Monday, 5 September 2022 : 23rd 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded to get rid from ourselves all the taints of evil and sin, all the corruptions that came together with the actions and immorality of this world. All of us should not allow those things to distract us from the Lord and our focus on Him. We must resist the temptations of pride and ego and be more humble in our way of life and actions so that we may listen to the Lord and follow Him rather to insist on our own way. We should not harden our hearts and minds but instead be more willing to listen to the Lord and to allow Him to lead us and guide us to the path of truth and grace.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth speaking to us regarding the matter of the attitudes of the faithful people of God, which ought to be free from the evil ways and sins, and how Christians everywhere are called to be holy just as the Lord is holy. We are all called to get rid from ourselves the ‘leaven’ of sin, and purify ourselves in the way of the Lord, dedicating our lives anew in the manner that we have been taught to do through God’s Church. We live in a world that is full of temptations and persuasions, coercions and pressures to acquiesce to the worldly matters and ways just as it was during the time of the Lord and His Apostles.

At that time, St. Paul was exhorting the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth after having heard of the troubles that they were facing, the divisions that they encountered and experienced, the immorality and wickedness that they had indulged in which were scandalous in nature and unbecoming of them as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord and as those who called themselves as His disciples and followers. St. Paul reminded them all to turn away from that path of sin and immorality, and instead embrace the path of God’s truth and love, and His righteousness and grace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord speaking to the people who were listening to Him teaching in the synagogue and also to those Pharisees who were opposed to Him and who were hounding Him, attempting to discredit and to persecute Him for His constant works and efforts during the Sabbath to perform healing miracles and other deeds. The Lord criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who refused to believe in Him, who hardened their hearts against His teachings and words simply because they were dead set on their beliefs and prejudices, and not only that, but they even plotted against Him and did whatever they could to undermine His efforts and works.

That was what made the Lord pointed out the folly of their argument and preferences, their way of observing the Law, and reminded them all that the Law of the Sabbath that God had revealed to His people through Moses was not meant to restrain mankind and not to be understood merely in the letter, but it has to be appreciated and understood wholly in its spirit, which is meant to lead mankind back towards the Lord, that they may all find their way to Him, and be reconciled with Him. Instead, those Pharisees and teachers of the Law indulged in their own preoccupations and prejudices regarding the Law, and made use of them to advance their own interests and wants, their ambitions and desires.

They made it difficult for the people to come towards the Lord and made it seem that following the Lord was something that was hard and impossible. They had forgotten that their role as the shepherds and guides of the people of God was to bring God closer to His people and the people closer to Him, which was exactly what the Lord had done, in reaching out for the suffering and the marginalised, and in putting others’ needs ahead of oneself, rather than what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves often did, in promoting themselves and their positions, their achievements and glory ahead of their responsibilities in leading the people of God towards Him.

Today therefore as Christians, all of us should be inspired by the examples of the Lord Himself, and also of the faith and dedication showed by the renowned St. Teresa of Kolkata, also known as Mother Teresa, who was a religious nun and the founder of the religious order of the Missionaries of Charity. St. Teresa of Kolkata was an Albanian who decided to join religious life and became a missionary sister, sent to India and experienced firsthand the hardships of life and the terrible nature of extreme poverty which happened all around her back then in Calcutta, where slums were aplenty and many people lived in great suffering and many were sick, died without any respect or honour on the streets.

Hence, it was then that St. Teresa of Kolkata was inspired to make a difference to the lives of those who were the least privileged, those who were sick and dying, and all those who had been despised by all others. Beginning with herself, she began to minister to many of the poor in the streets of Kolkata, and despite facing many challenges, doubts and disagreements, both from within and outside the Church, St. Teresa of Kolkata began seeing several impacts and successes, as there were others who followed her examples, and soon, it became the foundation of the Missionaries of Charity. And despite the challenges and trials that St. Teresa of Kolkata and her fellow sisters had to face, she continued to dedicate herself to the Lord and her mission tirelessly.

