Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today all of us heard of the creation of man at the pinnacle of the creation of the world and how God formed us and gave us the breath of life, blessing us mankind and granting us dominion and stewardship over creation. Everything had been made good and wonderful by the Lord, all the celestial things and all the lifeforms in this world, on the land, in the sea and air.

Therefore, when we heard of the Lord’s confrontation with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as the latter argued that the way they enforced the Law was the only right one, the Lord Jesus revealed the truth about the Law and commandments of God, and said how all things were inherently good and wonderful, just as God had created them to be, and that also includes us mankind as well. However, because of sin, we have been defiled and corrupted, not because of the things that entered into our bodies, but because of the things that came from within our hearts.

Take for example, the tree of knowledge of good and evil mentioned in the first reading today, the tree that was forbidden for mankind to touch or eat by God. That tree by itself was not evil or good in nature, but it was mankind’s mistaken way and misguided intention that led our first ancestors to sin against the Lord. It was not the fruit of the tree of knowledge entering their bodies that condemned Adam and Eve, but rather, their willingness in cooperating with the devil and listening to him that led them to their downfall.

In the same manner therefore, the notion that any food could have made a person unclean had no true and spiritual basis, as the Lord Himself debunked the falsehoods of such an idea. This was however the prevailing view for the many centuries of the traditions and practices of the people of Israel, for all those years that they lived under the Law of God revealed through Moses. However, we have to understand the context of such laws if we are to appreciate the true nature of the Law and the real intention of God for His people.

The Law of God revealed to Moses was given as sets of guidance and instructions that were meant to help to keep the people of God in line, especially considering how stubborn and disobedient they had been at that time, in refusing to listen to the Lord and His commandments and laws. Thus, the rules and tenets were revealed at the time to make sure that the people did not lose their way and remain faithful to the Lord despite the temptations and other obstacles in their path, trying to pull them away from the path towards God.

Some of those laws including the dietary restrictions were also enforced to ensure that the people of God remained healthy amidst the long journey throughout the desert, as well as considering the prevailing conditions at the time. In the end, when the reason for such laws were no longer in place, the people themselves had forgotten the reason and purpose of such laws and regulations. In the end, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, they obeyed for the sake of obeying, and worse still, doing what was asked by the Law for appearances and to be praised for it.

That is why the Lord wanted all of the people to realise the folly of such thoughts and way of life, and thus, revealed how the true meaning of the Law of God was far from what the laws and traditions of the people had prescribed, having veered off far from the original, intended purpose and meaning. He wanted to show us all that what is important is the purity and the sincerity of our inner, spiritual orientation of life rather than merely just focusing on outward gestures and appearances alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reexamine our way of life, and consider how we can be better disciples of the Lord in everything we do, in each and every moments of our lives. We are all called to a greater existence in holiness in God, to be genuinely devoted to Him with faith, and to follow His path wholeheartedly by appreciating all that He had taught us and revealed to us.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Scholastica, a holy saint of God and a faithful servant whose life can be a great example for us to follow, as she dedicated her whole life in a holy life of prayer. As the paternal twin sister of the great St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Scholastica also lived her life virtuously and committed herself to a life consecrated to God, traditionally considered as the foundation of the society of Benedictine nuns just as St. Benedict inspired the foundation of the Benedictine monastic order.

The faith of these saints were truly great, and they inspired many others to follow their examples. All of us should also follow in their footsteps and commit ourselves to the cause of the Lord. Are we able to do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives from now on with true and genuine faith, that each and every one of us may become true followers of Christ in all things?

May the Lord be our Guide and Strength, and may He empower us all to become faithful and dedicated Christians, living our lives wholeheartedly according to the way of the Lord and to our faith. May God bless all of our good efforts and commitments, and may He enlighten our path forward in life. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 14-23

At that time, Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?” Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean.

And He went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 2 : 4b-9, 15-17

On the day that YHVH God made the earth and the heavens, there was not yet on earth any shrub on the fields, nor had any plant yet sprung up, for YHVH God had not made it rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the earth, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the surface of the earth.

