Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 61 : 1-3a, 6a, 8b-9

The Spirit of the Lord YHVH is upon Me, because YHVH has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to the captives, freedom to those languishing in prison; to announce the year of YHVH’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God; to give comfort to all who grieve; (to comfort those who mourn in Zion) and give them a garland instead of ashes.

But you will be named priests of YHVH, you will be called ministers of our God. I will give them their due reward and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a race YHVH has blessed.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded today of the dangers of sin and how sin can easily pervade into our lives and affect us in many terrible ways. We heard of how sin brought even king David of Israel down as we heard of the story of David and Uriah in our first reading today. But all these can be overcome if we heed what the Lord has also said in our Gospel passage today on the kingdom of God.

In our first reading today, we heard how king David was tempted by the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba who was bathing and that created the temptation in the heart and mind of David that led him to sin against God because of the lust that he had in him. And David succumbed to the temptation, desiring to have Bathsheba as her own, and Bathsheba herself was also tempted as the story told us, and when they have committed the deed and Bathsheba became pregnant, David became very afraid that the affair would be discovered by Uriah and became known, definitely a total embarrassment for him as the king of Israel.

To that end, David tried to trick Uriah into thinking that the child in the womb of Bathsheba as his own by trying to make and coerce him to sleep with his wife and has intercourse so as to hide the shameful affair that he had committed. And when Uriah remained righteous and firm, in refusing to do so while his nation was at war, David became panicked and began plotting to remove Uriah as a threat to him, making plans to put Uriah in the most dangerous place during the battle that ended up causing Uriah to be killed.

In this way, David has sinned against God, and although he repented and was very sorrowful and regretful over what he had done earlier on, but this is a very important lesson for all of us to take heed of. As we have heard, the actions that David took came about because he succumbed to temptation and allowed his desires and lust to overcome his rational thinking and faith, ending up doing something that was against God’s ways, and from there on, everything just went downhill.

As we can see, David at that moment did not allow God to lead and guide him through his actions, instead acting based on his own impulses and fears. He wanted to hide his mistakes and faults, and in the end he committed even greater sins and mistakes, causing him to indirectly make a person to lose his life. And we can see here how if we allow our own desires and personal ambitions to rule over us, we will easily be led down the wrong path, even for someone good and righteous like king David.

How should we then move forward in life, knowing that we are all vulnerable men and women, that are easily tempted by sin? It is then we should look at our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus used the parables to explain the truth to us. In those parables, Jesus explained about the kingdom of God to His disciples and followers, and showed them what it truly means to be a believer of His.

In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the sowing of seeds, and how the seeds would then grow until maturity before they can be harvested and the produces gathered. In using such parables, the Lord could explain more difficult concepts in a way easier to be understood by many of the people who were although illiterate but they were experienced or involved in farming and agriculture.

In the similar way therefore, He also used the parable of the mustard seed as a comparison for the kingdom of God, how a small seed like a mustard seed can eventually grow to be a large plant, with all of its numerous branches and leaves. And using this analogy, let us link to what we have just discussed on king David’s case earlier on and with another parable not mentioned in today’s Gospel. In that parable, the Lord spoke of how an enemy sowed the bad and rotten seeds or seeds of weeds among the good seeds in the field.

It means that all of us have received seeds of faith from God as well as seeds of temptations and sin from the devil. How we are to cultivate them depends on our own life and actions, on our orientation whether it is towards God and His ways, or whether we prefer to follow the ways of the world. If we allow the seeds of sin to grow, then as David’s example had shown us, it can quickly overwhelm us and lead us deeper into sin and darkness.

On the contrary, if we allow God to be the guiding light in our lives and put Him at the centre of our existence, then God will help us to nurture the seeds of faith He has given to us and planted in us. And from us will grow a most bountiful tree of faith filled with the many fruits of our faith, and together, all of us as members of God’s same one Church will be truly the kingdom of God on earth. We must not think that our faith is small and insignificant, because as the Lord explained how the small mustard seed when grown up can become such a large tree, it means that our faith too can be a very powerful force if we cultivate it right.

And today, we have a great example and inspiration from one of God’s great saints to help and guide us in our journey of faith, in cultivating and growing our faith as we live our lives here on earth. St. John Bosco was a great and renowned priest whose life was an inspiration to many, in his personal and outward holiness, in his care and concern for many of the people of God, especially those who are in need of guidance and help, those youths that he spent many years working on, among others.

St. John Bosco was remembered for setting up a dormitory and school for young delinquents in the city of Turin where he ministered in. St. John Bosco himself came from poor family and had difficult childhood and early years of his formation, and it helped him to have great empathy and compassion for the young delinquents who were often misguided and lacked proper education and guidance in life. Thus, through the efforts of St. John Bosco many of those youths became better and positively influenced by this holy and dedicated man of God.

St. John Bosco did not have it easy of course, as he encountered opposition and challenges from various sources and groups, from those who accused him of stealing and intervening into their parishes and groups, to those who oppose the teachings of the Church and wanting to influence the youths that St. John Bosco had taken under his care. Nonetheless, St. John Bosco persevered and continued to labour hard for those to whom he had committed himself to.