St. Teresa of Kolkata showed us what true Christian charism and mission is all about, that we ought to put the Lord and others ahead of ourselves, and in reaching out towards our fellow brethren with love and compassion, providing help and assistance whenever and wherever possible. St. Teresa of Kolkata reminded us that as Christians we are all called to be full of love and charity, and that we should show God’s love to our fellow brothers and sisters regardless of who they are, their background or origins. We should love all equally just as the Lord Himself has loved us all equally all these times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore commit ourselves to the Lord and devote ourselves completely to Him from now on, inspired by the examples, the great love, compassion and charity which St. Teresa of Kolkata had shown her fellow brethren. Let us do our best to do what the Lord has commanded us to do, and may the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us, and may He continue to encourage us that we will always remember to do what is worthy in the eyes of the Lord, living our lives full of virtue and grace, and distancing ourselves from the path of pride and ego, of human ambition and worldly desires. May God bless us in our every works and efforts, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 5 September 2022 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 6 : 6-11

At that time, on another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching. There was a man with a paralysed right hand, and the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees watched Him : Would Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to the man, “Get up, and stand in the middle.” Then He spoke to them, “I want to ask you : what is allowed by the Law on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And Jesus looked around at them all.

Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored, becoming as healthy as the other. But they were furious, and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.

Monday, 5 September 2022 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 5 : 5-6, 7, 12

You are not a God Who delights in wickedness; evil has no place in You. The arrogant cannot stand before You. You hate all who do evil.

You destroy all who speak falsehood, who thirst for blood and live on lies; all of them YHVH detests.

But for those who take refuge in You, let them ever sing and rejoice. Let Your deliverance shield them, that they may praise You in gladness – those who love Your Name, o YHVH.

Monday, 5 September 2022 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

1 Corinthians 5 : 1-8

You have become news, with a case of immorality, and such a case, that is not even found among pagans. Yes, one of you has taken, as wife, his own stepmother. And you feel proud! Should you not be in mourning, instead, and expel the one who did such a thing?

For my part, although I am physically absent, my spirit is with you and, as if present, I have already passed sentence on the man who committed such a sin. Let us meet together, you and my spirit, and in the Name of Our Lord Jesus, and with His power, you shall deliver him to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit be saved in the day of Judgment.

This is not the time to praise yourselves. Do you not know that a little yeast makes the whole mass of dough rise? Throw out, then, the old yeast and be new dough. If Christ became our Passover, you should be unleavened bread. Let us celebrate, therefore, the Passover, no longer with old yeast, which is sin and perversity; let us have unleavened bread, that is purity and sincerity.

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all presented with the words of the Lord calling on us to guard ourselves against all sorts of worldly temptations, and in particular today we are called to focus our attention on the sin of the flesh, the desire that we mankind often have for the pleasures of the body, which led us down the path of sin and wickedness as we are often tempted to seek for the worldly pleasures first and ignoring the Lord’s truth and teachings. That is also why many people had ended up being deep in the state of sin, as well as breaking up families and relationships.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people through Ezekiel regarding all that He had done for them, for all the years and ages, throughout all the generations. He had made His Covenant with them, blessed them and gave them and their ancestors much blessing and bounty, providence and help, as He rescued them, took good care of them, guided them, purified and made them clean again when they had erred and fallen into the wrong paths. He rescued them from their enemies and struck their enemies down before them, guarding and strengthening them, giving them glory and joy.

Yet, as we heard the Lord spoke, He showed His frustrations and lamentations at how those same people continued to be wayward, rejecting Him and His ways, choosing instead to forge their own path and committing whatever is wicked in the sight of God and men alike. They worshipped the pagan idols and gods, persecuted God’s prophets and messengers who had been sent to them to guide them and remind them to stay faithful to the truth of God. The people had chosen to trust in their own strength and judgment, turning deaf ear to the Lord’s call. Yet, the Lord was still ever patient and continued to reach out to them nonetheless.

