Wednesday, 5 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of our mission as Christians, that is to go forth proclaiming the Good News of God and to preach His truth among the people, by our words and actions. We are all reminded that unless we remember this mission given to us by God, it will be very easy for us to fall into the temptation of this world, and forget our mission and purpose of serving God.

This was presented in plain sight in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth in Greece. Even at that very early stage in the history of the Church, when the community of the faithful was just being established, there were already evident divisions and disagreements among the members of the Christian communities, stemming from the jealousy, misunderstandings and disagreements between factions.

The name Paul, referring to St. Paul, was mentioned in that Epistle passage, as was the name of Apollos. If we read the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles, we will realise that Apollos was the name of a famous and eloquent preacher of Jewish origin, who converted to the Christian and originated from the city of Alexandria. He was a widely respected and popular preacher, who managed to convert many among the Gentiles and Jews in various cities.

At the same time, St. Paul was also very active in his ministry among the Gentiles and Jews alike in various places throughout the eastern Mediterranean area, including Corinth and many other important cities like Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica among many others. But as there were some variations in their teachings, it ended up with the community being divided into those who followed the teachings of St. Paul, and those who followed the teachings of St. Apollos.

This division in the community in fact created such a scandal, that St. Paul had to address this very issue in the Epistle he wrote to the Corinthian Christian community. He reminded all of them, that ultimately, so long as the people of God continued to think in the worldly terms, and as long as they were concerned about their prestige, worldly fame, ambitions, pride and greed, all sorts of worldly temptations, they would continue to be divided and became bitter against each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the devil and all of his forces wanted to happen to us in the Church. He wants each and every one of us as Christians to be divided against each other, and that we have doubts and mistrust over one another, and as a result, making it very easy for him and his allies to strike at us and to claim us victoriously, as he drags many souls with him into eternal damnation.

That is why it is important that all of us must stay united and committed to the Lord, Our God, in Whom we believe in. As what St. Paul said to the faithful in Corinth, regardless of whoever it was that evangelised to them, be it Apollos, or Paul, or any other of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, ultimately they were His ministers, tasked with the evangelisation and spreading of the Good News to all the faithful.

What made the people to bicker among themselves and disagree with one another, was likely their pride and refusal to acknowledge that they did not have the fullness of truth, or that others might have a better understanding of the faith that them. But in that process, they forgot that they were serving the Lord and must obey His will. Instead, they were focused on themselves and their own selfish desires, their desires to be praised and followed for their piety.

And the irony is that, in the Gospel passage today, even evil spirits had to acknowledge the Lord as their God and Master. Even they were bound to the Lord, for although they have disobeyed God, but it was an undeniable fact that the Lord is their God and Creator. They had to bend their knee before the Lord, no matter how painful or humiliating that would have been to them.

Unfortunately, it was often us mankind who have not shown our proper deference and respect for God, as we are often too preoccupied with the many concerns and temptations of this world. That is why many of us have ended up losing our faith and our direction in life, that instead of finding our way to God, we become lost in the darkness of this world, the darkness of desire, of pride, of ambition and vanity.

Today, the Church celebrates the life of the holy and renowned saint, St. Teresa of Kolkata. She was remembered fondly in life as Mother Teresa, an Albanian religious who came to India to minister to the poor and the needy in the community, eventually establishing the religious community of the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the care and the need of all those who are the least, the poorest and the smallest in the community, providing them the love and the dignity they deserved.

St. Teresa of Kolkata was remembered for the great love and compassion she showed to all the people, the poorest and the weakest among the people, including all those who were abandoned on the streets and dying. She established a house dedicated to the care of all these sick people and the dying, providing for them the example of true Christian charity and love.

And she was also remembered for her great humility and devotion to God. She spent much time in prayer, and enforced to all of her Missionaries of Charity members to do the same. When she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution and works, she uttered the now famous words of, ‘I am just a pencil in the hands of the Lord’. This phrase summarised her great humility and commitment as God’s servant, entrusting herself completely to what God wanted her to do.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Kolkata and that of many other holy saints, holy men and women who have devoted themselves to God? Are we able to let go of our pride, our desires and resist the temptations of this worldly life? Are we able to turn to the Lord, Our God, with all of our focus, attention and desire to love Him and serve Him wholeheartedly?

May the Lord be with us and may He guide us on our way, that we may truly be able to become true disciples and followers of His, in each and every action we take, and do our best to serve Him with all of our abilities, in complete humility and desire to love Him. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 4 : 38-44

At that time, leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the house of Simon. His mother-in-law was suffering from high fever, and they asked Him to do something for her. Bending over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately, she got up and waited on them.

