Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, all of us are strengthened and reminded of the Lord reassuring all of us that He will bless us, strengthen us and restore to us the true glory and happiness that we are meant to receive, and yet failed because of our disobedience and sins. However, this also requires us to be open and to be willing to welcome the Lord into our hearts and minds, into our beings to transform us and change us.

In our first reading today, we heard about the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Amos to His people Israel, those in the northern kingdom of Israel who have been separated from their brethren in the kingdom of Judah in the south. The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Israelites and he spoke of the upcoming reckoning and judgment that the people would suffer for their rebellions and disobedience against God.

Earlier on this week, from the same prophet Amos we have heard the words of God regarding the destruction of Israel and the downfall of the false priesthood and false idol worship at Bethel which king Jeroboam of Israel had promoted to keep the Israelites under his rule from returning to the House of David’s allegiance. All of these would eventually come true as the northern kingdom of Israel would be crushed and destroyed by their enemies and the Assyrians, the people led into exile.

But then, as we heard in our first reading passage today, the Lord also told His people through the prophet Amos of His mercy and compassion towards them, that His love for them is such that He would bring them back once again into His embrace and love, and He would restore them to the good old days, when God and His people were in harmony, as were in the days of king David and king Solomon.

All of these showed us all that firstly, God is always ever loving towards us even though we have disobeyed Him, angered Him and betrayed Him for other idols, gods and forgot about Him for our own worldly pursuits and desires. But then at the same time, if we disobey Him and lead a life of sin, reckoning and judgment will also come our way, and that is to be our fate, unless we accept God’s generous love and mercy.

God has always offered His love and mercy generously to us, but are we willing and are we open to accept them? For us to receive the fullness of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, then we need to heed what the Lord told His disciples and the Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. In that passage, we heard the Lord using the parable to teach exactly this meaning, by saying in response to the Pharisees who questioned and probably even ridiculed the Lord and His disciples for them not following the fasting rules as written in the Law.

The Lord then rebutted them saying that while He was with them, they would not fast because truly, Him being present with them was a joyous time, not to be marred by the sorrowful and penitential nature of fasting. It was only when He depart from them, a premonition for His suffering, death and sacrifice on the Cross, that they would fast, in sorrow for their sins. But God would restore them as He gloriously triumphed in His Resurrection and gather them once again, strengthening them and giving them the guide in going forward.

Then, the Lord used the parable of the wine and the wineskin to highlight first of all, that the ways followed and advocated by the Pharisees were incompatible with the true path that the Lord was revealing to His people, He used the analogy of new wine that ought to be paired with new wineskin, or else the wine would destroy the old wineskin, and vice versa if old wine is kept in new wineskin. The old way of the Pharisees, their preoccupation and distraction with the minute details and appearances, were therefore incompatible with those who want to seek God with true faith.

And then, with the same parable, the Lord also wants us all to know that disobedience, wickedness, evil and sin are all incompatible with His path, and if we do not change our ways, then we will be judged by exactly our disobedience and sins, and also by our refusal to change our ways. That is why, with this parable, the Lord wants us to realise that to follow Him, and to receive the fullness of His generous love and forgiveness, all of us must change our ways, and embrace the righteousness of God.

Today, we have a great example and inspiration to follow, in the person of St. Elizabeth of Portugal as we celebrate her feast day this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a royal princess of the Kingdom of Aragon and married into the Portuguese royal family, becoming the Queen consort of Portugal. She has been noted for her great piety even from her early youth, as she regularly attended daily Mass and said the Divine Office daily.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal continued her pious practices and dedication to the Lord even after becoming queen, devoting herself to love her people and care for them, especially those who were poor and sick. For her actions, she was actually disliked by some among the nobles and the royalty who considered her actions unbecoming of a royalty, more so for a monarch and queen. Nonetheless, this did not discourage her, and in fact, her dedication and sincerity moved many others to follow her footsteps, and even her husband the king, was also convinced to leave behind a sinful life he had led up to then.

And when her husband passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal retreated to a convent and continued to care for the poor and the sick as she had always done, establishing hospitals and projects to help those who were uncared for and dying, and to give lodging to pilgrims and those who were homeless and suffering. Through all of her efforts, her great and consistent piety and devotion to God, many people were touched and converted, and all of us can indeed also follow in her footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then reflect on our own lives. Have we been living our faith genuinely all these while? Or have we instead been tempted by our various desires and all the things that distracted us from being able to give ourselves to God with all of our hearts? Let us change our way of life, that while once we might have lived in sin and committed what was unworthy of God, from now on, we commit ourselves to a new path and a new life, walking righteously with God, in the path He has shown us.

