Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the Scripture passages we received today, some of us might have some questions and we wonder why for example St. Paul spoke of how it seemed that the end of the world and the time of judgment and the Lord’s coming was at hand, and also what the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, in His series of the Eight Beatitudes, blessings to those who have done what the Lord wanted them to do.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians and the Church there, a reminder for all the faithful to remain faithful, to keep the commandments of God, to remain virtuous and good in all things and not be tempted by their worldly desires and other things that can lead them down the path of sin. St. Paul exhorted them to do all these in light of the earlier discourses for the past week from this same Epistle, with regards to the increasingly lax morality and discipline among the faithful.

Thus, as we heard the seemingly strange words from St. Paul, we are reminded that in the context of what he intended for the people, that is to turn away from their sinful ways and increasingly corrupt ways, he reminded them how the Lord Jesus Himself did say that the time of His coming and the time of Judgment and reckoning will come to a surprise to everyone, as no one would have expected the Lord’s moment of truth when it comes.

This, coupled with the general belief among the early Christian communities that the Lord would indeed come again soon, perhaps within a human lifetime, generated that idea among some that it is perhaps best for people to remain chaste and free from sin, for virgins to remain pure rather than to fall into sin, to avoid things that could lead them down the slippery path into eternal suffering.

While this was indeed not accurate, as in the end, no one but God alone knows the time of His coming, but the essence of that call to holiness remains true for all of us. Do we want to allow ourselves to be controlled by sin, by the many temptations that we face in life, and which will lead us to our eventual downfall in exchange for mere momentary pleasure and joy in life? Or do we rather resist and oppose these temptations, and remain firm in faith in God?

And when the Lord spoke of His Beatitudes to His disciples and followers, He was praising those who are persevering in faith and dedicating themselves to serve the Lord with faith. But He was not in fact against or condemning the rich, powerful and mighty. Rather, through His words, He has reminded us to keep ourselves from being too attached to the many comforts we have in life, that we end up falling into immoral and wicked ways, into temptations and sin, and therefore into eternal damnation.

Today, we are called to be more disciplined in life, to be more dedicated and committed in faith, to turn towards God with ever greater faith, with each and every moment. And in doing so, we can draw inspirations from our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Peter Claver, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Peter Claver was a great priest and missionary who is remembered for his great commitment to the mission among the people he worked with in missionary area.

He was especially remembered for his care and concern for the oppressed, for people who were deprived of their livelihood and even basic human rights and respect, at a time when slavery was still rampant and prejudices among the people for those who were considered lesser races and beings were very common. St. Peter Claver laboured hard in order to oppose all these injustices he saw happening all around him, and protected and cared for the people in the best way he could.

St. Peter Claver spent a lot of time amongst the slaves to whom he ministered to over the years, doing his best to gain them their freedom and their human rights, and at least to give them better livelihood, spreading the faith to them and protecting them from injustices and harassment. He lived among them and stayed with them, and was always humble in heart, in appearance and in deed.

Through all his years of ministry, St. Peter Claver encountered plenty of opposition and challenges, but he did not allow all these from stopping or preventing him in his mission and in his love and compassionate care for the downtrodden and the oppressed. In this way, he is the epitome and example of what the Lord had mentioned in the Beatitudes, as the blessed ones who lived in accordance with the way of the Lord, and are shining beacons of hope and light amidst our darkened world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on all these and be better Christians from now on, in deeds and in faith, that we may follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Claver, in serving God with devotion and in obeying Him, in remaining good and righteous, pure and free from the taints of sin and to keep ourselves worthy at all times, that when the Lord comes again as He promised, we will be brought into eternal and true glory with Him. May God bless us always, and help us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 6 : 20-26

At that time, looking at His disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you, who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you, who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Fortunate are you, when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember, that is how the ancestors of the people treated the prophets.”

“But alas for you, who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you, who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you, who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you, when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of the people treated the false prophets.”

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 44 : 11-12, 14-15, 16-17

Listen, o daughter, pay attention; forget your father’s house and your nation, and your beauty will charm the King, for He is your Lord.

All glorious as she enters is the princess in her gold-woven robes. She is led in royal attire to the King, following behind is her train of virgins.

