Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the prophet Elijah being taken up into heaven, which we have also heard yesterday in the account taken from the Book of Kings. Today it is the prophet Sirach’s recollection of the events surrounding the last moments of the prophet Elijah on earth, before he was taken up on a flaming chariot into heaven.

The many works of the prophet Elijah was highlighted, how he had faced up even the powerful but wicked kings of Israel, Ahab and his sons, and his wife, Jezebel. He had to face many difficulties and challenges throughout his journey and mission, and he had to flee into the desert for the safety of his life. But God was with him, and he was well taken care of in the desert, and in the hands of the widow of Zarephath.

Yet, as mentioned by the prophet Sirach, despite the many successes Elijah had performed, in how he helped to bring down the wicked kings of Israel of the house of Ahab, and also ended the threat of foreign nations on Israel, and in anointing his successor, Elisha, to carry on his works, but many of the people of God still remained in sin and rebellion against God.

That is why the Lord sent His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to bring into the world the completion of the works which He has begun in His prophets and messengers. He delivered into the world the message of love from His Father, and then, in today’s Gospel passage, we heard of Him teaching the disciples and the people how to pray to God, in the Lord’s Prayer.

We may be wondering what is the significance of the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples to our first reading and also to our own daily lives. However, first of all, we must understand and realise that prayer is central to all Christians’ life. Without prayer, and meaningful prayer that is, our Christian faith and life is likely empty and meaningless. This is what many of us have failed to realise.

That is because we do not truly understand what prayer is. Prayer is not just series of words and supplications, litanies of words to be uttered and said in churches and in our own homes. If we do not mean what we say in our prayers, and if we do not understand prayer and how we can use it appropriately, then we will end up having faith like the Israelites during the time of Elijah, and the faith of the Pharisees.

The Lord’s Prayer shows us what true prayer is all about. First of all, a prayer is a means of communication between us and God, where we open ourselves, our hearts and minds to God speaking to us, just as we also speak to Him. And prayer is not about making demands to God, as what we often would have done. Instead, it is about thanking God and praising Him for all that He has done for us, in times of good and in bad times.

Prayer is also about knowing what God wants us to do in our lives, by listening to His will being spoken in the depth and the silence of our hearts and minds. But too often, we are too preoccupied and busied by the many concerns and worldly things we have in life, in our career, pursuit for money, wealth, power, fame, influence and others, that we have not been able to listen to God speaking to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in that case, let us all follow the examples set by a holy servant of God, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born as the eldest son in the influential Gonzaga family, where he was destined to inherit his father’s great wealth and influence. He was brought up with the best training and education to be successful in the world.

However, he experienced many of the excesses and wickedness of the Renaissance era lifestyle, and went through a conversion experience to the faith, especially under the guidance of St. Charles Borromeo, then Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. He went through a life of prayer and chastity, and desired even to become a priest and missionary. His father in particular was furious at the decision taken up by St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

But St. Aloysius Gonzaga eventually had his way, and renouncing all worldly titles, inheritance and rights, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and began his study to become a Jesuit. He was well known for his great piety and asceticism, and his prayerful life was an inspiration to many others in the community. And one day, when a deadly epidemic came to the city, St. Aloysius Gonzaga insisted to help out with the victims, and he fell sick from the epidemic, and died at a young age.

Yet, as we can see, St. Aloysius Gonzaga has shown us what being a true Christian is all about. He gave up everything for God, and followed God’s calling in his life. He devoted himself through deep and living prayer life, and loved his fellow men, caring for others who were sick and dying, at the cost of his own life. He should be our inspiration, brothers and sisters, in how we should live our own lives.

Now, let us pray, that God will continue to inflame in us the love for Him, and the sincere and strong faith, just as what St. Aloysius Gonzaga has shown in his own life. Let us all devote ourselves more faithfully to the Lord from now on, and turn towards Him with all our hearts, minds and love Him with all our might. Amen.

Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

Fire goes before Him, burning His foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth watches and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

Shame on worshippers of idols, on those proud of their worthless images. Let all spirits bow before Him.

Thursday, 21 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Sirach 48 : 1-15 (Greek Septuagint – Sirach 48 : 1-14)

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? By the word of the Most High you brought a dead man back to life; you brought kings to destruction and thrust famous men from their beds. You heard a rebuke at Sinai and sentences of punishment at Horeb; you anointed kings to be avengers and prophets to succeed you.

