Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded that all of us must be vigilant at all times, for the coming of the Lord will come suddenly without warning, and even without signs or forewarning. It will catch and surprise many who are not ready for His coming, because all of them have been distracted by the many idols of this world.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, it was described how the people who worshipped the idols, pagan idols representing natural forces and wonders, such as worship of the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the seas and the rivers, deserts, and many more of others, prevalent in numerous civilisations and cultures, have been preoccupied with the marvels of creation, and yet fail to recognise the Author of all of them, that is God.

That was why, instead of properly giving thanks or focusing to the One Who deserves all praise and honour, we mankind ended up being distracted by the marvels of the created things. And if we think that all these problems happened only in the past, then we are wrong. In our present day, the same issues still exist. If in the past it was the wonders of nature and creation, now we end up being distracted by our own human creations and worldly goods.

For example, our attachment to money and worldly possessions will end up distracting us from our faith, and turning us into immorality and greed. Many of us are distracted by our career and in that, our pursuit for more money, status, fame, worldly glory and possessions, that we have forgotten about the Lord our God. We spent so much time trying to gather for ourselves all these things that we end up spending little or no time for God.

That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is no different from the way how the people in those days worshipped the pagan idols and forgot about the Lord their God, as was evident in many occasions throughout the Old Testament. And that was why the Lord was angry at His people, because they have abandoned Him for those pagan idols, and many of us did not do any better with our own modern day idols.

What do we all, as Christians, need to do then? All of us need to reflect on each and every one of our lives, and what we have done, and how we have lived every single day. Have we been distracted in our way to the Lord by the many temptations in life? Have we done what we need to do in order to prepare for the Lord? In the Gospel today, we heard about how in the past, many people had been caught unprepared and unaware in sin, from the time of Noah to the time of Lot.

Those people who lived at the time of Noah and Lot lived wickedly, committing sins before God by immoral behaviours and by corrupting themselves with sinful acts, the worship of false and pagan idols, and many more. They rejected the Lord their God and settled for worldly pleasures and corruptions. That was how they met their downfall, when the great flood came at the time of Noah, and when the flames and sulfur rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying all who refused to repent.

Having learnt of all these examples, how can we then avoid the fate of those who have gone to their just fate because of their sins? As Christians, all of us must put God first and foremost in our lives, to give our whole heart, love and attention to Him, and to no other. We cannot let the temptations of the idols present in our lives from distracting us in our journey towards God.

That said, money, power, fame and many other things I have mentioned are on their own not wicked or evil by their nature. These can be used for either good or evil purposes. Rather, it is our unhealthy attachment to them, our greed for them that led us to idolise these things and forget about the Lord our God. This is why many of us faltered in our faith, because we were not able to resist those temptations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us strive to reorientate our lives and rethink our life choices and priorities. We should devote our time and effort towards God, and not to be too attached to worldly temptations of money, possessions, fame, glory and many others. And we should also perhaps follow the example of today’s saint, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a renowned princess turned into a devout servant of God towards the end of her life.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary led a very virtuous and holy life, dedicated to God and to her family. Yet, she lost her husband at a relatively young age, and she became a widow. She encountered many difficulties and harsh treatments after that, and yet she persevered through all of them and continued to be charitable throughout the remainders of her life, caring for the poor and the sick, building hospitals and care houses for them.

The examples of St. Elizabeth of Hungary should be inspiration to all of us, that no matter what prestige, honour, glory and fame, monetary wealth or other things we have in life, we must first and foremost give our hearts to God, and love Him with all of our strength. Then, we also have to love our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are in need of our help.

Let us all do our best, therefore, to become ever more devoted disciples of Our Lord, by practicing our faith with commitment throughout the rest of our lives. May He empower all of us to live courageously in His presence, and may we draw ever closer to Him. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us sinners as well. Amen.

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever gives his life will be born again. I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding meal together, one might be taken and the other left.”

Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Wisdom 13 : 1-9

The natural helplessness of humans is seen in their ignorance of God. The experience of good things did not lead them to the knowledge of Him Who is. They were interested in His works, but they did not recognise the Author of them.

Fire, wind, air, the sphere of the stars, rushing water and the lights in the sky were held as the rulers of the world. If, charmed by such beauty, they took them for gods, let them know how far superior is their sovereign. And if they were impressed by their power and activity, let them understand from this how much mightier is He Who formed them. For the grandeur and beauty of creatures lead us to ponder on their Author, greater and more magnificent.