Amid cheers and general rejoicing, they enter the palace of the King. Forget your fathers and think of your sons, you will make them princes throughout the land.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

1 Corinthians 7 : 25-31

With regard to those who remain virgins, I have no special commandment from the Lord, but I give some advice, hoping that I am worthy of trust by the mercy of the Lord.

I think this is good in these hard times in which we live. It is good for someone to remain as he is. If you are married, do not try to divorce your wife; if you are not married, do not marry. He who marries does not sin, nor does the young girl sin who marries. Yet they will face disturbing experiences, and I would like to spare you.

I say this, brothers and sisters : time is running out, and those who are married must live as if not married; those who weep as if not weeping; those who are happy as if they were not happy; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the Lord and His desire to call all of us to His presence, to care for us and love us wholeheartedly as He has always done, to be reconciled to us, all of His people who had been scattered due to our sins and disobedience, and as a result, became separated from the fullness of His love and grace. God wants each and every one of us to find our way to Him, to be loved again and to be righteous and good once again.

He showed through the prophet Ezekiel how God would take into account all those who have misled the people into sin, into the path of darkness and disobedience, as those who had been entrusted with the well-being and guidance of the people were lax and untrustworthy in their work, and those leaders and guides had instead pleased themselves and sought to fulfil their own selfish desires and wishes, and used their own positions to their own advantage.

All of these together are reminders for us how the Lord loves each and every one of us generously, and He has always cared for each and every one of us without exception. He has always been patient with us and kind towards us all these while. But it is often us who are making it difficult for God to help in the journey and struggle towards salvation and eternal life. The Lord nonetheless still patiently cared for us and showed His care and concern all these while, willing to forgive us and welcome us back if we are sincere in our repentance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Gospel passage today we then heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding the parable of the workers of a vineyard, where the lord and master of the vineyard went out to many places seeking workers for his vineyard, and calling on all whom he encountered to work there. The workers laboured at the vineyard while the master went out again at the sixth hour, ninth hour and even up to the eleventh hour, the last hour before the conclusion of the work day.

And as we heard, those who worked earlier and were called earlier thought and expected that they would receive more pay than those who came later than them, only to be disappointed and grumbled among themselves because every single workers regardless of how long they have worked, all received the same reward of one piece of silver coin. But the Lord then rebuked these ungrateful workers, how he had called them to work and provided them with employment, and also as agreed, he had paid them all as agreed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we heard in this parable, the Lord wants us all to know that each and every one of us are equally beloved by God, regardless whether we have responded to His call first or heeded His call earlier than others. It does not mean that just because we followed God first then we are better and superior to those who follow Him later, and this definitely do not give us the right to look down on others. Even those whom God called at the last hour, like the ones called on the eleventh hour, have the same right to receive the fullness of God’s grace and forgiveness.

Unfortunately, this is what had happened to the same shepherds of the people of God whom the Lord mentioned in His words to the prophet Ezekiel. The many leaders of the Israelites, and for example, many among the Pharisees and the priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law who looked down on those who they deemed to be not as pious or worthy as they were, in the sense that those people did not follow the strict adherence and observance of the Law as the Pharisees had followed.

And in their ego and hubris they forgot purpose of their existence and responsibility as shepherds of the people. Instead of helping and guiding the lost sheep of the Lord to find their way to return to their loving Master, they closed the gates and prevented them from returning, and misleading them through their own misconceived and misinterpreted version of the Law. This is why the Lord chastised them such and spoke out against all these unfaithful and irresponsible servants.

We are therefore reminded, brothers and sisters in Christ, to be humble in life and to centre our lives and existence on God, and not on ourselves. And instead of trumpeting our own piety and achievements, let us all be aware of just how sinful each and every one of us have been, regardless the seriousness and magnitude of our sins. For sin is sin, and sin, unless forgiven by God, and repented with full sincerity on our part, sin will lead us into eternal suffering and death.

Are we able and willing to follow the Lord wholeheartedly without pride, arrogance, ego and greed, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able and willing to help one another in faith and in persevering through the many challenges and trials in life, instead of condemning and being judgmental against others? Let us all today look then on the good examples set by the saint whose feast we celebrate this day, namely St. John Eudes, holy and dedicated priest of God.

