Tuesday, 8 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all called to pray more and to spend more time in quality moments with God, which we can achieve through that prayerful time and silence, as we come to Him with a contrite and loving heart, remembering His most generous love and compassionate mercy, all that He had done for us, all these while. The Lord has shown us His great willingness to welcome us back to His embrace and to love us once again, and we are all called to remember this love and mercy at all times.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord has shown us all the model prayer that He Himself had made, in praying to His heavenly Father, the model prayer that we all definitely know too well. The Lord’s Prayer, also known as Pater Noster or Our Father, after the very first words in that prayer is a model for all of our Christian prayers, in how we make our prayers and how we can make sure that those prayers help us in deepening our relationship with God, as they should have. Prayer is the way for us to communicate with God, to speak with God our loving Father, and to listen to His speaking in our hearts and minds.

The Lord is indeed Our Father, the One Who created us all out of love, and through Christ, His Son, Who has willingly embraced our humanity and taken up the existence in the flesh, we who share in His humanity has now therefore shared in having the Lord our God as our loving Father. And if God is our Father, then why do we hesitate to communicate with Him and spend quality time with Him? Through what He Himself had done, the Lord reminded us that we have to spend time in prayer to the Lord and pray in the right manner, and with the right disposition in our heart and mind.

First of all, prayer must first be about giving thanks to God, thanking Him for all the wonderful things that we have received, no matter how all they might have been. And least of all, we have to give Him thanks for the continued gift of life that He has blessed us with. We have to thank Him for all the opportunities that He had provided us with, all the people whom He had blessed us with, our families, friends and other loved ones. We have to thank Him for everything He blessed us with despite us having often betrayed Him for false idols in life.

Then, prayer is also about listening to God and not just wanting or even demanding God to listen to us. It is about opening our hearts, minds and our senses to allow for genuine communication between us and God. If we only want God to listen to us and we are not willing to listen to Him, then it is not a communication at all. Our prayer has instead become a litany of demands that we make to the Lord and we are forcing our will on God. How can this be, as we are only a mere creation, daring to make demands on our Lord, Master and Creator?

And then, prayer is also the means by which we also seek the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy, as we ask Him to forgive us the multitudes of our sins. It is by God’s grace alone that we can be forgiven, and we who are sinners are in need of God’s forgiveness, that we may be reconciled to Him. The Lord will forgive us our sins, as long as we have ourselves learnt to forgive each others’ sins and faults to one another, just as mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer. We humble ourselves as sinners, all needing that much needed reconciliation with God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to cultivate in us the habit of good and true prayer, prayer that is genuine from our hearts and not prayer that is merely recited without meaning or understanding. This season of Lent is a time for us to reflect deeply on ourselves and our path in life. We have to remember that we have with us now the opportunities for us to return to the Lord and reclaim our positions of honour, filled with the grace of God through our reconciliation with Him. This season of Lent is the perfect time for us to redirect our focus and attention once again at God.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of God, a holy servant of God, who dedicated his life to the works of God. He was a young man who became a soldier and later on, disillusioned with the betrayal he experienced and all other matters, he eventually followed the path of God, committed to serve the people of God. And based on his earlier experiences, his journeys in places like Africa and among enslaved Christians and other less fortunate people, he became inspired to work among the poor and the less fortunate, dedicating himself to the service of God.

St. John of God founded the religious order known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God with the emphasis and charism in caring and reaching out towards the sick, the poor and the less fortunate in the community. He dedicated his life to serve the Lord and His people and many people flocked to follow his examples and his order flourished in numbers and their works. The Lord has guided St. John of God who responded passionately to His call. And he did this to the very end, even at his own expense, when he eventually died of pneumonia after rescuing a drowning person in a cold river. He did not hesitate to jump into the river to save that person.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in St. John of God we have seen a great role model for all of us, a role model that can and should inspire us in this season of Lent, as a model of virtue and faith, and of selflessness and charity, care and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters. This is what we have been called to do this Lenten season, to draw ever closer to God through prayer and also through our charitable actions, our giving and love in almsgiving, in loving others more, in sharing more of our blessings with those who have less or none.

Let us all make great use of this ample opportunity during this blessed season of Lent to come ever closer to God. Let us all be inspired by the great examples of our predecessors, to walk in the path of Our Lord and His saints. Let us all make this Lent a truly meaningful and good one for all of us, that we may each and all come to God’s presence, and be worthy of God and His love and grace. Amen.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Tuesday, 8 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

The eyes of YHVH are fixed on the righteous; His ears are inclined to their cries. But His face is set against the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.

YHVH hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles. YHVH is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 55 : 10-11

As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : It will not return to Me idle, but It shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to believe in the Lord wholeheartedly and to entrust ourselves to His cause and works, to follow Him without doubt and hesitation, and to give ourselves in every opportunities and chances to be the dedicated followers of Our Lord. We have to listen to Him and not to allow the devil, Satan, to tempt us with his lies and falsehoods that can lead us down the wrong path in life.

