Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all presented with the tale of the seven brothers and their mother who were persecuted for their faith by the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. They were forced to do things that were against the Law of God. Then in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people using the parable of the silver talents to explain what each of His disciples and followers had to do with their faith.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of the Maccabees, continuing with the tale of persecution of the Jewish faithful during King Antiochus’ reign, who was determined in his megalomania and ego to stamp out any dissent and any other religious expressions, set and bound to introduce and enforce Greek customs and practices on the people of his domain and realm, including that of the descendants of the Israelites in the land of Judea, Galilee and elsewhere. This resulted in the great persecution which we had heard for the past few days.

In that particular occasion mentioned today, the seven brothers remained firm in their faith and dedication to the Lord, committed themselves wholeheartedly to Him despite the sufferings and trials that they were then facing, facing certain death and terrible suffering just as they approached martyrdom for the Lord. They all died one by one before their own mother who saw their courage and faith in God. And when the King tried to persuade the last son and asking the mother to ask her son to apostatise, the mother instead encouraged her son to remain faithful.

In any case, all the seven sons and their own mother were all martyred for their great faith, as they committed themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and not wishing to corrupt themselves with the corruption of sin and disobedience against God. They chose to suffer and die rather than to commit sin against God, and to stand firm against those who persecuted them, knowing that God was with them and that their sufferings and deaths would not be in vain, as their rewards would be great in Heaven.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the parable of the silver talents as described by the Lord, in which the Lord spoke of a king and master who entrusted his servants some amount of wealth in the form of silver talents that were then invested by two of them, who received ten and five silver talents each, while the last servant who received one talent of silver kept the silver hidden and did not do anything to it at all. At the time of the master’s return, he called for a reckoning from his servants of the silver talents that he had entrusted to them.

And we heard how the master praised the first two servants for having doubled what they had received by investing them, putting their hard work and efforts on the possessions entrusted to them, and therefore he entrusted to them even more things as he knew that those servants could be trusted and were worthy and hardworking. On the contrary, the servant who did not do anything to his silver talent was punished and had his silver taken away from him to be entrusted to the one more trustworthy than he was.

Coupled this with what the master then said, that to those who have been entrusted a lot, a lot will be expected, all of us therefore are reminded that each and every one of us as Christians have to dedicate ourselves and everything that God has blessed and granted us all, we have to commit to action and contributions for the greater glory of God. It means that we cannot be idle or complacent with the way that we live our lives, or else, just like the servant who did nothing to the silver talent entrusted to him, then whatever we have received, will be taken away from us and we will have no part in God’s kingdom.

Today, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us have the responsibility to live faithfully in accordance with the laws and customs, the ways and the many other directions that God has provided for us through His Church and through all the gentle reminders that He has given to us all these while. And we should be inspired today by one of the Lord’s great saints, whose feast we are celebrating, namely that of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a holy woman and a most devout servant of God.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary was a princess of Hungary who was betrothed and married at a young age to the lord of Thuringia in Germany. She was influenced by St. Francis of Assisi and other contemporary saints and holy people to lead a life that is virtuous and worthy of God. She spent a lot of effort in being charitable and in taking care of the need of the people in her husband’s realm, which the latter approved without much of a problem. She remained truly faithful even after her husband’s early death in the Crusades, in which St. Elizabeth dedicated herself to a celibate, religious life.

Despite the pressures from the people surrounding her and from her family for her to remarry for advancing their political aims, St. Elizabeth of Hungary remained adamant in living a holy and celibate life, dedicating her time and effort to serve the Lord through prayer and charity. She was well remembered and respected for her many contributions to the poor and for her care and love for the less fortunate ones in her community. It was also told that miracles also happened throughout her lives. She died at a young age, and miracles happened soon after.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves faithfully in the same manner as St. Elizabeth of Hungary had done? This wonderful and holy predecessor of ours had committed herself and her life to the Lord and we should do well to do the same with our own, reminding ourselves of the responsibilities that we all have. Let us all turn towards the Lord with a renewed faith and conviction, and dedicate ourselves to work for His greater glory from now on and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country in order to be crowned king, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants, to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

“The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.’ The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front of me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 16 : 1, 5-6, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Hold firm my steps upon Your path, that my feet may not stumble. I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors. Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them :

“I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world Who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for the love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language : “My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day.”

“I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to reflect on our lives in this world as Christians, as those who belong to the Lord and who have been called to live a good and devout life worthy of God. We are all called to do what is right according to the Law and the commandments of the Lord, distancing ourselves from evil and wicked deeds and things that may end up leading us into our downfall and destruction in hell.