St. John Eudes dedicated his life to God from early in his life, when he was just fourteen and made his First Holy Communion, and made a vow of chastity to God. He then joined as a religious member of the Oratorians after studying for a moment under the tutelage of the Jesuits. He then dedicated himself for many years as a priest, in ministering to the people and he was noted for his persistent care for the sick and those who were less privileged in the community.

In the years to come, he would come to be noted for his missionary efforts and powerful preaching, which would see him in hundreds of parishes and churches, preaching the word of God to many people, including even nobles and kings throughout Christendom. St. John Eudes was also remembered then for his efforts in reforming the seminaries and the spiritual growth of both the priests and laity alike, helping in championing the reforms of the education of the faithful.

Later on, as St. John Eudes founded the two religious orders of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge and also the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, known better as the Eudists after their founder, this holy and dedicated man of God continued tirelessly to reach out to many people, especially those who are spiritually troubled and those who are in need of help and assistance in living their faith. Many people would be saved by the efforts of St. John Eudes and the members of his congregations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of St. John Eudes, the holy priest of God, in his faithfulness and in his love for his fellow brethren, reaching out to those who are in need of help, especially those struggling with their faith. Let us all follow in his footsteps and in the path set by our innumerable holy predecessors, realising that all of us have been called to holiness in God, even the worst of sinners. Let us all seek Him, with all of our hearts from now on, that we may truly glorify Him by our lives. May God bless each and every one of us now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 20 : 1-16a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A landowner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard.”

“He went out again, at about nine in the morning, and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, ‘You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went. The owner went out at midday, and, again, at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer.”

“Again he went out, at the last working hour – the eleventh – and he saw others standing around. So he said to them, ‘Why do you stand idle the whole day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ The master said, ‘Go, and work in my vineyard.'”

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came up, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner.”

“They said, ‘These last, hardly worked an hour; yet, you have treated them the same as us, who have endured the heavy work of the day and the heat.’ The owner said to one of them, ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Do I not have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind?'”

“So will it be : the last will be first.”

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Ezekiel 34 : 1-11

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, speak on My behalf against the shepherds of Israel! Say to the shepherds on My behalf : Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? But you feed on milk and are clothed in wool, and you slaughter the fattest sheep. You have not taken care of the flock; you have not strengthened the weak, cared for the sick or bandaged the injured.”

“You have not gone after the sheep that strayed or searched for the one that was lost. Instead, you ruled them harshly and were their oppressors. They have scattered, for want of a shepherd, and became prey of wild animals. My sheep wander over the mountains and high hills; and when they are scattered throughout the land, no one bothers about them or looks for them.”

“Hear then, shepherds, what YHVH says : As I live – word of YHVH, – because My sheep have been the prey of wild animals and become their food for want of shepherds, because the shepherds have not cared for My sheep, because, you, shepherds have not bothered about them, but fed yourselves, and not the flocks, because of that, hear the word of YHVH.”

“This is what YHVH says : I will ask an account of the shepherds and reclaim My sheep from them. No longer shall they tend My flock; nor shall there be shepherds who feed themselves. I shall save the flock from their mouths; and no longer shall it be food for them.”

“Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them.”

Friday, 14 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that we need to listen to God and put our trust in Him, and appreciate the wonderful love with which He has blessed us all these while, loving us so tenderly and generously that despite our many infidelities, our many betrayals and disobedience against Him, He still looks out for us and cares for us, and still wants us all to walk down the right path in life.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which the Lord spoke at length about how His people had sinned greatly against Him, how they had disobeyed Him and sold themselves to the pagan idols and gods, worshipping those abominations instead of worshipping the true God, how they had persecuted His prophets and all those whom He had sent to them to remind them and call them to return to Him.

And yet, despite all of these, the Lord said through Ezekiel, that even in their most vulnerable moments, when they were completely troubled, humiliated and naked, He came by their side, clothed them and took care of them, just as how He had patiently watched over them for all those years without fail. And yet again, although God had blessed His people such and made them wonderful, but they chose to squander their blessings and beauty to commit sin against God and all sorts of evil.