In our first reading today, we heard the continuation of the discourse from the Epistle of St. James, in which the Apostle spoke of the importance for Christians to heed the Lord’s words and commandments, His desire that all of them love one another and treat each other equally without prejudice and discrimination, unlike what had always frequently happened at that time, in a world filled with a lot of inequality and injustice, greed and worldly desires, ambition and ego, all of which had led to plenty of suffering and misery in our communities.

As Christians, all of us have been taught to love one another with sincere and genuine love, without prejudice and without discrimination. All of us have been taught to see each other as fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in Whom we have shared in His suffering and death, and have received the sure promise of eternal life and salvation. All of us have to follow the examples of Christ in how He loved all of us without exception, and in how He loved even the most marginalised and the poorest among us, reaching out to us and even to all those who have persecuted Him.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard of the time when the Lord asked His disciples regarding Himself, considering the many speculations that must have arisen back then from all that He had done, all the miracles He had performed and all the great wisdom and truth of God which He had spoken to the people themselves, and which the disciples themselves had witnessed, heard and experienced directly. And they gave various answers, including that of a prophet, a holy man of God, and with St. Peter saying that He is the Messiah, or the Saviour that God had promised to His people.

Then the Lord revealed that yes, while He is truly the Messiah, but He would have to suffer rejection and to be persecuted, by the same people that He has been sent to. This must have been taken with a lot of surprise and consternation by the disciples and followers of Jesus who must not have taken nicely to the idea, as many among them if not most would have expected to have Jesus to be the liberator of the people of Israel, to be their King and Saviour, free from the tyranny of the Romans and any other powers. And thus St. Peter pulled him aside and protested strongly against the Lord for saying such things.

That was when the Lord then rebuked Satan who was likely trying to persuade the Lord to stop His efforts and trying to convince Him not to do as what He was supposed to do, in trying to tempt Him with power and worldly glory. The Lord would have none of it and He told the devil to get away from Him, not allowing Himself to be tempted by the common temptations of this world. He had been tempted and tested by Satan before, and He had prevailed, and that time was not to be any different from the previous occasions in which He was tempted.

Through this, the Lord wants us to know that in following Him we have to discard the old attitudes of our past, sinful lives, and instead, we should embrace the truth and love that God has shown us, dedicating ourselves to follow Him wholeheartedly, doing whatever we can to serve Him in every opportunities available to us so that we may inspire all those who have witnessed us and our actions, knowing that through those, we may become faithful witnesses of Our Lord’s love and all that He had done for us, to suffer the Cross for us and to endure the worst of sufferings just so that we may persevere and gain assurance of an eternity with Him. And Satan tried hard in vain to prevent this from happening.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us should follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors as we celebrate their feast day today, namely the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. These seven holy men of God, known by their names of Bonfilius, Alexis, Manettus, Amideus, Hugh, Sostene and Buonagiunta of Florence. All of them found each other in a bond of spiritual friendship which then grew on and having received a vision from the Blessed Mother of God, they were resolved to leave behind everything and followed God, marking the foundation of the Servite Order.

The seven holy founders worked hard and dedicatedly through the Order of the Servites, caring for the poor and the needy, those who were abandoned and without any proper attention and care. They all were dedicated with the care for the physical and material needs of those people, of whom the Lord Himself had said to us, that we have to show love and care for the least of our brethren, to the poor and those who had no one to love them and care for them. The seven holy founders of the Servites did their best within their capacity to care for these people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow the examples of our holy predecessors, the great saints especially the Seven Holy Founders of the Servites Order? Let us all be inspired by them and strive to do whatever we can to glorify God through our lives. May the Lord continue to watch over us and help us to persevere through the many challenges in life so that each and every one of us can always remain faithful to Him and be dedicated to the path that God has shown us, and easily tempted and swayed by the evil one. Seven Holy Founders of the Servites, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Mark 8 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus set out with His disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told Him, “Some say You are John the Baptist; others say You are Elijah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And He ordered them not to tell anyone about Him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again.

Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took Him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

James 2 : 1-9

My brothers and sisters, if you truly believe in our glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, you will not discriminate between persons. Suppose a person enters the synagogue where you are assembled, dressed magnificently and wearing a gold ring; at the same time, a poor person enters dressed in rags. If you focus your attention on the well-dressed and say, “Come and sit in the best seat,” while, to the poor one you say, “Stay standing, or else sit down at my feet,” have you not, in fact, made a distinction between the two? Have you not judged, using a double standard?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith, and to inherit the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him? Yet, you despise them! Is it not the rich who are against you, and drag you to court? Do they not insult the Holy Name of Christ by which you are called?

