Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.”

“The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, “I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

“For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

“Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God.”

“Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you. For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

“Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour’s house. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.”

Monday, 21 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the story of Abraham, our father in faith and the father of many nations, who was the faithful and dedicated servant of the Lord, as we heard how he embarked on the journey from his homeland and followed the Lord’s call, and leaving everything behind, leading a new life entrusted to the Lord alone. He listened to the Lord and obeyed Him, and for his faith and dedication, God blessed him and made His Covenant with him.

Abraham, then named Abram, put his life in the hands of the Lord, and despite all the wealth and power he had, he allowed the Lord to lead the way for him, and to guide him through the challenges that he would face throughout life. He allowed the Lord to make him into His most worthy servant, that through him and his exemplary actions, he might indeed inspire so many people, many among his own descendants and others to believe in the Lord as well, which includes each and every one of us, who can call Abraham as our father in faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the story of Abraham and his faith and dedication to the Lord is a reminder to each and every one of us that as Christians we have to be like our father in faith in the way we carry on our own lives and actions. It means that we should be genuine in how we believe in the Lord and in fully entrusting ourselves to Him, and truly mean what we believe, being wholehearted and sincere in following Him and not being hypocrites as Christians, that is as those who profess to have faith in God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus telling His disciples not to be hypocrites in how they lived their faith, and not to be judgmental towards others, in the sense that they sought to look down on others and glorifying oneself just because they thought that they were better than others, superior or more worthy than their fellow brethren. The Lord told them all that often they failed to realise that the same things that they accused others of wrongdoing, these they themselves had been doing, even without them realising it.

It is therefore important for all of us to recognise that we are all sinners, unworthy and wicked, and we have no right to look down on others or to despise others just because we think that we are in any way better than them. Instead, on the contrary, we should seek our fellow brethren and show concern and care for them. If we see someone who is struggling with their faith and life and who is falling into the path of sin, instead of looking down on them or judging them, we should instead help them and support them, showing them care and concern instead of despising them.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose faith and commitment to the Lord should be inspiration to all of us in how we should be role model ourselves in living our faith wholeheartedly in the manner that he and the other saints had done, and in how Abraham, our father in faith had done in his life. Today, we are all called to look upon the examples set by this holy member of the Society of Jesus who devoted himself completely to the Lord even since such a young age.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a noble family, as the eldest born no less, and he was expected to succeed to his father’s titles and inherit his possessions. However, as he experienced and became exposed to the brutality and wickedness of the society of his time, gradually he turned to the Christian faith and to the life of saints which then slowly began to lead him to walk down a path of commitment to the Lord, abandoning eventually all of his inheritance and status, and joined the Society of Jesus.

He dedicated himself to the Lord and to the ministry of those whom he gave himself, his time and efforts to, such as the sick and the poor, which at that time were particularly affected by a great epidemic spreading in the community. And he kept on doing his best to care for all those people despite himself eventually succumbing to the disease, and dying at a very young age, faithful to the Lord and loving towards his fellow brothers and sisters to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the examples showed by St. Aloysius Gonzaga that in everything that we say and do, in our every actions in life we will always be exemplary and strive to do our best in loving God, in caring for our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us all trust the Lord more and grow ever deeper in our faith and devotion from now on, that we can become ever more genuine in our Christian faith from now on. May God bless each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 21 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 7 : 1-5

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not judge; and you will not be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and the measure you use for others will be used for you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not see the plank in your own eye?”

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Come, let me take the speck from your eye,’ as long as that plank is in your own? Hypocrite, remove the plank out of your own eye; then, you will see clearly, to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Monday, 21 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 32 : 12-13, 18-19, 20 and 22

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. YHVH looks down from heaven and sees the whole race of mortals.

But YHVH’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness; to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Monday, 21 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 12 : 1-9

YHVH said to Abram, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, and in you all people of the earth will be blessed.”

So Abram went as YHVH had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took Sarai, his wife, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran. They set out for the land of Canaan.

They arrived at Canaan. Abram travelled through the country as far as Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. YHVH appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” There he built an altar to YHVH Who had appeared to him.

From there he went on to the mountains east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There also he built an altar to YHVH and called on the Name of YHVH. Then Abram set out in the direction of Negeb.

Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us, the members of His Church. Even though the season of Easter is coming to an end with the celebration of the Pentecost Sunday tomorrow, it does not mean that everything that we have celebrated throughout this Easter is coming to an end. On the contrary, Pentecost marked just the very beginning of the Church’s works and efforts that still continues even to this very day.

As we heard in our first reading today from the ending parts of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul reached the city of Rome and began the last step of his ministry in that city. He preached to the local Jewish community and also others who were interested in the Christian faith, establishing the foundation for the Church in Rome, from which also stemmed many other communities all throughout the Roman Empire. Through all of his efforts, many turned to the Lord and were reconciled to Him, and many came to believe in Him and became courageous missionaries themselves.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord’s conversation with His disciples at the Last Supper speaking about the one who would betray Him as well as St. Peter who wondered about the disciple whom the Lord loved, that is referring to St. John. At that time, there were still disagreements and so-called rivalry between the disciples, just as they had done earlier on when they argued among themselves who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as St. John, his own mother and brother tried to also gain favour and position from the Lord by asking Him directly.

In all these we can see that first of all, the Lord called His disciples among mankind, people who were imperfect, full of human frailties, desires and shortcomings, of pride and jealousy, or any other behaviours and attitudes unbecoming of Christians, as the Apostles themselves had once exhibited. One among the Twelve betrayed the Lord and surrendered Him to the chief priests, and left their number, while St. Peter himself denied the Lord three times and with others, abandoned Him in fear when He was arrested in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

St. Paul himself was a fanatical enemy of the Church and the Christian faithful when he was young, persecuting the Church and the believers, causing untold sufferings and much pain among them. Yet, the Lord called all these to be His followers and witnesses, to be the ones to bear His truth to the people of the many nations that they had been sent to. These Apostles, like St. Paul went forth courageously and wholeheartedly, not worried about themselves but instead ever always concerned about the conversion of many and the salvation of souls.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a holy and devout woman who was a dedicated wife and mother who wanted to join a convent in her early life, but forced to accept arranged marriage to a man who was bad-tempered, immoral and wicked. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered as a pious woman and faithful wife and mother despite all that she had to endure from her husband, his behaviour and temper. She endured all of his insults and abuses, as well as all of his infidelities in their marriage.

In the end, it was told that she was able to convince her husband to be a better person and at least he abandoned some of his past vices. Yet, his actions caught up to him and he was assassinated by a rival family, which led to her husband’s family vowing vengeance and expecting St. Rita of Cascia’s two sons to seek vengeance for their murdered father. Unable to persuade her sons to seek vengeance despite her repeated efforts, she prayed to God, asking that He took them away from the world rather than to have them commit a mortal sin through murder.

True enough, very soon after that, both of her sons were taken by a plague that occurred in that year. And then, having been widowed and left without family, St. Rita of Cascia finally became a religious, dedicating the rest of her life to contemplative prayer and commitment to God. It was not easy for her to do so, as the convent was afraid that her murdered husband’s family and reputation would be bad for them, and hence, St. Rita of Cascia was tasked to resolve the feuds between the families of that town, which she did with great success.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see here, God had called ordinary people, woman like St. Rita of Cascia, who was just an ordinary wife and mother, and yet, by her faith and commitment, she had done great deeds, leading her own husband and two sons closer to God’s grace and salvation, and helping to resolve the feud between the families of her town, among others. Through her life and example, all of us can see what it means to be a true disciple of the Lord, as a Christian.

Therefore, let us all continue to go forth proclaiming the truth of God in our lives from now on. Let us dedicate ourselves and follow the Lord wholeheartedly, as missionaries and genuine evangelisers in all of our words and actions throughout life. Let us all follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit that throughout life we will always be ever dedicated and filled with the strong desire to proclaim God’s truth in the midst of our respective communities, even when we encounter challenges and trials, opposition and persecution. Let us trust in the Lord and not be afraid for He is always by our side. May God be with us always, and bless our every good works and endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 20-25

At that time, Peter looked back and saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following as well, the one who had reclined close to Jesus at the supper, and had asked Him, “Lord, who is to betray You?”

On seeing him, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until Income, does that concern you? Follow Me!” Because of this the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, “He will not die,” but, “Suppose I want him to remain until I come.”

It is this disciple who testifies about the things he has written here, and we know that his testimony is true. But Jesus did many other things; if all were written down, I think the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.