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.

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

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

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

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

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

Revelations 1 : 1-4 and Revelations 2 : 1-5a

The Revelation of Jesus Christ. God gave it to Him to let His servants know what is soon to take place. He sent His Angel to make it known to His servant, John, who reports everything he saw, for this is the word of God and the declaration of Jesus Christ.

Happy is the one who reads aloud these prophetic words, and happy those who hear them and treasure everything written here, for the time is near. From John to the seven Churches of Asia : receive grace and peace from Him Who is, Who was and Who is to come, and from the seven Spirits of God which are before His throne.

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Ephesus, “Thus says the One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand and Who walks among the seven golden lampstands : ‘I know your works, your difficulties and your patient suffering. I know you cannot tolerate evildoers but have tested those who call themselves Apostles and have proved them to be liars. You have persevered and have suffered for My Name without losing heart.”

“Nevertheless, I have this complaint against you : you have lost your first love. Remember from where you have fallen and repent.”

Tuesday, 3 November 2020 : 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 Scriptures, we are reminded that as Christians we should be humble and obedient just as Christ Himself, as the Son had been obedient to His Father’s will, and how He had carried out everything perfectly as how it was supposed to be. And therefore we are all reminded of the Lord’s calling in our lives to be faithful and obedient to Him.

St. Paul reminded all of us the faithful of the Lord’s own dedication and obedience to His Father in his Epistle to the Philippians, referring to how Christ was willing even to empty and humble Himself of His glory and divinity, to assume the humble appearance and status of a slave, to bear the burden of the many sins and faults of the whole world, suffering the most grievous pain and humiliation out of His love for us.

In our Gospel today, we heard from the Lord Jesus a reminder and also a rebuke to all of us for our frequent lack of faith, our refusal to listen to God and obey Him. Through a parable, the Lord told the people about the reality how many of them were too busy with many preoccupations, distractions and temptations to notice the Lord’s calling and what they were supposed to do in their lives. Instead of listening to God and answering His call, they all chose to walk down their own path, into error and sin.

This was represented in the Gospel passage today in the parable, as those guests who had been invited to the a great man’s banquet, and yet refused to come because of their various excuses, all the things that they used as reasons why they could not come to the banquet, such as that they were busy with their lives, their own pursuits in life, their various preoccupations. In the end, their places were given to the others whom the man chose to invite instead.

In the same way, the Lord has also generously invited us all to enter into His heavenly kingdom, to embrace fully His grace and love. However, more often than not, we mankind tend to ignore Him, His calling and His patient persistence in reaching out to us. We refuse to acknowledge and even appreciate His love and compassion, His care and desire to be reconciled with us.

Instead, we allowed ourselves to be tempted and persuaded. We allowed the devil to have a free reign and for him to twist our minds and priorities. We turned away from God and His ways, and end up becoming more and more selfish, wicked and shut off away from God. And unless we realise this mistake that we have often made, we will end up deeper and deeper into trouble.

Therefore, today all of us are reminded that as Christians we should follow the path and examples set before us by the Lord Himself in His obedience. And today, in addition, we also have the good examples set by the saint whose memory we remember and celebrate, namely that of St. Martin de Porres, a holy religious and member of the Dominican Order, from Peru in the New World, from a time when many among the natives and the mixed-race peoples there were being prejudiced against and had difficulties living their lives as they should.

St. Martin de Porres was born into poor condition, from a family of mixed descent from the natives and African slaves through his mother, and as an illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman. He had to endure lots of hardships early in life, and despite his desire to join the religious life, particularly the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans, St. Martin de Porres had a great obstacle as all those who belonged to the slaves, natives and mixed-race were barred from joining the religious orders as full members.

That was why although St. Martin de Porres eventually joined the Dominicans as a Third Order member, as a laybrother, he was never ordained a priest. Nonetheless, despite all the hardships and prejudices that he had to face throughout his life, St. Martin de Porres remained firm in his faith and conviction, and he obeyed faithfully the Lord’s commandments and the precepts of the Dominican order. He served his community and the people with zeal and commitment.

St. Martin de Porres was remembered for his great love, care and concern for the poor and those who were suffering, just as he himself had understood and experienced suffering, prejudice and difficulties in life. He cared for the poor and the sick, and when a terrible disease was spreading through the community, he even travelled long distances to care for those who were suffering. He obeyed his superiors who were against his efforts, although subtly, he did remind them that the precepts of obedience should also not overtake the precepts of charity.

Throughout his life, St. Martin de Porres had exhibited great faith in God and the values of what a true Christian is like and is supposed to be. He has shown us all how each and every one of us should live up to our faith as Christians. Are we willing and able to follow his good examples, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to follow the examples of faith and obedience showed to us by this courageous and loving saint of God?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us always constantly remind ourselves of our Christian mission and calling, to obey the Lord, our Father and Master, and let us all follow Him and His examples, as well as the good examples set by our holy predecessors, especially today as we recall St. Martin de Porres and his holy life. Let us all serve the Lord with a new faith and zeal from now on, and strive to love Him, and love our neighbours with ever greater commitment from now on. May God be with us and bless us all in our every good endeavours and efforts. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 14 : 15-24

At that time, upon hearing the words of Jesus, one of those at the table said to Him, “Happy are those who eat at the banquet in the kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied, “A man once gave a feast and invited many guests. When it was time for the feast, he sent his servant to tell those he had invited to come, for everything was ready. But all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘Please excuse me. I must go and see the piece of land I have just bought.'”

“Another said, ‘I am sorry, but I am on my way to try out the five yoke of oxen I have just bought.’ Still another said, ‘How can I come, when I have just got married?'”

“The servant returned alone, and reported this to his master. Upon hearing his account, the master of the house flew into a rage, and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly, into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'”

“The servant reported after a while, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out, but there is still room.’ The master said, ‘Go out to the highways and country lanes, and force people to come in, to ensure that my house is full. I tell you, none of those invited will have a morsel of my feast.'”