May all of us be inspired by the good examples, faith and genuine sincerity showed by St. Elizabeth of Portugal, that we ourselves may grow in faith and be ever closer to God, and from now on, remain righteous and good in His presence. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He guide us in the path of life, and bless our every good and faithful endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 84 : 9, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Amos 9 : 11-15

On that day, I shall restore the fallen hut of David and wall up its breaches, and raise its ruined walls; and so built it as in days of old. They shall conquer the remnant of Edom, and the neighbouring nations, upon which My Name has been called.” Thus says YHVH, the One Who will do this.

YHVH says also, “The days are coming when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes overtake the sower. The mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills shall melt. I shall bring back the exiles of My people Israel; they will rebuild the desolate cities and dwell in them.”

“They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will have orchards and eat their fruit. I shall plant them in their own country and they shall never again be rooted up from the land which I have given them,” says YHVH your God.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Scriptures, telling us about being truly faithful to God, in all of our words, deeds and actions, as exemplified by the Lord and His words to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law before the people who followed and heard His teachings. In that exhortation, the Lord rebuked those mentioned for their uptight and unreasonable attitude with regards to the observance and the fulfilment of the commandments of God’s Law.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord rebuked the Pharisee who invited Him to a meal, and wondering in his heart why was it that the Lord and His disciples did not wash their hands in the way prescribed in the laws and customs of the Jewish people at the time, as handed down the generations from the time of Moses. The Lord knew what was in the heart and mind of the Pharisee, and voiced out His anger at the warped and unreasonable way of thinking as shown by the Pharisee and the others.

To them, external cleanliness and good appearances are important, but yet, they paid little to no attention on their internal disposition and preparedness, in terms of how they lived their lives, that ended up making them unworthy because of their wicked and unholy deeds, by desiring the many temptations of life. They did all their outward manifestations of faith, all the prayers and devotions, not because they truly loved God, but because they wanted to be praised and gain prestige among the people.

That is what the Lord wanted to highlight when He said that those who clean the outside but not the inside of a cup has been foolish in their deeds. He was against all those who treated their faith as a mere outward expression of piety and devotion, and yet, has nothing inside their hearts, no love of the Lord, and no true understanding and appreciation of what they were doing for the sake of the Lord.

It is sad that truly, it is possible to act in piety and in what seemingly pleases the Lord, but yet not having faith in someone’s mind and heart. And it was not just the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who did so, but even us as Christians. How many of us lived through our lives as Christians, doing what we are supposed to do as Christians, in our piety and our devotions to God, in our prayers and in what we have done all these while, and yet, in our hearts and minds, God was not truly present?

That means we are just going through the motion in living our faith life. How many of us coming for the Mass every Sunday without realising its importance for the salvation of our souls? How many of us goes through our prayers and other forms of expressions of our faith not because of our love for God, but instead for our own selfish desires, for either power, glory, recognition and all those other similar sorts of typical human greed and ego.

Today, we are called as Christians, to emulate the good examples set by our faithful predecessors in faith, namely St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, whose faith and whose lives have been exemplary and good, and which we should also follow in our own expression of faith. They have shown us how it is that we should live, in turning ourselves towards God with complete sincerity and desire to love Him.

St. Hedwig was a noblewoman who became the wife of the powerful Duke of Silesia in what is now present day Poland. She was a devout and committed Christian, who has not let her position of power and glory to distract her from her faith, obedience and commitment to God. She lived a good life, caring for the needs of her people, and after her husband passed away, she entered a monastery in which she spent the rest of her life.

Throughout her life, St. Hedwig led a prayerful life centred on God, and her many charitable works for the poor, the sick and the less privileged in her society showed just how her heart and mind is attuned and centred on the Lord, which therefore influenced her every actions and deeds, which she did out of love for God and for her fellow men, and not for herself or for satisfying her selfish human desires.

Meanwhile, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a mystic, visionary and member of the religious order of the Visitation nuns. She received many visions of the Lord and His Blessed Mother, in which she saw the vision of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, and through the conversations between Him and St. Margaret, she received what is now known as the Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. In that vision, she received the revelation of just how God loved us mankind, pouring out from His bleeding Heart.

St. Margaret Mary therefore led a pious and devout life, centred on the devotion she had, a very fervent and true love for the Most Sacred Heart of the Lord. She directed many people both during and after her life, to turn themselves to God’s love and to entrust themselves to the love which God has shown to each one of us, despite our sins and disobedience against Him. And she showed us the way to go forward in our life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we follow the good examples set by St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, by turning ourselves towards God with our whole heart and with our whole being. Let us be true Christians from now on, that our interior, and not just exterior self, be truly attuned and centred on God, and that we may love Him from now on, till the end of our days. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Luke 11 : 37-41

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to have a meal with him. So He went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not wash His hands before the dinner.

