Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us to be faithful to the Lord, in our every day living moments and in all things. We are all called to remember the Lord’s commandments and Law, and the need for all of us as Christians to love God first and foremost, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, to everyone without exception.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s commands to His people as recorded in the Book of Leviticus, detailing the celebration of the fiftieth year or the year of the Jubilee, which was marked as a year of celebration and healing, of reconciliation and love, where people forgave their enemies and those who had been indebted to them from their debts. It is a year set aside to remind the people of God that they ought to give thanks to God and at the same time also show care and love for one another.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the martyrdom or the death of St. John the Baptist in prison, at the hands of king Herod, and at the instigation of his wife, Herodias, who held deep grudge against St. John the Baptist as the saint did not hesitate to rebuke and criticise both king Herod and her due to the adultery they had committed by their marriage when Herod’s brother, Philip, the legal husband of Herodias was still alive.

We all know how Herodias tricked Herod through her beautiful daughter, tricking Herod into ordering the execution of faithful servant of God as likely under the influence of alcohol during a party, and overcome by his lust and desire for pleasure and human beauty, he made a commitment before all the assembled guests that he could not deny or retract. Hence, through that act, he had condemned himself to an act of great sin in murdering a faithful servant of God, even if he did not intend for it to happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that it is not easy for us to be faithful as Christians, to live our lives as those who follow the path of the Lord and obey His Law and commandments. Those who have been faithful may encounter the fate of St. John the Baptist, who was imprisoned and killed for his steadfast defence of his faith, and we may be persecuted and face difficulties for all that we have done for the Lord’s sake. Yet, we should not give up just because of the obstacles we may encounter in our journey.

That is why we should follow the examples of our predecessors, one of whom today can show us what it means to be truly devout Christians, in all things, for the greater glory of God. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a faithful servant of God and the famous founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, which is now the largest of all religious orders and congregations. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier and nobleman, who had a life-changing experience and decided to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

Early in his life, St. Ignatius of Loyola sought worldly glory, fame and achievements in life, enrolling as a soldier to get that much sought fame and glory, only to get himself seriously injured during one of the siege battles, where his legs were severely injured in the heat of the battle. During his recuperation period, he had a spiritual encounter with God and a period of discernment, in which he came to realise that the true purpose of his life and true glory came not in the pursuit of worldly glory, fame and ambition.

Instead, from then on, as what would be famously known as his motto and the motto of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola would seek nothing else but the greater glory of God, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. It is with this spirit that St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered like-minded men and sought the Pope’s permission to establish a congregation dedicated to the mission of the Church, to proclaim the greater glory of God in various opportunities, from missionary efforts to involvement in proper Catholic education.

To this end, St. Ignatius of Loyola and his many fellow Jesuits such as St. Peter Canisius and St. Peter Faber were involved deeply in the Counter-Reformation efforts, establishing schools and seminaries, and other faculties involved in the dissemination of the true essence of the Christian faith. Others like St. Francis Xavier and many others involved themselves in missionary work, travelling far all over the world to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and truth, bringing many more people to the Lord. Many Christian communities today could trace their faith to the efforts of those courageous Jesuit missionaries back then.

This year we mark the five hundredth anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, marking the moment when St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind his former dream of worldly glory and fame, and embracing fully the Lord’s calling to seek for His greater glory, through which countless graces and wonderful things had come about, not least through St. Ignatius’ foundation of the Jesuits, as well as his hard works and efforts all throughout his life for the betterment of the Church and the faithful.

Let us all be inspired therefore by his examples and learn to commit ourselves to the Lord ever more wholeheartedly, resisting the temptations of worldly vices and ambitions, and instead, learning to love the Lord ever more and commit ourselves with ever greater conviction and commitment from now on. May the Lord be with us all and continue to guide us and bless us in all of our every endeavours and good works. May God bless our every good efforts and remain with us always, that we will always strive to do our best for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 7-8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us; that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation, among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice; and guide the nations of the world.

The land has given its harvest; God, our God, has blessed us. May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Leviticus 25 : 1, 8-17

YHVH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai : “When seven Sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land.”

“Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines. This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation.”

“In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. When you sell something to your neighbour or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbour and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you.”

“When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am YHVH, your God.”

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of faith and believing in God, which is something that each and every one of us have to take seriously, and which we have to ponder and discern so that we know the path going forward in life as God’s faithful people, and not fall into the many traps or obstacles that threaten us in our way towards God and His salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard how the people of Israel made and renewed the ancient Covenant that their ancestors had established with God, as they all solemnly bound themselves to the Lord and committed themselves in that solemn Covenant, promising to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and Covenant wholeheartedly as they should. This happened not long after they had disobeyed and refused to believe in the Lord, making a golden calf idol to be a god over themselves, even though they had themselves seen and witnessed the wonders of the Lord, His love and might.

This is related to what we then heard from our Gospel passage today, with regards to the parable that the Lord had used to teach His disciples and the people, regarding the sowing of seeds of good wheat and the sabotage by an enemy who sowed the seeds of weeds that harm the wheat. This is used by the Lord often, in referring to farming and agriculture in His parables because many among the people were involved in that field and most of the people would have been familiar with the concepts that the Lord used to explain His ideas and teaching.

The enemy referred to the devil and all those seeking our ruin, while the sower and owner of the field is the Lord. We are the field on which the Lord had sown His good seeds, the seeds of faith, hope and love, the seeds of Christian charity, justice and righteousness. Yet, as we heard, at the same time, the devil and his forces also sowed the seeds of doubt, fear, infidelity and pride, the seeds of human greed and ambition, and the seeds of rebellion and selfishness, wickedness and evil. Through all these, the enemy wants us all to perish, by choking the good out from us, just as the weeds if left unchecked, would kill the wheat.

In agriculture and farming, the farmers always struggle to maintain the balance between the crops and the weeds, constantly making sure that the good plants thrive while the weeds are controlled, prevented from growing and thriving, and removed. Unless this is done meticulously and patiently, the wheat and all the good crops will perish or will not end up well. That is why, linking back to the first reading today, we are all reminded to put away from our hearts and minds, all the corruptions of our sins and evil ways, and turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord.

We ought to excise from our hearts, our minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings, the weeds sown by the devil. We must be vigilant lest we fall into the many temptations we find all around us. We must be careful and do whatever we can to resist the lures of evil and seek the Lord with commitment and zeal. In order to do this, we ought to look at the Lord and His faithful servants, all of our holy predecessors whose lives had been worthy and good, in their obedience to God and in their pursuit of sanctity and righteousness in all things.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a renowned holy man from Lebanon, a truly holy and pious servant of God, whose life and even stories of what happened after his passing still inspired many Christians to this very day. St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite Christian who was drawn from an early age to a life of piety and faith in the Lord, responding to God’s call and became a monk, dedicating his whole life to the Lord. As a monk and later on a solitary hermit, St. Charbel Makhlouf led a life wholly dedicated to God.

Yet, wonderful things happened when he passed away and miracles began to happen at the saint’s tomb, which led to many people, even non-Christians who came to believe in the Lord through the many miraculous things that happened at St. Charbel’s tomb. His piety and faith also inspired many others to walk in his footsteps and follow in the way of how he had lived his faith. We too should be inspired by how this saint and holy predecessor of ours had lived his life, and we should follow his examples and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord and commit ourselves to the Lord, to His Law and commandments, and walk in His path from now on wholeheartedly. Let us grow in faith, and remove from ourselves, from our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings any distractions and temptations that may tempt us away from the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all, and guide us to the right path, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 24 : 3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of YHVH and all His laws. The people replied with one voice : “Everything that YHVH has said, we shall do.”

Moses wrote down all the words of YHVH, then rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve raised stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent young men from among the sons of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks as peace offerings to YHVH.

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins; and with the other half of the blood he sprinkled the altar. He then took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, “All that YHVH said we shall do and obey.”

Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, “Here is the blood of the Covenant that YHVH has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God has sowed the seeds of faith in all of us, and through what He has sown and nurtured in us, He hopes to see all of us to grow wonderfully and to bear fruits, rich and plentiful, and not being barren or unproductive. This is what we are being reminded of as we recall the Scripture readings that we have just heard being proclaimed earlier on.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, as they began their journey through the desert towards the Promised Land of Canaan, the lands of their ancestors, and a land overflowing in much riches, in milk and honey, in food and prosperity. Yet, at that time, in the desert, where the Israelites were journeying through, there were no food or provisions, in a place where life can scarcely persevere or survive. They were grumbling and complaining against the Lord because they did not have much to eat.

That was where the Lord showed His love and His might before all of His people. Through Moses He told them all that He would provide for them and for all their needs, that they would indeed know who it is that really cared for them, and how He remained with them and would journey with them together to the promised land. He gave them the manna, the bread from heaven, for them to eat on every single day. When the Israelites complained that while they were enslaved yet they enjoyed good and enough food to eat in Egypt, the Lord ‘sowed’ the very desert with the manna.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are to link what we heard from the Book of Exodus to the Gospel passage today, the manner in which the manna appeared before the people of Israel was almost like that of seeds being sown, as the manna were collected from the ground as the morning mist and dew settled, on every single day save for the Sabbath day. Hence, in a way we can see how even the desert itself bore fruits as the Lord sowed the manna there, and through that, the Israelites had food to eat for the entirety of their journey, which lasted a whole forty years long.

In our Gospel passage today, then we have heard the famous parable of the sower, which many of surely have heard and known about. The parable of the sower was used by the Lord to teach the people and reveal to them how He has given them the gift of faith, to each and every one of them, and how He then expects each and every one of them to nurture those gifts. The sower spread his seeds in many places, and the various seeds ended up and landed in different types of soils.

In all those different conditions where the seeds landed in, only the seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil managed to grow and produce rich and bountiful products, while those seeds that fell by the roadside, or among the thistles and brambles, or on the rocky grounds, all failed to germinate and grow, or failed to stay alive, and were eliminated as a result. This represents all those, according to the Lord’s own explanation, who have received the gift of faith, and yet failed to fully internalise those gifts and failed to do what they ought to do to make those gifts of faith bear fruit.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because too often we depended on our own strength and on our own way of thinking, rather than entrusting ourselves to the Lord and putting our faith in Him. Like the Israelites of old, they were easily swayed by the temptations of hunger and worldly desires, by pleasures and other comforts to abandon and even betray the Lord, for pagan idols like that of the renowned golden calf idol that they made as god over themselves despite having seen and known what God had done for them.

This is why we need to trust in the Lord, as if God was able to provide food and ample sustenance to the whole multitude of over six hundred thousand Israelites through the desert for over forty years without fail, then everything is also possible for us. If we live with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with Him as our God and our source of strength, then we shall not find ourselves failing in the end. We may indeed struggle and face challenges and temptations to give up and to abandon our faith, but if we remain firmly focused on the Lord, we shall be able to persevere, just as how our many predecessors had done.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, one of those predecessors of ours whose life and dedication can become great inspiration and guide for us on how we ourselves can lead a life that is dedicated and committed to God. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a great priest and missionary, who as a Capuchin priest reached out to many of the Jews and the Protestants during the height of the then Counter-Reformation, which through his great piety and charism, managed to lead a great number of people to the true faith and the Church.

He dedicated much of his life and efforts to advance the cause of the Lord, and was renowned for his writings and works, his works on theology and the nature of faith which inspired many others through the subsequent years and centuries. St. Lawrence of Brindisi showed us all how as Christians we can walk in the path of the Lord and remained faithful to Him, and through our examples, we can even inspire many others, our fellow brothers and sisters, to lead a holy Christian life and help many more people in their journey towards God and His salvation.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith, that we may always be ever courageous and committed to Him, to live our lives as Christians to the fullest and to bear rich fruits of our faith, in the manner that the Lord had described in the parable of the sower. Through our efforts, we may inspire so many others to turn towards the Lord, and hence, by those efforts, we bear many multitudes of rich and genuine fruits of the faith, for the greater glory of God. May God bless us all in our every efforts and good endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”