No doubt these people are not to be blamed severely, for possibly they strayed though they searched for God and desired to find Him. They pondered over the created things that surrounded them and were captivated by the sight of such beauty. Even so they are not to be excused, for if they were able to explore the world, why did they not discover first the world’s Sovereign?

Friday, 3 November 2017 : 30th 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 all of us through the Sacred Scriptures are told the difficulties and challenges facing the early Christians, especially those of the Jewish origin, as what St. Paul told to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome in his Epistle. In that Epistle, St. Paul wrote about the anguish which he had of being sundered from among his people, the descendants of Israel.

St. Paul himself, while being a highly educated and Hellenised Jew, was also once a very zealous follower of the laws of Moses, as evidenced in his prior activities as Saul, purging the land of Judea and Galilee from the faithful Christians, arresting them and striking against the early Church. However, God called him to be His disciple, and Saul had a conversion of heart, mind and being, and answering God’s call, he became one of the Apostles.

But by doing so, he has sundered himself from the Jewish authorities, who were against Jesus and His teachings. As mentioned in the Gospels, those who believed in Jesus and propagated His teachings were thrown out of the synagogues by the Pharisees and the chief priests, equivalent to the excommunication from the Church as we know it today, when a Christian is sundered from the Church and God’s salvation due to a serious and grave error.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, yet St. Paul would rather choose to be with God and to obey His commandments rather than going back to the old ways, even though if he had done so, he would have gained prestige and honour he had when he was highly esteemed as Saul. In the Gospel today, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who challenged Him as they have often done, as they refused to believe in Jesus and in His teachings.

They have erroneously believed in the laws and customs that they have inherited from the time of Moses and the prophets, as these had been heavily modified throughout the history of Israel. As a result, they ended up interpreting the laws literally without understanding why those laws were given to the people of God in the first place. They thought that the laws were in place to govern the people of God in how they behave and live, but those laws had a singular purpose by God, and that is love.

The Law of God which He gave to Moses was intended to guide the people that they may come to love their Lord and Creator, the love that they should give the One Who had loved them and cared for them, ever since the beginning of time, and ever since He established the Covenant with Abraham their forefather. And Jesus came into this world, in order to deliver to them this truth, that God loves them and wants each and every one of them to be reconciled with Him.

And He wants all of them to experience conversion, by turning towards Christ and abandon their old ways of sin and darkness. Yet, mankind can be very stubborn, just as the people of Israel themselves had shown, in their constant refusal to listen to God, and in their constant waywardness, in their refusal to turn themselves towards God and to listen to Him. Instead, they have walked their own path, and persecuted those who have been sent to remind them, from the prophets to the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember the deeds of those who have given themselves completely to the cause of the Lord, and also that of today’s saint, St. Martin de Porres, a holy religious who have lived righteously in accordance with God’s will, inspiring many others to do the same with their lives. He was a lay member of the Dominican order, or the Order of Preachers, who was an illegitimate son of a nobleman, and being born a mixed race in the New World, what is now Americas, he encountered lots of difficulties early on and throughout his life.

St. Martin de Porres did not let all of these to deter him, and he was resolved to serve the Lord and His people, by joining the Dominican order as a lay brother. He was prevented from joining as a full member due to his status as an illegitimately born child as well as his mixed ancestry. Yet, he continued to devote his time and effort, helping his brethren who were sick and poor, caring for them, loving them and show them the gentle compassion that represents God’s love for His people.

The examples of St. Martin de Porres, as well as the holy saints and Apostles, in their loving care and works among us, should remind all of us Christians that we must live according to God’s Law, not by obeying blindly to the teachings of the Church, but rather understanding them and following the examples of our holy predecessors in faith. Let us all live righteously as God’s children and learn to devote ourselves to Him in all of our lives’ effort, our time and attention.

May the Lord bless us always and may He strengthen each one of us, that we may live courageously according to His will, loving one another and doing what He has taught us to do, and thus loving Him also with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and our entire beings. Amen.

Friday, 3 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 14 : 1-6

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. In front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy; so Jesus asked the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

But no one answered. Jesus then took the man, healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “If your lamb or your ox into a well on a Sabbath day, who among you does not hurry to pull it out?” And they could not answer.

Friday, 3 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!