But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools! He Who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.”

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Psalm 118 : 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48

Give me Your unfailing love, o YHVH; Your salvation, as You have promised.

Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for I would also lose my hope in Your word.

May I always keep Your word, for ever and ever.

I shall walk in freedom, having sought out Your laws.

For I delight in Your word, which I fear.

I will lift up my hands to You, and meditate on Your commandments.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Galatians 5 : 1-6

Christ freed us, to make us really free. So remain firm, and do not submit, again, to the yoke of slavery. I, Paul, say this to you : if you receive circumcision, Christ can no longer help you. Once more, I say, to whoever receives circumcision : you are now bound to keep the whole Law. All you, who pretend to become righteous through the observance of the Law, have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen away from grace.

As for us, through the Spirit and faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. In Christ Jesus, it is irrelevant, whether we be circumcised or not; what matters is, faith, working through love.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the message of the Lord through the Scriptures, telling us first of all from the prophet Amos, who was the prophet sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, the people of the kingdom of Israel have disobeyed God and worshipped the pagan gods and idols of their neighbours, and desecrated His law and commandments.

The Lord was calling them to repent from their sins and from their disobedience through the prophet Amos. But they hardened their hearts and shut off their ears from the word of God. They continued to sin against God and persecuted His prophets, one after another. And that was how the Lord Jesus was also treated by the people, rejected and shut out by His own people.

The state of the people of God was indeed like the two men possessed by the evil spirits. In the Gospel passage we saw how the Lord Jesus healed the two men beset and enslaved by the evil spirits, casting those evil and wicked spirits out of them into the pigs. The men possessed by the evil spirits were cast out from the society and they wandered off in the wilderness, like how the Israelites themselves had wandered off in the desert for forty years because of their sins, and how they endured decades in exile because of their disobedience.

The people of God, like the two possessed men, had been cast out from the grace of God, and while the two men were in the physical desert where the Lord Jesus encountered them, the rest of the people were in the state of a spiritual desert where God was far away in their lives and He was not having the first and foremost place in their hearts and mind. They had shut Him off and distanced themselves from Him.

What we should realise from today’s readings, is that we are also sinners like them, who have, at times, fallen and stumbled along the way in the journey. We are now also in the midst of this spiritual desert, lost and struggling in this journey of life. But what we must also realise is that as we heard in the Gospel today, that God cares for each and every one of us.He went to seek those who have been abandoned, those who have sinned and been corrupted by sin. He went to heal the sinners, the prostitutes and tax collectors, and call them to repentance just as He cast out demons and evil spirits from those who were possessed. Therefore, God is also looking for our salvation and liberation from the sins and wickedness which have chained and enslaved us all thus far.

Now, the question is, how willing are we to receive God’s healing and mercy? God offers us His forgiveness and love very generously, and He will not withhold them from us. He is ever generous in giving, and especially because He had created us out of love, and He does not want even a single one of us to be lost or separated from Him. Yet, there were still many of us who stubbornly refused to accept the Lord’s offer of love, mercy and compassion.Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often due to our stubbornness and pride that we fail to seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. We cannot bear to bend down and humbly recognising our sinfulness and shortcomings before us. Many of us would rather perish in sin rather than to lower ourselves and humble ourselves before God. A very sad state of life indeed!

This is perhaps the time for us to emulate the example of the holy woman whose feast we celebrate today, namely the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a renowned queen of Portugal, who was remembered greatly for her piety and faith, her charity and generosity, her holiness in life and her exemplary and inspirational life. Many of the people were touched by her during her life and they repented to the true faith in God.

Now, are we able to live our lives in the same manner as St. Elizabeth of Portugal? She may be a royalty and born a noble, but in her heart and mind, she got her priorities right, by focusing on the Lord and putting Him at the centre of her life. Shall we all also follow in her footsteps, and seek to accept the will of God for us in our lives, and embrace His rich and generous mercy?

May the Lord open our hearts and minds, so that we may come to the fullness of understanding of the love and mercy of God. May He continue to bless us each and every day of our lives, that we may be able to do our best to love Him more, and to commit ourselves more closely to Him. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 8 : 28-34

At that time, when Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, He was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged Him, “If You drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus ordered them, “Go!” So the demons left the men and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and was drowned.

The men in charge of the pigs ran off to the town, where they told the whole story; and also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. The whole town went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their region.