Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the key message and the gist of today’s Scripture readings is really very simple, and yet it is at the same time, something very important for us all to take note of, as disciples and followers of our Lord. And that is the value and virtue of humility, and of rejecting pride and hubris, understanding that we mankind are not greater than God and His authority.

In order to understand fully the meaning and nuances behind what transpired between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, we have to appreciate and be able to understand the history of how it came to be as what it was like at the time of Jesus. By that time, the Jewish people, the descendants of Israel had had the Law revealed to them for over a thousand years, with many generations of peoples passing down the Law of God from mouth to mouth.

God made it clear in the beginning that He created mankind because of His love for all that He had created, and the greatest of which He reserved for us, the most perfect and beloved of all His creations, created in His very own Image. And because of that love, He has endeavoured to forgive them and rescue them from their own downfall, that is sin. Sin has entered into the hearts of men because of disobedience, and the reward for sin is death.

But God did not want such a fate for those whom He had intended to give His love to, and for the ones whom He had cared for, certainly He did not desire for them to perish, but to live and to rejoice together with Him. That was why He sent His messengers and servants among His people, to call them to repentance and to turn themselves to the loving and caring hands of the Lord, that He might take them up and bless them once more.

To that extent also, therefore, God sent Moses to rescue His people from their suffering and tribulation in the land of Egypt. They went out with the guidance from God’s own mighty Hand, and He showed His might before them. And in order to seal the promise He had made with them, He sealed it with the Covenant which He established through the Law that He passed down to Moses His servant, that His people would observe them forever.

These laws and commandments are love, brothers and sisters in Christ. If we read through the Ten Commandments, love the Lord your God and have no idols or false gods before Him, honouring His holy Name and the day of the Lord, all these speak of how we ought to have that love and dedication for God, just in the same manner as God has loved us first.

And the other commandments, exhorting us not to kill, not to steal, honouring one’s mother and father, all are speaking about how we ought then to show the same love we have shown to the Lord, in how we also love our brethren, our neighbours around us. This is what the Lord wanted from us all mankind, His beloved people, that we have love in us, His love, that we may love Him just as much as we have been loved by Him.

Yet, unfortunately, due to the obstinance and the rebelliousness of the people, they disagreed and doubted many times about the Lord, so much so that in order to keep them in check and to help ensure that they are able to restrain their negative desires and traits, God helped them by giving them rules and regulations to help them to manage themselves, that after having disciplined themselves, then they would be better able to find themselves on the right track towards the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, over time, the people of God forgot the intention of God why He established those rules and regulations in the first place. And as the Law was often transmitted from mouth to ear, and then from one to another again, over time, there were many misunderstandings and things that they had added into the laws, which then the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law zealously defended and imposed on the people.

These people saw themselves as superior to others, and they revelled in their pride knowing about their esteemed position and supposed greater piety and honour in the society, something which St. Paul clearly warned against in today’s First Reading, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth. He warned them about human pride and hubris, greed and desire for power which could easily takeover us mankind, and make us not faithful servants of the Lord, but instead as wayward people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians we should learn to be more like king David, whom Jesus mentioned in His words in the Gospel today. When his men were hungry, the king David cared for them and found food for them in the Temple of God, that they might be sustained and not suffer from hunger. That is the kind of love which our Lord also expects from each and every one of us, that we do not overlook the sufferings of others, or worse, by imposing our views and opinions on others.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were fixated on the wrong things. They were so blinded by their blind obedience to the laws of Moses, which was serious misunderstanding of the true intention of the Law of God, that is love. Instead of bringing mankind to love God more, they were making those people to fear Him, as the excessive obligations and rules ended up burdening the people, especially all those seeking to repent and to turn over a new leaf.

Rather, we should learn to be true disciples of our Lord, by not just having empty faith, but also through active participation and commitment of our loving works and deeds, that we show love in all that we do, in all that we say, and after all these, in not claiming the credit for ourselves, or be proud of our achievements and deeds, for all these we have done, all for the sake of the greater glory of our God.

Today we also commemorate the feast of the great and renowned Pope, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was well known for his great devotion to God, in his efforts to live a truly Christian life. Even though he had been elected to such an important role and position in the Christian world, but he remained humble and was very dedicated to the mission which he had been entrusted with by the Lord.