You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live. Such was Elijah, taken up in a whirlwind, and Elisha was filled with his spirit. During his life no leader could shake him, no one dominated him. Nothing was too difficult for him and even in death his body prophesied. In life he worked wonders, in death his deeds were amazing.

Despite all this, the people were not converted and did not turn away from sin; not until they were deported far from their country and scattered over the earth.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord wants to remind us through the Sacred Scriptures, that the way for us to take if we want to be faithful and committed disciples of His, is for us to embrace humility, to be steeped in faith and love, and to be devoted wholeheartedly to God. We should not be tempted by the many temptations of power and worldly glory.

There are indeed numerous ways by which the devil is trying very hard, in order to bring about our downfall. One way is through the temptation of worldly riches, glory and power. In the first reading today, from the Epistle of St. James, we heard how we crave and desire for things, that even lead to us hurting one another, or even leading to murder and killing.

That is the extent in which we are ready to go, in order to satisfy what we want, to fulfil our desires and to please ourselves, our physical bodies in particular. We bicker without end and strive to gain more things and more pleasures for ourselves, as we cannot be satisfied easily, and our desires will only end up growing more and more, and our ego also end up getting more and more bloated.

And the more we are influenced by our desires, pride and ego, the more likely we will end up hurting and causing harm to others around us. The Lord Jesus rebuked His disciples for precisely this reason, as they were bickering and fighting among themselves for favour and influence in the Lord’s inner circle. They were fighting over who should be the greatest among His disciples, and hence, the greatest in the kingdom of God to come.

But they did not realise that all sorts of worldly power, grandeur, fame, greatness, influence and indulgences are nothing and meaningless in God’s sight. God does not seek or value all these fleeting things, which are merely temporary and which are perishable. None of those things will last forever, and we will not have them with us forever. Instead, the Lord called upon us all to follow His way, that is, to be like little children in our faith.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord Jesus alluded to the children and why we need to be like them in our faith, as those children, at that age, are still innocent, and they will believe with a pure heart, without the taint of ambition, ego, desire, pride and greed. Unlike many of us, we have been tempted with the temptations of power, of fame, of glory, of wealth and all sorts of things that distract us from our faith in God.

Thus, we are all called to resist the temptations of the world, and to believe in God wholeheartedly as a child would have. We should listen to the Lord and purge from ourselves, all sorts of pride and ambition, and all sorts of greed and desire, indulgement in which is unbecoming for us all as Christians. Instead, we are called to a holier life, based on active faith and devotion to God.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a faithful and devout woman, and a dedicated religious, who have given her entire life to the service of the Lord in prayer. St. Rita of Cascia was a prayerful and dedicated woman and mother, who loved her family greatly, and having encountered tragedy in the family, as her husband was assassinated by a rival family, she remained resolute in her faith and commitment to her family.

Her sons wanted to have a revenge at those who have murdered their father. However, St. Rita of Cascia strongly dissuaded them from doing so, with words of love, care and compassion. And when they were at risk of committing sin because of their impulsiveness and desire for vengeance, she prayed to God, asking Him to take them away from this world, rather than to have them commit sin and then fall into hell. Her prayers were heard in the end.

After her family’s passing, she dedicated herself further to the Lord by joining a convent, as a religious woman dedicated to a life of prayer and service to God. St. Rita of Cascia showed such an exemplary life and faith, that she was eventually raised to the Altar as a saint after her passing, and she continued to inspire many generations of the faithful up to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should reflect on the examples that the faithful St. Rita of Cascia had shown us. Let us all then seek to live a good and devout Christian life, that we endeavour to gain for ourselves, not for the glories and the goodness of this world, that is wealth, fame, pleasures of the body, and all sorts of temptations we often encounter in life, but instead, know how to seek God, and place Him at the very centre of our lives. May the Lord be with us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 54 : 7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23

I said, “If I had wings, like a dove, I would fly away and be at rest; I would seek a home in the desert.”

“I would hurry to find a cave, for shelter from the tempest.” O YHVH, shatter their plans.

In the city, I see strife and violence; day and night, they prowl about its walls.

Place your burden on YHVH, and He will sustain you; for He never allows the upright to fall.