Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the trust and obedience that each and every one of us must have in our lives towards God, our loving Father and Creator, the One Who loves each and every one of us, and by Whose hands we have been brought to freedom from sin, through the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, the people of God, the sons and daughters of Israel were brought out of the land of Egypt by God’s own great power. Those who were saved enjoyed God’s saving power because they obeyed the Lord and His commands, which He made through His servant Moses. They followed the Lord’s instructions, on the Passover and what they ought to do, smearing the blood of the Passover lambs on their house doorposts.

Those who did not do what the Lord has commanded them to do, and refused to believe in the Lord and obey Him, like the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as the latter constantly refused to let the people of Israel go free until the very end, all of these suffered because of their disobedience and stubborn refusal to listen to God. They rejected God’s truth and love, and therefore, received the wrath of God as a result.

In our Gospel passage today, this message was reiterated once again by the Lord Jesus Himself, as He mentioned before His disciples and the people, that all those who do the will of God, His heavenly Father, obey Him and follow His ways, are all those who will be considered as His brothers, His sisters and His mother. This happened when the relatives of the Lord came to see Him, and those were waiting while the Lord was busy teaching the people.

It may seem that the Lord Jesus was being rude in rebuking His own relatives and refusing to acknowledge them in such a public manner before His own disciples and so many of the people. But if we look at it more carefully and understand the context and purpose in which the Lord made that comment, then we will realise that the Lord was making a point, calling on the people to be truly faithful to the Lord.

And it also showed how the Lord would not be limited by the boundaries of societal norms and familial relations, which often caused people to be divided and grouped together, to the exclusion of others. What the Lord has done was to show that God’s love is extended to all the people equally, with no favourites and cliques. All those who has obeyed the Lord and done His will shall be considered as God’s own beloved ones.

That is precisely because of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has assumed our humanity in the flesh, the Divine Son of God Who has willingly taken up our human existence and essence to be His own, that in His person is perfectly united and yet distinct, two natures, fully Divine and fully Man at the same time. Through His humanity, and by His sacrifice on the Cross, He has made a new Covenant between us and God.

And by this Covenant, each and every one of us have been made worthy of adoption by God Himself, to share with Christ and through Him the status as the beloved children of God. But are we willing to be part of this great inheritance? More often than not, we are distracted and prevented from finding our way because of the many temptations present in this world, because of sin.

Today, perhaps, all of us should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Bridget was born into a noble family and was a devoted mother of a large family. She was remembered for her great piety and generosity in helping the poor and the needy, in being generous for all those who were in need.

St. Bridget devoted her life to the Lord, especially after her husband passed away early, and began the foundation of a religious order eventually named after her, the Brigittines, also known as the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, gathering men and women from many backgrounds to dedicate themselves to the Lord in prayer and service in monasteries. She went on a pilgrimage to Rome and stayed on there, performing many more good works throughout the rest of her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the piety and commitment shown by St. Bridget of Sweden should become a great inspiration and example for each one of us to follow, in our own lives, that we may also do the same and may also grow ever closer to God, in our obedience and wilful following of God’s will in each and every single days of our life.

May the Lord continue to guide us all in our journey of life, and may He strengthen us all to live courageously with faith from now on, for the sake of His greater glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 15 : 8-9, 10 and 12, 17

At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, the surging waters stood firm in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, “I will give chase and overtake, I will divide the spoil and make a feast of it. I shall draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.”

A breath of Yours and the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance, the place You chose to dwell in, o YHVH, the sanctuary prepared by Your hands.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 14 : 21 – Exodus 15 : 1a

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant. Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : “I will sing to YHVH, the Glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.”

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 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 words of the Scripture speaking to us about seeking the true treasures of our life. Are we able to discover this true treasure or are we going to be distracted by the other false treasures of this world that do not lead to true happiness and joy? That is what the Scripture passages today hope to remind us all as Christians in how we live our lives in this world today.

In our first reading passage taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, the Apostle recounted the many difficulties and challenges that he had had to experience throughout his missionary journeys to the many places and cities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region. He had to endure the rejection from many people, the suffering of imprisonment and torture, almost losing his life on several occasions and others.

And given a choice, he could have a very different life altogether. For the context, St. Paul himself is of a privileged background at a time when people throughout the Roman Empire were classified into many different social status and groupings, from the lowest of all, the slaves, all the way to the wealthiest and the most privileged among the Roman citizens. St. Paul was not just a highly educated and intelligent person, but he was also a Roman citizen, a rare feat accomplished by one of the Jewish people at that time.

In his early life, as a member of the Pharisees, he had wielded great influence and power as a young zealot going about hunting the early Christians and persecuting all those who believed in the Lord Jesus, and he could have enjoyed such a prestigious life, respected and honoured by the people around him, and enjoying the support and respect of those who were in power at that time to have a good and enjoyable life then.

He could have avoided all the sufferings, pains and difficulties that he had mentioned and instead enjoyed all the good things that the world had to offer, in wealth, in fame, in human glory and praise, in prestige and power, all sorts of things that we mankind often seek in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction in this world. But this was not the path that St. Paul chose to take.

St. Paul instead sought the true treasure that is far more precious and far better than those treasures of the world. For none of the treasures mentioned earlier could last forever, and they were illusory and temporary in nature at best. None of the wealth, fame, glory and praise can bring us true and everlasting happiness, and in fact, if we look throughout our history, we can see so many occasions when all these things brought more sorrow than joy.

Why is that so? That is because we mankind are hard to satisfy, and we are often never satisfied by whatever we already have. We crave for even more of those things we desire, and when our desires collide with that of another, we can cause suffering, pain and unhappiness to others, all because we want to satisfy our own selfish desires for pleasure, joy and happiness in this world.

St. Paul instead sought the true treasure of his life, that is the Lord Himself, the One Who alone can give us true happiness in life. For it is in the Lord alone that we can be made whole again, in our whole existence, the One Who will reward us with true treasures of joy and happiness by our faith in Him. And this promise of true and everlasting joy, of total freedom from the suffering caused by our sins, is what had empowered St. Paul to endure through all the difficult challenges and sufferings he had to endure for so many years.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of another saint, whose life can also be an inspiration and example for us to follow, in how he has dedicated himself to the Lord, in seeking Him as the treasure of his life. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into the noble Italian Gonzaga family and therefore was rightfully going to inherit his family’s position and fortune, title and power, only for him to shun them all by choosing the path of commitment and dedication to God.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s family tried to dissuade him from his chosen path, trying to persuade him to take a better path, or at least a path that would preserve his status and privileges as a noble. However, none of these could dissuade St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who remained firm in his decision to dedicate himself completely to God as a Jesuit. And in the midst of that pursuit, he died as a dedicated and holy servant of God due to a serious epidemic at that time.

The courage and bravery of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in rejecting the privileges and norms of his time for the sake of glorifying God is something that each and every one of us as Christians should be inspired by, in how we ourselves can live our lives faithfully, dedicating ourselves each and every day with ever more commitment and faith from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to guide us in our journey, that we too may have the courage of the saints, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Aloysius Gonzaga amongst many others. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 6 : 19-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not store up treasures for yourself here, on earth, where moth and rust destroy it; and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief come and steal it.

For where your treasures are, there, also, will your heart be. The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, 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, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.