Through all of these we can see how God had been so caring and patient towards us that He is willing to endure all these nonsense from us, and still provide for us and give us what we need. He will always uphold the Covenant that He has established with us as He has promised and nothing can separate us from the love and mercy of God, that is except our own stubborn rejection of His love and mercy, by which we closed ourselves from God and continued to fall deeper and deeper into sin.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples on the matter of divorce, as some among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were asking Him on the matter of divorce and what ought to be done as the Law of God handed down to Moses did allow for divorce to be done. And then the Lord immediately revealed how the allowance for the divorce was made only because the people was so stubborn in their ways and in refusing to follow the Lord’s ways, and some concessions were probably made to prevent the people from falling even further into sin.

But the Lord showed how God never intended for the people to treat their lives and actions into mere formality, as He wants all of them to love and to be true to their faith in whatever that He has called them to. This means that all of us are called to lead a God-centred life in our respective calling and way of life, just as He presented in today’s Gospel passage, in calling on all of us to do what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, in our various callings and vocations in life.

The Lord said how there are those who are destined for married life, while others were destined for a life of virginity and singlehood, dedicated to God, and all of these callings and vocations of life are all noble and good in their own accord, as how the Lord meant for them to be. What matters is that we love God, and devote ourselves to Him by being righteous, good and virtuous in life, and today, we have a perfect inspiration on how to do this, through the examples set by St. Maximilian Kolbe, a renowned holy saint and martyr of the faith.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest and member of the Conventual Franciscans, who was chiefly remembered for his death in the concentration camp under the NAZI Germany tyranny. He was a longtime missionary, working for many years in distant lands after he joined the Franciscans and became a priest. He worked in Japan for quite a few years, evangelising and spreading the word of God, continuing the efforts he had begun when he was in Poland with the organisation Maria Immaculata, aimed at opposing the enemies of the Church and calling them to repentance through faith.

St. Maximilian Kolbe established monasteries in Japan and also in India during his missionary years, before he returned to Poland not long before the outbreak of the Second World War which would come to engulf not just Poland but the entirety of Europe and much of the world. As we know today, this war surpassed all others in ferocity and brutality, as millions and many more perished from many brutal actions of states and all those who disregarded the sanctity of human life and existence.

Although St. Maximilian Kolbe himself had German ancestry, which could have earned him the right of equal treatment with the citizens of NAZI Germany at the time, he refused to cooperate with the oppressors and those who brutally treated and killed many, and worked to hide and provide shelter to many of those who were oppressed, especially the Jews who were unable to escape, and were prime targets in the ethnic cleansing and genocide efforts of the NAZIs.

This led to the eventual forced closure of the monastery in which St. Maximilian Kolbe operated, together with some other friars, he was arrested and put into prison for the secret anti-German activities they carried out in defending the dignity of human life and also their opposition to war and the German actions. He was then transferred to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, and there, he continued to minister to the people imprisoned there in the camp as a priest, despite the harassments and humiliations he had to endure daily.

And when a prisoner managed to escape from the concentration camp, the Germans forced ten people to be punished by starving to death to deter further attempts at escape. A Polish man who was selected cried out ‘My wife! My children!’, knowing that he was about to die, only for St. Maximilian Kolbe to step in and offered himself in exchange for the man. St. Maximilian Kolbe chose freely to die, in his love for his fellow brother, who was grieving over not being able to see his family anymore, and thus, died in martyrdom, a martyr of justice and faith, a martyr of love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Maximilian Kolbe has shown us all what true Christian love and true Christian faith are all about. He showed us the same love that God has shown us, one that is pure, genuine and selfless, the love with which He has cared for us, provided for us and being patient with us all despite our infidelities and lack of faith. Are we able to love God with the same love and dedication? Are we able to love one another in the same way too?

These are the questions that we really should ask ourselves as we evaluate our direction in life, in our approach towards righteousness and in distancing ourselves from our past sinfulness and all the things that had brought us into sin. Let us all be inspired by the faith and love showed by St. Maximilian Kolbe and strive hard to be true and faithful disciples of the Lord, filled with love for God, first and foremost, and for our fellow brothers and sisters. May God be with us all and bless us, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 14 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said : Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”