If you keep the Law of the kingdom, according to Scripture : Love your neighbour as yourself, you do well; but if you make distinctions between persons, you break the Law, and are condemned by the same Law.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (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 reminded to be vigilant in our lives and to keep strongly to the faith that we have in the Lord, entrusting ourselves to Him and believing in His providence. We have to be careful and do not easily allow sin to creep into our hearts and minds, corrupting us and our conscience and thoughts, our actions and efforts. In order to do so, we must have strong faith in the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Kings of the account of the unfortunate downfall of King Solomon of Israel who allowed his many wives to distract and mislead him into sinful ways, as they established pagan worship and placed idols in many parts of the kingdom, which led the people into the worship of those false idols and they ended up falling deeper and deeper into sin as their descendants later did.

King Solomon did not remain faithful to God unlike his father David, who remained faithful throughout his life to the very end. Solomon was very wise and rich, powerful and mighty, and while we do not know exactly what led him to his choice of actions, but it might have to do with him trying to secure his power, reign and rule through worldly means, just as he married many wives from different states and neighbouring countries likely with the aim to gain diplomatic recognition and building relationships with those countries, gaining trade agreements and making arrangements to enrich themselves more.

However, the negative impact of such an arrangement and effort is that likely that would have required accommodation and changes in religious policy, including the toleration and even promotion of the pagan faith and worship as done by King Solomon and his wives. And that led him and the kingdom down the slippery slope towards sin. The Lord certainly did send reminders to Solomon through his prophets and messengers, but it was likely that these reminders fell on based on circumstances and the information we have in the Scriptures, he might have been tempted by the power and glory he had, to lose sight of what truly mattered.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord and His interaction with a Syro-Phoenician woman, a woman who came from the region of Phoenicia north of the traditional lands of the Israelites. As such, according to the Jewish viewpoint and customs at the time, she was considered as part of the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people. The Jews always took great pride of their descent from the people of Israel, the chosen people of God, and the name Jew itself came from the word Judah, representing all those who have descended from the people of Judah, who remained faithful to the House of David and to God, at least for part of their history.

Therefore, as we heard the Lord speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman, we may indeed be surprised to hear the tone and the harshness in the words He had chosen to use against the Syro-Phoenician woman. We may have thought that the Lord had reacted so uncharacteristically in His words and replies against the woman. However, if we try to understand the context of what happened back then and the societal aspects of the interaction, then we will quickly realise that the Lord in fact intended the exact opposite of what He had spoken to the woman.

Through what He had said to the woman, the Lord wanted to highlight to all of us the folly and the ugly nature of the sentiments and the opinions then prevailing among the Jews regarding their superiority and the exclusivity of their status as God’s chosen people, especially as interpreted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, to the exclusion of others, even among the Jews themselves who were deemed to be less than worthy, and even less so the Gentiles, like that of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who as a non-Jew and as a woman must have been viewed very much less favourably.

And yet, despite all of that, the Syro-Phoenician woman held on to the faith she had in the Lord and kept firm in asking Him to heal her sick daughter, and she remained resolute in believing in Him despite all the harsh words and replies that she had gotten from the Lord. This proved that her faith in God was truly genuine and no amount of hardships and challenges were going to change that. The Lord knew it all already without Him even needing to ask her, as is He not an Almighty and all-knowing God? But yet, He still asked it from her, as He wanted her to proclaim the truth about her faith to all, to the shame of all those who claimed to be more faithful and yet, refused to believe in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our readings today, we are reminded that we need to have that strong and genuine faith in God, and we have to resist the temptations of our personal desire and ambitions, the temptations of wealth and worldly pleasures that can easily mislead and misguide us in our journey of life. We have to heed the example of how King Solomon, the wise and great king of Israel had fallen into sin and disobedience against God because he failed to heed these, and resulted in great trouble and anguish for the people of God later on.

Today, we should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Scholastica, who was renowned for being the fraternal twin of St. Benedict of Nursia, another great and famous saint, and who herself helped to establish a community of religious and monastic sisters much as her brother was one of the pioneers of religious and monastic brothers and monks in Western Christendom at the time. St. Scholastica became one of the pioneers of female religious life in the Church.

And not only just that, as St. Scholastica was also exemplary in her faith as well, in the virtuous life she lived in, and in all that she had done in contributing to the good of her religious community and to the wider Christian community, of all the faithful people of God. She and her fellow religious sisters were also involved in charitable works and education among other things, and their commitment to the service of God should become our great inspirations, as role model for us to follow in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to glorify God by our own lives and let us do whatever we can to serve Him through our actions and deeds, our words and interactions throughout our lives, even in the smallest things we do. Let our lives and faith be like that of St. Scholastica and like the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, distancing ourselves from sin and being vigilant against worldly temptations just as the example of King Solomon and his downfall ought to have taught us. May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen our resolve and commitment to live faithfully in His presence, always and at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 24-30

At that time, when Jesus went to the border of the Tyrian country. There, He entered a house, and did not want anyone to know He was there; but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet.

Now this woman was a pagan, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies.”

But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.