Thursday, 4 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to put our trust in the Lord and be faithful to Him, be righteous and good in all of our ways, that as Christians we may indeed be true to our faith. We should not allow ourselves be tempted by the temptations of worldly power, wealth and other desires that are often great obstacles preventing us from truly being faithful to the Lord.

In our first reading today we heard the book of the prophet Jeremiah, in which the prophet spoke of God’s words on how those who put their trust in Him would not be disappointed, as He Who is always ever faithful to His promises and to the Covenant He had made with us will be faithful to us and will not forget what He has promised to us. We shall receive the fullness of His blessings and graces.

However, those who reject the Lord and refuse to follow Him, those who chose to trust in their own power and in the backing of the world, all of them would regret their choice as they would not be able to find true joy and assurance, as whatever that they had gathered and depended on, could be taken away just at any moment, and none of those would be lasting in any case.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard of a related story, that of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man as told by the Lord to His disciples. The rich man was truly living a good and comfortable life, revelling in his wealth and glory, his good and fortunate life, while Lazarus the poor beggar was waiting by his doorstep daily, hoping to get even scraps of food from the table, and yet nobody gave anything to him.

When both Lazarus and the rich man died not long one after the other, the former went to heaven by the side of Abraham, the father of the Israelites and many nations, while the rich man was condemned to hellfire. By then, it was too late for the rich man who constantly suffer for eternity the consequences of his sins and his lack of compassion for Lazarus, even when he was perfectly in the position to have helped.

This is a reminder to all of us that in this life all of us are called to be filled with love and compassion to one another, to be genuine Christians in deed and action, and not just merely formality and in words alone. We must not forget that to be faithful we must not only do what is good for ourselves, but also for others, in being charitable and generous in giving towards others who are in need.

Sin is not only just sins of action, but also including those sins due to our failure to act, namely the sins of omission. The rich man was in the perfect position to help Lazarus, to show him compassion, mercy and love, and even the slightest act could have made Lazarus’ life and condition in his life to be so much better. But he did not do so, and as a result, suffer the eternal damnation in hell for his lack of compassion and action.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be reminded of these and endeavour to take action during the time and opportunity given to us in this season of Lent, to be more Christ-like in our actions, to be more generous in giving and to be more faithful and dedicated to the Lord. We are all called to make good use of the time God has given us, the talents and blessings He has given us, for the benefit of one another.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Casimir, a great saint whose actions in life can also be inspiration to each and every one of us. St. Casimir was the royal prince of Poland, who was renowned for his great piety, compassion for the poor and those who were suffering. And although he was born into the great nobility, among the highest ranked ones in that class as a royal prince, but that did not make him to be proud or to boast of himself.

On the other hand, he humbled himself and dedicated himself to the care of his people, to those whom he encountered, serving the sick and the poor, showing love and compassion for those who needed them most before dying at a relatively young age from tuberculosis. His great work and contributions, love and generosity still inspire many people even to this very day, calling on more and more Christians to be more like our Lord Jesus in His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore do our very best to offer our lives for the greater glory of God. May the Lord guide us in our journey of faith and with our actions through life, so that we may draw ever closer to Him and be found worthy to be His disciples and as those who share in His glorious inheritance. Amen.

Thursday, 4 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Thursday, 4 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 4 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 17 : 5-10

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness.”

“Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.”

“Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, YHVH, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.”

Sunday, 1 November 2020 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listen to the beginning of the story of Job, as we heard how that servant of God suffered under the attacks of Satan, who wanted to tempt him to abandon God out of despair and suffering. Satan said to God that Job’s faith was only strong because he was so blessed and protected by God, and should he lose them all, then he would surely abandon God and curse Him.

That was why Satan struck at Job and took away everything he had, his large family and his immense possessions, only sparing his life because God expressly forbid him from touching his life. And certainly, to Satan’s amazement, Job remained faithful, even when Satan stepped up his attacks on him and caused terrible and painful boils to appear throughout his entire body.

Job remained firm in his faith, and even though he suffered and even despaired at times, as the whole Book of Job essentially detailed out this struggle he had, especially when his close associates came to him and instead of consoling him, argued that Job must have sinned and disobeyed God to suffer such a terrible fate. Yet, even with all of these, Job remained faithful, and God, after revealing the truth about it all, blessed Job twice and more as much as he had been blessed before all the misfortune.