Then YHVH God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He placed Man whom He had created. YHVH God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of life on the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

YHVH God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to take care of it. Then YHVH God gave an order to Man saying, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us through the Scripture passages, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us as Christians to be genuine in our faith and dedication to God. We should not be inactive, lukewarm or dormant any longer in our faith. It is only through real love and faith that we can follow the Lord truthfully and wholeheartedly. Otherwise our faith will be found wanting and empty.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Revelations of St. John, the vision that St. John received regarding the messages of the Lord sent through His Angels to each of the seven Churches of Asia, the seven most important centres of early Christianity at that time. And in those messages we heard how there were those who have kept the faith fully, not ‘soiling their white robes’ and this means that they had kept themselves pure.

This was contrasted with some others who had been lukewarm and had not been as dedicated in the living of their faith. The Lord reminded how the lukewarmness in faith and lack of effort and dedication in living that same faith has no bearing and meaning. As Christians we cannot be idle and lukewarm, in disregarding the Lord’s teachings and ways in order to pursue our own selfish worldly goals among other things.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the story of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with Zaccheus, a short man who was also a renowned and rich tax collector at that time. Zaccheus was very excited to see the Lord and tried his best, despite his physical shortcomings and other barriers, climbing up a tree just so that he could catch a glimpse of the Lord. The Lord knew Zaccheus and his thoughts, his faith and desire to seek Him.

Thus, He called Zaccheus and told him that He would grace his house with His presence. Zaccheus publicly declared his faith courageously and with proper dedication to the Lord. This was remarkable as he was a tax collector and was also seemingly a particularly notorious one at that, and tax collector being reviled and hated by most of the people for their actions and greed.

Yet, Zaccheus publicly showed his repentance and committed himself to the path of truth. He did not only disavow his path of evil and greed, but he also promised to undo the damages he had incurred, paying back four times as much to those that he had cheated. Regardless of the amount, it was truly remarkable for Zaccheus to commit publicly to his repentance and showed his faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen in today’s Scripture readings what it means for us to be faithful to the Lord as Christians. We should not be lukewarm and passive in our faith like what the Pharisees and many of the people of the Lord’s time, who were outwardly pious but had no real faith or love for God.

All of us should be like Zaccheus, a sinner and yet a sinner who loves God. His desire to seek the Lord, His sincere repentance and commitment to change his life is what each and every one of us should also aspire to as Christians, as God’s chosen and beloved people. And we should also seek inspiration from our holy predecessors on the path going forward in our lives.

Today we commemorate St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess of Hungary turned into religious icon and persona, who has been renowned for her great piety throughout her whole life. St. Elizabeth of Hungary grew up in a good and pious Christian environment, and this helped her to be pious and truly faithful as she became one of Christendom’s great persona, in her generosity and charity towards the poor and in her efforts to advance the cause of the Church throughout the kingdom.

In one of the most famous traditions about her, the ‘Miracle of the Roses’, St. Elizabeth, during one of her trip to bring food and sustenance to the poor, which had to be done in secret, happened to encounter her husband and his hunting party. She would not have wanted her secret to be known, as it might have brought opposition and difficulty for her, but miraculously, when she was asked to show what she was carrying in her basket, miraculously red and white roses filled her basket. This story convinced her husband in God’s protection of her, and apparently, led him to support her cause as well.

However, she did encounter trials and challenges through her life, as she lost her husband who went to the Crusade to the Holy Land and passed away along the way. She had difficulties but she remained firmly dedicated to her faith, committing herself to a vow of celibacy and holiness after her husband’s death even as this went against her family’s wishes. Despite their efforts to force her to remarry for political purposes, St. Elizabeth remained firm and strong in her convictions to the end.

The holiness of St. Elizabeth is an inspiration and model for all of us Christians to follow, that we may also be holy like her, and be courageous in living our faith just as Zaccheus and others had done, no longer being lukewarm or inactive in our Christian faith. Let us all discern carefully all of these and strive to commit our efforts and dedicate our lives to serve God from now on with greater zeal and generosity of love. May God bless us all and be with us through this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 14 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4ab, 5

Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words.

Those who do no harm to their neighbours and cast no discredit on their companions, who look down on evildoers but highly esteem God’s servants.

Those who do not lend money at interest and refuse a bribe against the innocent. Do this, and you will soon be shaken.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 3 : 1-6, 14-22

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Sardis, “Thus says He Who holds the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars : ‘I know your worth : you think you live but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen that which is not already dead. For I have found your works to be imperfect in the sight of My God.”

“‘Remember what you were taught; keep it and change your ways. If you do not repent I will come upon you like a thief at an hour you least expect. Yet, there are some left in Sardis who have not soiled their robes; these will come with Me, dressed in white, since they deserve it. The victor will be dressed in white and I will never erase his name from the book of life; instead, I will acknowledge it before My Father and His Angels.'”