In our first reading today taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome, we heard the Apostle speaking to the faithful through his letter regarding the commandments of God, the Law that God has placed in our midst to govern us and how we ought to be living this life in obedience to God. We have to do as commanded by the Lord, to love Him first and foremost above any other things, and to love one another in the same way that we love ourselves.

St. Paul mentioned this in his Epistle to remind the people of God there in Rome of their obligation as Christians to love, loving God and loving one another. Otherwise, they will not be truly faithful to the Lord and whatever faith they had will be meaningless and empty. For in another occasion, St. Paul also said that, we may have received many gifts, talents and abilities, the gift of speaking in tongues, of prophecy and even miracles and healing, but unless we have love in us, then everything we have is meaningless.

Love indeed lies at the centre of our faith and existence as Christians, as the Law of God and the rules and regulations set by the Church are all meant to help and guide us in our journey towards the Lord, to help us in redirecting our attention to Him, to love Him and to be able to show that love which God Himself has shown us, in our lives and in how we interact with one another. As Christians, we are all called to love and love generously, to show care and concern, compassion and love to everyone, and especially to those who need them the most.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the words of the Lord speaking to His disciples, we heard how He told them what it truly means to become His disciples. He told them that they ought to be ready to leave everything behind, every attachments, every other desires and put the Lord and His cause first and foremost, or else, we may get our priorities wrong. However, we must not interpret this as the Lord is asking us to leave behind our family members and relatives, our loved ones. God did not call us to be people who are irresponsible.

On the contrary, what He wants us to do is to reorientate our lives and change our focus from one that is centred on ourselves to one that is centred in God. Our families and relationships should also be framed in the presence of God and His path, and that is essentially how we lead a more wholesome and holy Christian life. We have to live our lives with true love, love for God and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, and not just selfish love and desire for ourselves and our own needs and wants.

The Lord then went on to speak regarding the plans one ought to go through before building a house, and the considerations and plans that kings must have prepared before they marched out to meet other kings for war and battle. What the Lord meant with this is that, all of us have known what is due for us at the end of the journey, and therefore, we are all called to discern carefully how we are to live our lives from now on. Are we going to continue living our lives in the manner as wretched and sinful as they may be, or are we going to embrace the Lord and His path?

We know that following the Lord will also likely include plenty of obstacles and challenges, and many occasions where we may have to make sacrifices and endure the trials and tribulations of being faithful to God, of standing up to our Christian faith and remaining resolute in living our Christian calling in each and every moments of our lives. But it is possible for us to do this if we put our faith and trust in God, and allow Him to lead us in the path that we traverse through life.

And we should also follow the great examples of our holy predecessors, the saints, holy men and women of God who are our role models in faith. Today, in particular we celebrate the feast of St. Martin de Porres, who was a renowned religious and member of the Dominican Order as a lay brother. He was renowned for his great personal holiness and dedication to the Lord, his care and love for his fellow men and women, especially all those who have suffered oppression and prejudice just as he himself had experienced and suffered from.

St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima in Peru as the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman with his freed slave, and as a mixed race or mestizo person, he was accorded like many others a second class treatment below that of those with European descent or came directly from Europe, the latter of which which had the highest prestige and position in the society. He lived his early life in poverty, and as a descendant of the Native Americans, he was barred by law from becoming full member of the religious orders, although he desired to become a priest and religious.

As such, St. Martin had to beg the Dominicans to be allowed to join as a lay brother, who dedicated his life from then on to do the many works of the Order, supporting the religious brothers and the community. It was a lot of hard work, and was sometimes looked down upon by the members of his own community and by the priests, some of whom looked upon his descent and ancestry with disdain, as well as the illegitimacy of his birth.

Nonetheless, St. Martin de Porres dedicated himself all the harder to serve his community, and he dedicated himself to the Lord all the more, especially in the Blessed Sacrament. He ministered to the poor and the sick as part of his works, and for many years, cared for many of the people in his community, as well as within the Dominican religious community. His dedication and faith eventually earned him great respect and support by the time of his passing. Many attributed miracles to him and his tomb also exuded great fragrance and other signs of holiness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if St. Martin de Porres had been able to commit himself and his life despite his difficult background and conditions, to love the Lord and also to love his brothers and sisters, even those who despised and made his life difficult, then why can’t we, most of us with much better condition than he was, dedicate ourselves in the same way too? Are we too complacent and lazy to follow in the same path that this holy saint had walked? Are we not courageous and faithful enough to follow the Lord in the same way?

Let us all discern our path in life carefully then, so that all of us may hence learn to live our lives with greater devotion from now on. May God be with us always and may He guide us and strengthen us so that we may be more willing to follow Him with ever greater sincerity, just as St. Martin de Porres had shown us, in being true and genuine Christians as we should. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 14 : 25-33

At that time, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, He turned and said to them, “If you come to Me, unwilling to sacrifice your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not follow Me, carrying his own cross, cannot be My disciple.”

“Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete it? Otherwise, if you, have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you : ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”

“And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become My disciple, if he does not give up everything he has.”

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 4-5, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

He is for the righteous a light in darkness; He is kind, merciful and upright. It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Romans 13 : 8-10

Do not be in debt to anyone. Let this be the only debt of one to another : Love. The one who loves his or her neighbour fulfils the Law. For the commandments : Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not covet, and whatever else, are summarised in this one : You will love your neighbour as yourself.

Love cannot do the neighbour any harm; so love fulfils the whole Law.

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and not just having an empty and meaningless faith, or merely being superficial in our love and dedication to God. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations for power, glory, fame and wealth, for influence and prestige, among many other things. We must not allow all these to cloud our judgment, and we have to keep ourselves well attuned to the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Matthew on the matter of the Pharisees and their religious practices, which the Lord spoke before those assembled and gathered to listen to Him. The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and also the teachers of the Law because many among them, the religious and intellectual elites of the Jewish community, did things that were unbecoming of their trusted position as the guardians of the Law of God as well as the leaders of the people.

They made it difficult for the people of God to come towards their Lord and Master, imposing very strict practices and rules, customs and obligations to follow, which were mainly due to their mistaken interpretation and understanding of the Law of God. As such, they did not bring the people closer to God as they had been entrusted to do, but instead, they were driving more and more people away from God in their misguided zeal and lack of proper understanding of the Law and its true intentions.

That was why the Lord rebuked them, and spoke out against them, to remind all of them and the people included, of what it truly means to be the believers and followers of the Lord. It means that we cannot be merely superficial in our faith, focusing on our own appearances and vanity, by appearing outwardly religious and good, and yet rotten and wicked in our hearts and minds. We should not be like those who made loud and widely publicised prayers and acts of faith, and yet, at the same time, being prejudiced against the poor and sinners, hating and disliking them.

Instead, all of us are called to reflect more deeply on the true intention and meaning of the Law of God, so that all of us may understand and appreciate it better, and that we may be better and more genuine Christians in all things, and not just in name only. We cannot be those who only profess the faith in the Lord in our lips only, and then act in a manner contrary to our faith. Those who did so have not only been lacking in faith, but in fact, may also scandalise their faith and the Lord’s Name, by making others to misunderstand God and His truth.

That is why all of us are challenged to live our lives in the way that is aligned with the Lord, and to do whatever we can in order to proclaim Him in our own communities, by our own words, actions and deeds. We cannot be idle in our faith, and neither can we act in ways that brought scandal to the Lord and to our Christian faith and Church. And that is why, we should strive to do what we can, to obey the Lord more wholeheartedly from now on, and to give of ourselves to Him with ever greater sincerity.

Today we can also follow the good examples and inspiration from St. Rose of Lima, one of the famous saints of the Church, who is the first saint canonised from the New World, the Americas. She is remembered for her great love and true piety for the Lord, in all of her actions and deeds, dedicating her whole life to the Lord. She was born into a noble family, and later on would dedicate herself to a life of holy virginity and total dedication to God, as a lay member of the Dominican Order.

St. Rose of Lima had led a most virtuous and pious lifestyle since very early age, that since her youth, it was told that she had observed fasting and abstinence regularly, leading a prayerful life and a holy life. She was renowned for her great beauty, and many suitors tried to get her attention, and even her own family tried to force her to marry. In the face of all these efforts and oppositions, St. Rose of Lima cut her hair and made herself look ugly to deter the suitors and steadfastly refused any attempts to force her to marry.

Throughout the rest of her life, St. Rose of Lima dedicated herself to the Lord and poured out her love to others, especially those who were poor and needy, those who were sick and troubled. She spent a lot of time ministering to them and taking care of them, while spending other times in prayers and devotions, doing whatever she could to commit herself wholly to God. Her exemplary faith and life had inspired so many others to follow in her footsteps.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we also able to do the same with our own lives? Are we able to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way as St. Rose of Lima had done with hers? Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord and do whatever we can to glorify God by our lives, and be faithful witnesses of His truth in all things. May the Lord be with us all and may He bless us in everything we say and do, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Matthew 23 : 13-22

At that time, Jesus said to the people and to His disciples, “But woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You, yourselves, do not enter it, nor do you allow others to do so.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray long prayers! Therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to make a single convert; yet, once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves!”

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say : To swear by the temple is not binding; but, to swear by the gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of more worth : the gold in the temple, or the temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say : To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value : the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred?”

“Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the temple, is swearing by the temple, and by God, Who dwells in the temple. Whoever swears by heaven, is swearing by the throne of God, and by Him, Who is seated on it.”