There were those who argued that the character Job was not really real, but rather an allegory and representation of the suffering servant of God, and how that servant persevered even through the trials and difficulties that came their way. But regardless whether Job was real or not, the fact remains that it was a reminder for each and every one of us to keep our faith in God and that despite all sufferings endured in faith, God does not forget us and will provide for us in the end, just as He did with Job.

In our Gospel today then we heard about the Lord and His disciples as they encountered some children and the Lord welcomed them warmly, and saying that unless they welcomed those children the way that He had called them and welcomed them, they would have no part in Him. And as His followers they also ought to be humble and make themselves small and insignificant, not to boast of their own might and power.

And the Lord also told His disciples not to stop another person who used His Name to do the same work as they had done, casting out demons and performing good works of healing. Through this, God wants us to know that all of us do not work for our own personal glory, or the glory of our own group or particular communities to the exclusion of others. All that is done is for the greater glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore we have been reminded to be faithful disciples and followers of Our Lord, dedicating our time and efforts to walk in His path and to proclaim His truth and Good News in our respective communities, to do this humbly and dedicate ourselves for the glory of God, at all times. This is what we have been called to do as Christians with our lives.

And today, we should look upon the examples of St. Wenceslaus, as well as St. Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions, the Holy Martyrs of Japan. St. Wenceslaus was the Duke of Bohemia who reigned wisely and was beloved by many of his subjects, and who was instrumental in strengthening the Christian faith which at that time was still contending against the pagan beliefs of the people in Bohemia. St. Wenceslaus faced opposition from some among the nobles who supported the pagan cause.

St. Wenceslaus helped to build the strong foundation in a country that had been converted to the Christian faith just not long before, and he established not just good governance but also a strong and enduring Christian hierarchy and establishment. For all these, some among the nobles resented him, his reforms and efforts, and in complicit with St. Wenceslaus’ brother, they killed St. Wenceslaus who therefore died a martyr to his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz, also known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, was a Filipino young man who had a good early life, was married and worked for the Spanish administration, before one day he was falsely accused of the murder of a Spaniard, something that is considered a capital offence back then, and which caused St. Lorenzo Ruiz to seek asylum with several priests who were on their way to Japan.

Unfortunately, at that time, Japan has already closed its borders to Christian missionaries, and the Tokugawa Shogunate then had arrested many Christian missionaries and converts, forcing many of them to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain faithful and suffer a most painful death. That same fate was encountered by St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the others who were to suffer martyrdom with him. Together they were brought to Nishizaka Hill and as with St. Paul Miki and his companions forty years earlier, they were tortured, and died of martyrdom.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz and many of his companions died faithfully defending their faith, and although they might have suffered so much, but through their faith, they certainly receive eternal glory from God, the crown of everlasting life they had earned through martyrdom. The same is the also the case for St. Wenceslaus, and is reminiscent of what Job had experienced, after all of his sufferings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore we are all reminded that we need to realise how being Christians may bring us difficulties, trials and challenges, and along this journey, we may even be tempted again and again to give up and to abandon this faith. But we must not lose faith, brothers and sisters! We must remain firm in faith and look forward beyond all the obstacles, and realise that in the end of it all, there will be great things awaiting us, true happiness and glory that is in God alone.

May the Lord help us and guide us in this journey of faith, just as He has strengthened Job, St. Wenceslaus, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions, and many other saints and martyrs, all those who dedicated their lives to God, so that we may also be strong in our faith and dedication. May He bless our good endeavours and works, all for His greater glory, in each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 46-50

At that time, one day, the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He took a little child and stood him by His side. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me. And listen : the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John spoke up, “Master, we saw someone who drives out demons by calling upon Your Name, and we tried to forbid him, because he does not follow You with us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him. He who is not against you is for you.”

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Job 1 : 6-22

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before YHVH, and Satan came with them. YHVH asked Satan, “Where have you been?” Satan answered, “Going up and down the earth, roaming about.”