Eventually, St. John Bosco was also influential in the founding of the religious order of the Salesians of St. John Bosco, a Salesian congregation founded by the followers of St. John Bosco and all like-minded people who wanted to continue and propagate the efforts of St. John Bosco, which in time would come to encompass many more places and influence many more people, as many men and women came to respond to God’s call through this congregation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how a poor man turned priest, St. John Bosco, was like that small and insignificant mustard seed. And yet, through his tireless efforts and works, many people, through the many years of his ministry and then continuing through the congregations and organisations inspired by his life and work, come to be touched and benefit from the faith which St. John Bosco had shown. We can clearly see here how God’s kingdom came to be, with many people returning to God through all the efforts mentioned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we then able to follow the good examples set by St. John Bosco in our own lives? Are we able to cultivate our faith and devote our lives to God as he and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us all resist the impulse and temptations to sin and put God as the centre and focus of our lives. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 6bc-7, 10-11

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

What is evil in Your sight, I have done. You are right when You pass sentence; and blameless in Your judgement. For I have been guilt-ridden from birth; a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 11 : 1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17

In the spring of that year, when kings usually set out to fight, David sent out Joab, his officers and all the Israelite troops. They slaughtered the Ammonites and attacked Rabbah, while David remained in Jerusalem.

One afternoon, David got up from his siesta and took a walk on the roof of the royal house. From the rooftop, he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. David sent to inquire about the woman, and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah, the Hittite.”

So David sent messengers to have her brought to him. As the woman saw she was with child, she sent word to David, “I am with child.” David then sent a message to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came, David asked him about Joab, how the people were and how the war was proceeding. Then he told Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.”

Uriah left the palace while the king had a portion from his table sent to him. Uriah, however, did not go down to his house but slept by the door of the king’s palace with all the servants of his lord. David was told that Uriah did not go down to his house.

David invited him to table and he ate and drank until he was drunk. When evening fell, however, he went to lie down on his couch with the guards of his lord instead of going down to his house. The next morning, David wrote Joab a letter to be taken by hand by Uriah, in which he said, “Place Uriah in the front row where the fighting is very fierce and then withdraw from him so that he may be struck down and die.”

When Joab was attacking the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew was being defended by strong warriors. And the defenders attacked the men of Joab. Some of David’s soldiers and officers were killed; Uriah the Hittite also died.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are told of the matter of faith and obedience to God. We are presented with two stories, one from our first reading, the second Book of the prophet Samuel, on the account of the moment when king David brought the Ark of God, also known as the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, the new capital of the kingdom of Israel.

Previously, the Ark has always been in the field, originally carried and brought with the Israelites as they journeyed in the desert during their Exodus from Egypt and a Holy Tent was built to house this Ark of the Covenant, which was a very sacred and important part of the community of the Israelites at that time. The people made their dwellings around the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Tent, and when they have reached the Promised Land, the Ark and the Holy Tent were prominently placed in the heart of the land of the Israelites.

For the Ark of the Covenant is not just the symbolic representation of the Covenant between God and His people, but is also the real focus and emphasis of the bond between God and the Israelites, for the stones on which the Ten Commandments were written were placed in the Ark, and more importantly, God’s very presence and holiness descended upon the Ark when the Holy Tent was dedicated and consecrated to God. The Ark of God was the place where God Himself dwelled, inside the Holy Tent built over it.

David wanted to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, that it may then visibly dwell in the heart of the land, in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. And when he did so, he honoured the Lord and humbled himself before Him as we heard in our first reading passage today, dancing and rejoicing before the Lord with great joy. David obeyed the Lord and did everything he could to follow His commandments, and gave his all to Him. What we have heard in our first reading today was how he put God first before all else, even his pride and honour.

And not just in this matter, but king David has also been a good and faithful king and steward of God’s people, leading the people on the right path and guiding them with right conduct and devotion. Of course David was not perfect, as he did sin and make mistakes sometimes, but in the end, his love and commitment to God prevailed, and he remained mostly true to his calling and ministry as king. He did what was right in the sight of God and brought God’s people closer to Him, and for this, God blessed David and made an assurance to him that his house would reign as king forever.

This is then linked to our Gospel passage today, when the family of Jesus came to Him to meet Him while He was teaching to the people gathered before Him. In that occasion, the Lord told the people that His brothers, sisters, mother and family are those who do the will of God and obey Him. When we heard what the Lord Jesus said, without understanding the context and purpose of what He said, we may think that the Lord was being rude to His family and to His mother Mary. But the truth is actually different.

The Lord had no intention to be rude or condescending to His family and His mother. Rather, He wanted to make a good example and also to make it clear to the people, and all of us, that if we obey God and do His will, are faithful and devoted to Him, God will surely be with us and will bless us bountifully as He had done with David, His faithful servant. And of course, Mary, the mother of God is herself the most faithful one of all, and she is indeed one called the most blessed of all women and of all people.

Today, we also remember the memory of a great saint, whose life, works and dedication to God can be a great source of inspiration to all of us as Christians, just as king David and Mary had done. St. Thomas Aquinas is a great Doctor of the Church and a master theologian known well by his nickname Doctor Angelicus or the Angelic Doctor. St. Thomas Aquinas was well-known for his many contributions to theology and philosophy, sparking a great renewal in the intellectual dimension of the Church and the faithful.

Summa Theologica, the great masterful work of St. Thomas Aquinas still continues to influence the Church, the priests and the leaders of the Church for many centuries right up to this day, and is acknowledged as one of the most brilliant works that man has ever made. The impact of St. Thomas Aquinas, his works and contributions cannot be underrated, and we should be inspired by his commitment and love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that we should do then? We should be more faithful and committed to God ourselves from now on, imitating the examples of king David, of Mary, God’s own mother, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor and many other saints and holy predecessors we have, that we can look up to for inspiration. Let us all be inspired by them and strive to do our best to love God with ever more effort and commitment, putting Him ever at the centre of our lives and existence.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in everything we do, that we may ever be courageous and strong to live up to our faith and be good servants of His truth, in proclaiming His truth and His salvation to all the peoples by our faith and obedience. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 31-35

At that time, the mother and brothers of Jesus came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call Him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.” He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”

And looking around at those who sat there, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me.”