Pope St. Gregory the Great helped to reform the Church and the lives of the faithful, bringing greater discipline to the Church and to help the people of God to learn how to live as a faithful disciple and follower of the Lord. He helped the poor and the weak in his areas of jurisdiction, improving the livelihood of those who once lived in squalor and filth, showing genuine Christian love to everyone who saw him.

And he also sent many missions to convert many Pagans and all those who still lived in the ignorance of the salvation of God, that through these courageous missionaries, the word of God, that is the love I have mentioned earlier, the desire of the Lord to have all of His beloved children to return to Him, may reach all the ends of the earth, and as many souls as possible could be saved.

In his short earthly life, we can already see how he embodied what we Christians have to do, and how we ought to do it. Can we all devote ourselves to God and to our fellow brethren in the same way that Pope St. Gregory the Great and many of the other holy saints had done, brethren? Are we able to commit ourselves to the Lord fully and wholly without being distracted by the temptations of worldliness, power and all others?

Let us all pray now, brethren, that we may be given the gift to discern carefully how we are to do our actions in life, that wherever we are, we will always be ready to show love where it is needed, to care for the life and wellbeing of others when they were under threat, and to stand up for our needy and poor fellow men who were unjustly oppressed. May God help us in these endeavours, and may He keep us all always in His everlasting grace. Amen.

Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through the corn fields, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the sabbath.”

Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 144 : 17-18, 19-20, 21

Righteous is the Lord in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

He fulfils the wish of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. For those who love Him, the Lord has compassion; but the wicked, He will destroy.

Let my mouth speak in praise of the Lord, let every creature bless His holy Name, forever and ever.

Saturday, 3 September 2016 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White



1 Corinthians 4 : 6b-15

Learn by this example not to believe yourselves superior by siding with one against the other. How then are you more than the others? What have you that you have not received? And if you received it, why are you proud, as if you did not receive it?

So, then, you are already rich and satisfied, and feel like kings without us! I wish you really were kings, so that we might enjoy the kingship with you! It seems to me that God has placed us, the Apostles, in the last place, as if condemned to death, and as spectacles for the whole world, for the Angels as well as for mortals.

We are fools for Christ, while you show forth the wisdom of Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are honoured, while we are despised. Until now we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and badly treated, while moving from place to place.

We labour, working with our hands. People insult us and we bless them, they persecute us and we endure everything; they speak evil against us, and ours are works of peace. We have become like the scum of the earth, like the garbage of humankind until now.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn you as very dear children. Because even though you may have ten thousand guardians in the Christian life, you have only one father; and it was I who gave you life in Christ through the Gospel.

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the sending of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom the Lord Himself entrusted the mission to evangelise and to preach the Good News of His salvation. To them the authority had been given to bring peace and the grace of God to mankind, to all the people who are willing to welcome the peace and grace of God.

In the first reading, taken from the last chapters of the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God promised His people with hope and salvation, at a time when many periods of turmoil and suffering had occurred to them for many generations because of their own infidelity and lack of faith in God, following the pagan gods and idols rather than following the Lord their God. The northern kingdom of Israel had also fallen, and most of its people had been brought to slavery and exile in Assyria.

In those darkened and uncertain times, God had promised His mercy and peace, the rest that they would enjoy from all those things that troubled them. But at the same time, as what we heard in the Gospel today, there was a need for those who would come up and bring the word of God to the people and the masses. And only a few of them would dare to come up and to preach to the people of God, the likes of Isaiah himself, and later on Jeremiah.

If we read through the entirety of the book of the prophet Isaiah and especially later on the prophet Jeremiah, we would see how they encountered challenges after challenges in their work, and they certainly did not have it easy most of the time. The kings like Ahaz of Judah rejected Isaiah, and the later kings also rejected Jeremiah. The people refused to listen to them, and false prophets would rise to challenge Jeremiah, spreading lies and untruths, and making Jeremiah’s life very difficult.

That was why Jesus when He spoke to His seventy-two disciples whom He sent ahead of Him, spoke of how He was sending them like sheep among the wolves. They would really be wandering among those who might refuse to listen to the word of God. Some would turn themselves to God, open their hearts and follow Him, but many others would not do so, reject their message and even persecute them.