That was what He told the people through Ezekiel, as He presented this truth to the people in exile in Babylon, reminding them that God still loved all of them regardless, and wanted to reach out to them, embracing them with love and forgiving them their sins. He would renew His Covenant with them, which He had always ever been faithful to, all those years, if only the people were willing to listen to Him, hearken to His call and answer Him with faith. The Lord has always been generous with His love, compassion and mercy, and in the end it is really up to those people to embrace what God had generously given and presented to them.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord speaking to the Pharisees with regards to their question whether divorce was lawful or not according to the Law and whether it should be allowed or not. The Lord then highlighted the fact that the Law of God as revealed through Moses had been modified and changed according to the preferences of the people, as even Moses himself was scandalised by the behaviour of the Israelites back then, who hardened their hearts against God and gave them some concessions so as to help them accept the Law of God better, but those concessions ended up making them even more complacent and in the end, misunderstanding the whole purpose and intention of the Law.

And as today we focus on the matter of familial relationship, marriage and also obedience to God, we are all reminded how God had always intended for us to do His will, and each one of us as the Lord highlighted in His words, had our own particular calling and vocation in life. For those who have been called to married life, that bond of marriage as the Lord had defined it, is everlasting and unbreakable, and one who sought to break that bond with the reason other than that is acceptable, such as the desire to marry another person, is essentially committing a sin against God, the sin of adultery for both parties involved.

The Lord highlighted that there are also others called to different calling and purposes in life, such as those who are destined for a life of service to God, and many among them will remain unmarried, and instead dedicating themselves wholly to God and His people. What is important here is that, whatever it is that God has called us to do, in our various vocation and calling in life, each one of us are called to listen to God and to dedicate ourselves more to Him, and to listen to Him earnestly, not hardening our hearts and minds against Him as our predecessors had often done. We should also resist the many temptations present all around us, in the desire and pressure to seek worldly pleasures and satisfaction among other things.

Today, all of us should be inspired by the examples shown by St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was once a mother to several children and was widowed in early age due to her husband’s unfortunate early death, and she dedicated herself to God from then on through charitable works and missions, and she was inspired through an encounter with another saint, St. Francis de Sales. She eventually founded a religious congregation known as the Congregation or Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. All its members are called to live the charism and works of its founder, St. Jane Frances de Chantal who desired to care for the needy and the less fortunate in the community, and they were remembered as the sisters who spent more of their time in mission than cloistered in a monastery.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Jane Frances de Chantal and surely many other saints, holy men and women of God had shown us by their own lives, their dedication and commitment to God, we are all reminded and called to do our best in whatever capacity and opportunity we have been presented with by God, and to be exemplary and source of inspiration ourselves to our fellow brethren, in how we live our lives and in how we seek the Lord with faith, in each and every moments of our daily living. May God be with us all and may He strengthen each one of us with the resolve to live ever more courageously in His path. Amen.

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said : Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Friday, 12 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Ezekiel 16 : 1-15, 60, 63

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem its sins. You say on My behalf : Your beginning was in Canaan; there, you were born. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born, your cord was not cut; you were not bathed in water to make you clean; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you wrapped in cloth.”

“There was no one to look with pity on you; or compassionate enough, to give you any of these attentions. You were left, exposed, in the open fields; because you were looked upon with disgust, on the day you were born. But I passed by; and saw you, immersed in your blood. I said to you, in the midst of your blood, ‘Live!’”

“I made you grow, like a plant of the field. You grew up and became tall; and were becoming of marriageable age. Your breasts were formed and your hair had grown; but you were naked and exposed. I passed by later, and saw, you were at the age of love; and spread part of My garment over you, to cover your nudity. I made a Covenant with you with an oath – word of YHVH – and you were Mine.”

“Then I bathed you in water; I cleansed you of your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with embroidered cloth and put soft leather sandals on your feet. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with jewelry, putting bracelets on your arms, a necklace around your neck and a ring in your nose. I gave you earrings and a magnificent crown for your head.”

“You were adorned with gold and silver; your clothing was fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You were fed on finest flour, honey and oil; you became very beautiful and rose to be queen. Your beauty was perfect; and your renown spread through the nations, because of the splendour I had given you – word of YHVH.”

“But you relied on your beauty; you trusted in your fame; and you began to give yourself to every passerby, like a prostitute. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 16 : 59-63

For thus says YHVH : “I will treat you as you deserve; you, who despised the oath and broke the Covenant. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant. You will be mindful of your ways and be ashamed, when I take your sisters, both the elder and the younger; and give them to you as daughters, without prejudice to My Covenant with you.”