“‘Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches.'”

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea, “Thus says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God’s creation : ‘I know your works : you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold so I will spit you out of My mouth.'”

“‘You think you are rich and have piled up so much that you need nothing, but you do not realise that you are wretched and to be pitied, poor, blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold that has been tested by fire, so that you may be rich, and white clothes to wear so that your nakedness may not shame you, and ointment for your eyes that you may see. I reprimand and correct all those I love. Be earnest and change your ways.'”

“‘Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you, and you with Me. I will let the victor sit with Me on My throne just as I was victorious and took My place with My Father on His throne. Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches.'”

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of just fortunate we all are for having been beloved by God, as He showed us His love again and again throughout time. God has revealed His love to us constantly through His servants, but it is often us who pushed God away and refused to listen to Him or acknowledge His love for us.

The Lord has revealed to St. John, his Apostle, as recorded in the Book of Revelations, of the message and truth He has passed onto His seven Churches in Asia, representing the seven main Christian communities and centres at that time through His Angels. He revealed that despite the struggles and challenges that they were facing, they would not face those alone.

The revelation showed how the Church and the faithful would endure long periods of persecution throughout its history, but God would be with His people guiding them and protecting them regardless. The Lord helped them from their misery and guided them through those challenging years. In the end, many saints and martyrs came about from those communities, that while they might have suffered but they gained glory through God.

This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, of God’s wonderful mercy and love. We heard how the Lord Jesus moved with pity and love, and responded to the one who had been seeking fervently His mercy and healing. When the blind man was helpless and was without hope, in the darkness of despair and suffering, God reached out to him and showed him that even in his darkness there is still hope and light, as long as one keeps faith in God.

The key there is the willingness of that blind man to humble himself and to reach out to the Lord, seeking His mercy wholeheartedly when he called out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” a few times, even when the people tried to silence and hush him. He revealed his vulnerability and his weakness to all, but in doing so, bared his faith in God fully, and it was by this faith that God was moved to save him and heal him from all of his troubles.

In the same manner therefore, God will always be with us and will help us through life, through our troubles and challenges if only we can have faith in Him like that of the blind man. The problem is that, unfortunately, more often than not, we allow our pride and ego to stand in the way of this salvation, as we often do not want to reveal our weakness and the fact that we actually are in need of help and assistance from God. We preferred rather to remain in our state of sin and in being despicable due to our pride, rather than seeking God for healing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in order for us to move forward in this life with faith, we have to get rid from ourselves this wicked mentality and the attachments and the allures of our pride and ego. Indeed, we have to die to our pride and remove all these from our hearts and minds as best as we are able to. Otherwise, we may end up rejecting God’s love and mercy again and again, until it is too late for us to seek His healing, mercy and forgiveness.

Today, let us all reflect on all these, and discern carefully on what each and every one of us as Christians can do to serve the Lord and to follow Him ever more faithfully. And perhaps we should look up to the examples set by the saints, especially the two saints whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Margaret of Scotland, as well as St. Gertrude the Great, both being holy women who had dedicated their lives to the Lord.

St. Margaret of Scotland was an English princess who later became the Queen of Scotland. And although she was born a high noble and royalty, and a queen no less, but she has always been very pious and humble throughout her whole life, putting God above all else, and was ever dedicated in her work as queen in taking care of the needs of her people, especially to the less fortunate and the poor. She has also dedicated much effort to expand the Church and various other institutions for the benefit of her people.

St. Margaret and St. Gertrude were both very pious and dedicated themselves much to follow the Lord faithfully and led a very pious and virtuous way of life. While St. Margaret was a pious queen, St. Gertrude was a renowned Benedictine religious nun remembered for her many intellectual writings about the faith that are still influential to this very day. Many people had been inspired through their piety and their efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on the lives of these saints, and be inspired to seek the Lord with renewed faith and zeal, to be humble in reaching out for Him to ask for His forgiveness and grace. Let us all seek the Lord’s mercy, love and forgiveness, and let us all be thoroughly reconciled and regain God’s grace and favour. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 18 : 35-43

At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. As he heard the crowd passing by, he inquired what was happening, and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by.

Then he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people in front of him scolded him. “Be quiet!” they said, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped, and ordered the blind man to be brought to Him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!” Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.”

At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.