At sunset, people suffering from many kinds of sickness were brought to Jesus. Laying His hands on each one, He healed them. Demons were driven out, howling as they departed from their victims, “You are the Son of God!” He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, for they knew He was the Messiah.

Jesus left at daybreak and looked for a solitary place. People went out in search of Him, and finding Him, they tried to dissuade Him from leaving. But He said, “I have to go to other towns, to announce the good news of the kingdom of God. That is what I was sent to do.” And Jesus continued to preach in the synagogues of Galilee.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 32 : 12-13, 14-15, 20-21

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.

From where He sits, He watches all those who dwell on the earth – He Who fashions every heart, observes all their deeds.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust in His holy Name.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

1 Corinthians 3 : 1-9

I could not, friends, speak to you as spiritual persons but as fleshly people, for you are still infants in Christ. I gave you milk, and not solid food, for you were not ready for it, and, up to now, you cannot receive it, for you are still of the flesh. As long as there is jealousy and strife, what can I say, but that you are at the level of the flesh, and behave like ordinary people.

While one says : “I follow Paul,” and the other : “I follow Apollos,” what are you, but people still at a human level? For what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are ministers; and through them, you believed, as it was given by the Lord, to each of them. I planted, Apollos watered the plant, but God made it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God, Who makes the plant grow.

The one who plants and the one who waters work to the same end, and the Lord will pay each, according to their work. We are fellow-workers with God, but you are God’s field and building.

Monday, 20 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard from the Scriptures, first beginning with the words and actions of the prophet Ezekiel, who was sent by God to the people of Israel in exile in Babylon, as a sign and warning for them. He showed them through what the Lord had told him to do, how the Israelites have profaned the Holy Temple of God, abandoned His Covenant and disobeyed His Laws, and how this would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel alike.

The Lord has made His Covenant with Israel, promising to bless them and to love them, to protect them and to make them grow into a great nation, but with the agreement that the Israelites would obey the laws and commandments that He has placed before them, which He revealed to them through His servant Moses, and then reminded them many times through His many prophets and messengers.

Yet, the people fell into temptation and refused to obey the laws and commandments which they were supposed to keep. They were swayed by worldly pleasures, of money, of prestige, of power, of human praise, the pleasures of the body and the flesh, that they ended up falling for the traps set by the devil in their midst. They abandoned God and worshipped the pagan idols of their neighbours and followed them in their wicked deeds and lives.

In this event, we see how a people that gave in to the temptations of the world could not remain faithful to the Lord, for they were not able to give their all to God, as their attention and focus were divided and occupied by the worldly desires in their hearts. And that is how, in our Gospel passage today, we also heard of the young man who wanted to follow the Lord and having a great wealth.

In that occasion, the young man said to the Lord that he wanted to know how he could follow Him, stating that he has already followed the laws and commandments as Moses have revealed it to Israel. The young man has obeyed the laws and commandments, and yet, when the Lord asked him to leave behind everything and follow Him wholeheartedly, the young man hesitated and left in sorrow.

Through this interaction between the Lord Jesus and the young, rich man, we can see clearly how our attachments to worldly things such as money, wealth, possessions, glory and fame can prevent us from reaching out to the Lord. These are obstacles that come between us and God, and have become stumbling blocks that make us falter and fall in our journey towards God and His salvation. We must get rid of these obstacles before us.

Today, we celebrate together the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned abbot and religious, a holy and devout servant of God. St. Bernard of Clairvaux founded the Cistercian order following his reform of the Benedictine monastic rules and order. He was remembered for his pious life, and his commitment in combatting heresies and falsehoods rampant in the Church and among the faithful at the time.

There were certain people within the Church who wanted to use the faith to advance their own selfish desires, and that was partly why those heretical teachings and aberrant beliefs proliferated. St. Bernard of Clairvaux dedicated his whole life to the Church, and many souls have been rescued from the precipice of downfall to hell because of his dedication and work.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives filled with commitment and dedication from now on, to love the Lord with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength and might, that we may ever strive to be worthy of God? And let us strive to stay true to the Covenant which He has made with us all. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 20 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 19 : 16-22

At that time, it was then, that a young man approached Him and asked, “Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you ask Me about what is good? One, only, is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.”

The young man said, “Which commandments?” Jesus replied, “Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honour your father and mother. And love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “I have kept all these commandments. What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow Me.” On hearing this, the young man went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Monday, 20 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 32 : 18-19, 20, 21

They have disowned the Rock Who fathered them; they have forgotten the God Who gave them birth. The Lord saw this, and in His anger rejected His sons and daughters.

He said, “I will hide My face from them and see what will become of them. They are so perverse, so unfaithful!”

“They made Me jealous with their false gods and angered Me with their idols. I will, therefore, make them envious of a foolish people, I will provoke them to anger with an empty-headed nation.”