“For I will uphold My Covenant with you; and you will know that I am YHVH, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Saturday, 23 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded by the words of the Scriptures to rend and discard from ourselves all the traces of sin and evil, of all wickedness and the disobedience we have against God. Today through the words of the prophet Jeremiah and the Lord Jesus Himself, all of us are called to seek what is holy and good, worthy of God and get rid from ourselves the attachments to worldly desires and sins, of all things that kept us away from God and His path. The Lord is calling us to return to Him with righteousness and true love, devotion and commitment to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah of the moment when Jeremiah embarked on his mission to preach the words of the Lord to the people of the kingdom of Judah, which he had been sent to. The people of Judah and their kings and leaders had long disobeyed the Lord and turned back into the path of sin, evil and wickedness, and for that, Jeremiah told them all that they would pay the consequences for their disobedience and sins, but yet at the same time, God still loved His people and wanted to show them His mercy, to forgive them and be reconciled with them.

The Lord called the people to change their ways of life, to abandon their false and pagan gods and idols, all those that had mislead them in the wrong path, and to leave behind their wicked deeds and all their past transgressions. He reminded them of what they ought be doing as His followers and people, to purify themselves and to follow Him once again with faith, to glorify His Name by their deeds, to honour once again the Law of God and all that God has placed in their midst to guide and help them in their journey. The prophet Jeremiah called on them all to atone for their sins and to enter once again into Covenant with God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and followers with the parable of the sower of seeds of wheat and the weeds that were sown by the enemy of the sower. Using that parable, the Lord showed how the wheat represents everything good that God had sown in us, with the sower representing God Himself. The enemy on the other hand represents the devil and all of his wicked forces bent on seeing our destruction. The weeds therefore represent the temptations of desire, greed, pride and the many sins that they had sown in us, and in trying to steer us away from the path towards salvation into the path towards damnation instead.

That is why, when the parable stated that the sower did not tell his servants to remove the weeds right away, it can be interpreted in two ways. First, it is representative of how there are both good and bad things within each one of us, and in the end, we will be judged by our good and bad deeds, and those who are found worthy shall enjoy eternal life and true happiness with God, while those who are found lacking in faith and unworthy will be consigned to an eternity of suffering and punishment, all because of their own conscious choice to reject God and to abandon His ways, just as the people of God had often done in the past.

Then another interpretation is that, the wheat represents the righteous while the weed represents those who are wicked, all of whom are living in this world, represented by the field. If we continue to disobey God and refuse to repent from our sinful ways, then we are like the weeds which will be collected in the end and thrown into the fire. Instead, all of us are reminded and called to follow the Lord, to be like the wheat, by our righteous life and actions, by our commitment and obedience to God’s will. We have that choice to make, whether we want to be faithful to God or whether we prefer to walk our own path, which likely leads us down the path of destruction.

Today, we should therefore look upon the good examples set before us by St. Bridget of Sweden, a great and holy woman, faithful servant of God whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bridget of Sweden was a renowned mystic and religious, who became a lady-in-waiting for the Queen of Sweden, while being renowned for her many charitable works and activities, in her care for the poor and the needy. After her husband’s passing, her continued desire to serve the sick and the poor inspired her to establish a religious order, which would later on be known after her as the Bridgettines. They were all committed to the care of the sick and the poor in the community.

St. Bridget was known for her pilgrimages across Christendom, partly because of the need for her to validate the foundation of her religious order. Throughout those pilgrimages, she continued to minister to the poor and the sick, even in the midst of the Black Death pandemic that was raging back then. When she was in Rome where she remained until her passing, she continued her many good works, which made her well-remembered by the people, who were touched by her generosity, love and kindness. All of us should also be similarly inspired by the faith and love that St. Bridget had shown, in following the Lord and His commandments.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our path in faith, and may He give us the strength and courage to remain firm in our conviction and commitment to serve Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the inspiration from St. Bridget of Sweden empower us all to walk ever more faithfully in God’s path and may all of us be ever more zealous and dedicated in all things, in being the wheat that is truly worthy of the Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 23 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”