But God was with them, and He encouraged them, saying that He would be with them, and so long as they remained faithful, their names had been written in heaven, and thus the promise of eternal life and everlasting glory was already theirs. Yet, there is always a lack of faithful servants of the Lord due to various reasons, but especially because of the lack of the ability to commit to a life of suffering and difficulties that would come as a result of our faith in the Lord.

That is why Jesus said that while the harvest was plentiful, but the labourers are few, and those few labourers would not be able to fully engage and capitalise on the rich harvest, and the excess harvest will just be wasted. And this fact cannot be further than the truth today. There is a need for many more labourers and servants of the Lord, those who are willing to give up their time and effort for the sake of the Lord and for His Church.

Today, we celebrate also the feast of one of the Twelve holy Apostles, that is of St. Thomas, the Twin, also known as the doubter and the one who has always been doubtful and lacking in faith in Jesus, and to that end, even doubting that Christ had risen from the dead in His glorious resurrection. He doubted Jesus when He was going forth to Jerusalem, saying that they were all going to die together with Him. And of course all of us are aware that he also asked for a proof that Jesus had risen.

In some ways, the actions and behaviours of St. Thomas represent that of our own actions. We ourselves have not been completely faithful to the Lord, and we have our moments of doubt. There are times I am sure, when we tend to believe more in ourselves and less in God. There are also times when we think that we know it all, and we do not need God. And it is in those moments of vulnerability, when Satan can enter our hearts and sow the seeds of confusion and discord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is also the reason why many of us do not embrace the calling of God. We as Christians have been called to be His servants and to follow His ways in all things, and yet, many of us still commit actions and things that are contrary to the way of the Lord, in being selfish, in being uncaring and unloving towards others, and sometimes even bringing other people into sin through our own actions.

If we ourselves are not capable of fulfilling what is required of us as Christians, then how should we expect that we will be able to convert the whole world to the cause of the Lord? And that is precisely the mission which God had entrusted to all of us, as the members of His Church, to go forth to all the nations and preach the Good News of His salvation, and baptise them all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

We have to start with ourselves, and make a difference from ourselves. Otherwise we will not be able to inspire others if we ourselves have not been faithful to God and righteous in our ways. God Himself will not look kindly upon us if we do not walk faithfully in His ways, if we just call ourselves Christians and yet we act in ways that are totally un-Christian in nature.

There is that challenge for us all Christians, particularly those among us who have been called to serve the Lord. God calls His servants in unique and mysterious ways. He called them through their hearts, prodding them up to take up their crosses and follow Him. He had chosen those whom He deemed to be worthy, and now it is up to those whom God had chosen to choose whether they want to follow Him or not.

But the voice of God is often muffled and silenced by the noise of this world. We are too busy, too distracted by the concerns of the world, by the concerns of power, of wealth and possessions, of the ambitions and human greed, of prestige and many other factors which affect our ability to devote ourselves to God and to His people. And the opposition from the society, even from within our own families will be great too.

Are we all ready to stand up against the challenge? Are we all ready to embrace the roles into which we have been entrusted by God? Let us all embrace our calling, be doubtful no longer but from now on be filled with courage and strength to embark on the way of the Lord. And for those among us whom God has called in His own subtle ways, let us all not be afraid but be fully dedicated and be committed to serve the Lord, carry our crosses and follow Him. St . Thomas himself, who was doubtful, eventually made a turnaround and devoted himself for the Lord with all of his heart and faced death with pride, defending his Lord and Master while bringing many nations to God’s presence.

May God bless us all, and may He put in each and every one of us, a loving heart, fully filled with love for Him and for our fellow men, that in everything we say and do, we will always bring greater glory to the Lord, our God. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 10 : 1-12, 17-20

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest.”

“Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ But in any town where you are not welcome, go to the marketplace and proclaim : ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off and leave with you. But know for a certainty that the kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ I tell you, that on the Day of Judgment it will be better for Sodom than for this town.”

The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on Your Name.” Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you.”

“Nonetheless, do not rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 10 : 1-9

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest.”

“Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.'”

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Galatians 6 : 14-18

For me, I do not wish to take pride in anything except in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord. Through Him the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. Let us no longer speak of the circumcised and of non-Jews, but of a new creation. Let those who live according to this rule receive peace and mercy : they are the Israel of God!

Let no one trouble me any longer : for my part, I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. May the grace of Christ Jesus our Lord be with your spirit brothers and sisters. Amen.