Messiah in their midst, but unfortunately, there are even many more who did not recognise Him.

There were those who rejected the truth and the message which the Lord has revealed to them, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of king Herod’s court, the teachers of the Law and the scribes refused to believe in the Lord, and even considered what He spoke and taught before the people as a heresy and blasphemy before God.

And instead of allowing themselves to listen to the truth which the Lord had brought them, they hardened their hearts and closed their senses and minds from knowing God’s presence and works in their midst. They allowed their pride and haughtiness to get in the way of their own salvation. They thought that they were doing what was right before God, but in reality, as the Lord pointed out, they were only serving their own desires and in trying to satisfy their greed and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, by remembering and reflecting on what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and from what we have just discussed, we are called to reflect on our own lives, and on how we have prepared ourselves for Christmas, that is just a few days away. Have we recognised the presence of God in our midst, He Who loves us so much, that He has given us the perfect and best gift of all, that is Himself?

He gave us His beloved Son, to be one of us, to be in our midst, sharing our humanity, that together, all of us, Who are His brothers and sisters, will be reconciled with our loving Father, through His selfless and perfect sacrifice on the cross, where He gathered willingly all of our sins and faults, and bearing them all on His cross, He suffered and died for our sake, that by His death, we may have a new life in Him.

Have we recognised Him and welcomed Him into our own lives? Or have we been too busy because of the many temptations of our life, that we are unable to recognise Him and His loving works in our midst? Have our Christmas celebrations been so secular and materialistic, as how much of the world celebrates it, year after year, again and again? And have we forgotten the centrality of Christ and His role in our salvation, that is the centre theme and true reason for Christmas?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, one of the great and renowned saints of the Church, a holy and devout servant of God, who dedicated himself to the work of evangelisation and teaching of the people of God. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, a religious order established by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time of a great upheaval and challenge for the Church.

During that time, the Protestant ‘reformation’ was in full swing, in response to the excesses and corruption within the Church. With many people quickly falling into the myriads of misguided and false teachings that unfortunately came about during that time of trials and confusion, the Jesuits, including St. Peter Canisius was at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation effort, which was meant to return the purity of the Christian faith, as well as the evangelisation of the masses of people, especially those who have been separated from the Church.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent took place during that time, where discipline and order were reestablished within the Church, with many corrupt practices and clergy being condemned and removed from the Church. And the Jesuits were sent to many places, some to mission areas in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, and some, including St. Peter Canisius were sent to the parts of Europe where there were rampant misunderstandings of the faith.

St. Peter Canisius, through his many works and writings, his courageous and never-ending effort to clarify the truth about the Christian faith in the Church, managed to convince many thousands and more to return to the true faith. Yet, he did this not through coercion or harsh words, but instead, through love and understanding, through patience and compassionate care for his fellow brethren.

His works on the Catechism, as well as his extensive Mariology, were so well received and so important in the maintenance and spread of the faith even amidst difficult times of heresy and misinformations, that they have inspired many throughout the subsequent years, and were used until this very day in catechism and evangelisation. St. Peter Canisius gave everything for God and devoted his whole life to serve Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have discussed today, and also from the life and works of St. Peter Canisius, we ought to ask ourselves, what we can do in order to emulate his good examples in our own lives. Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves to Him just as he has done? Are we able to spend our time, effort and attention to be with God and to do His will as St. Peter Canisius and surely many other holy men and women had done?

This Christmas, let us all have a profound conversion of heart, mind and soul, and let us all celebrate Christmas with new and greater understanding of the true joy and meaning of Christmas, not in excessive pleasure and revelries, but in the greater love we have for God, and also for our brethren, by the giving of ourselves, our time, compassion and attention, our love for especially those who are needy and who cannot rejoice the way that we are capable of.

Let us all be more generous in our giving, and be compassionate this coming Christmas, so that whatever joy we have, we may always share it with each other. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 11-12, 20-21

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.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust on His holy Name.