YHVH asked again, “Have you noticed My servant Job? No one on earth is as blameless and upright as he, a man who fears God and avoids evil.” But Satan returned the question, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not built a protective wall around him and his family and all his possessions? You have blessed and prospered him, with his livestock all over the land. But stretch out Your hand and strike where his riches are, and I bet he will curse You to Your face.”

YHVH said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power. But do not lay a finger upon the man himself.” So Satan left the presence of YHVH. One day, while his sons and daughters were feasting in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said, “Your oxen were plowing, and your donkeys were grazing nearby when the Sabaeans came and carried them off. They killed the herdsmen. I alone escaped to tell you.”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came, “God’s fire fell from the sky and burnt all your sheep and the shepherds as well. I alone have escaped to tell you.” He had hardly finished speaking when another messenger arrived, “Three raiding teams of Chaldeans have killed your servants and carried off your camels. I alone have escaped to tell you.”

He was still speaking when another messenger came and said to Job, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking in the house of their eldest brother when suddenly a great wind blew across the desert and struck the house. It collapsed on the young people and they all died. I alone have escaped to tell you.”

In grief Job tore his clothes and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshipped, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return. YHVH gave, YHVH has taken away. Blessed be His Name!”

In spite of this calamity, Job did not sin by blaspheming God.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, from the first reading in which we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, we heard of the words of anguish spoken by the prophet on behalf of the people highlighting their frustrations and desperation seeing how those who were righteous and faithful suffered and endured bitter trials while those who were wicked seemingly managed to live on without harm or trouble.

But the Lord reassured His people and told them that He will never abandon them no matter what, and that everything will happen as it has been deemed by God, and everything will happen in due time. When we think that why is it that those who were wicked rejoiced and lived while the righteous and the faithful suffered, then we must remember that every bits of sin, no matter how small, will be left untouched, when the Lord judges all of His people at the time of the Last Judgment.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His interaction with a man who approached Him begging on Him to heal his son, who had been afflicted with epileptic activity, which at that time was also one of the signs of the demonic possession. The man said that although he had sought the disciples, but they were not able to heal the child from his condition, and he therefore asked the Lord to help him.

The Lord rebuked His disciples and those who followed Him for their lack of faith, and after immediately healing the man’s child without issue, spoke of just how little faith they truly had in Him, that they doubted Him and doubted the ability and power by which He could have saved the child. We may indeed be a bit confused by everything that happened, but contextually, it was likely that first of all, the disciples thought that the miracles they performed were because of their own power and might, and not by God’s power.

And it was also likely and possible that the disciples themselves had doubts in their hearts and minds, and they had not yet trusted the Lord completely, as what the Apostle St. Thomas frequently showed during the days of his ministry with the Lord, as he constantly spoke out showing his doubt and disagreements with the Lord, in the midst of the other disciples. The other disciples, although they might not be as skeptical as St. Thomas had been in those days, but they were likely to have their doubts as well.

This is just like what the prophet Habakkuk, speaking the sentiments of the people as included in our first reading today, was exactly speaking about. The prophet’s words was a representation of the people’s doubts, and how those doubts in fact became themselves obstacles in the path of the people in realising that God truly cared for each and every one of them. God reassured His people and showed His love, that no power on earth or beyond earth, are capable of standing between us and Him.

Just as the Lord spoke of the coming of reckoning for Assyria and all the enemies of the faithful, thus, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed before all those who doubted Him, either intentionally or unintentionally, those with weak and wavering faith, that He is truly faithful to the Covenant He had made with us, and He will always uphold His words, as He liberated and healed the man’s son from his troubles, from whatever demonic possessions or other shackles he had been troubled with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we still doubt the Lord and do we still lack the faith that God is always with us and by our side even in our darkest times and in our most challenging moments? Especially as many of us suffered during these past weeks and months, losing our jobs and livelihood, suffering in health, in body or in mind, and as we endure the continuing and depressing impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic, the associated economic collapse and troubles, among other things.

Are we still having faith in God, and believe that even in the midst of great challenges, that God is still there with us? If we do not, then perhaps it is because our relationship with God is not strong and good enough as it should have been. As unless we are deeply committed to God, and live in the midst of His love and grace, and appreciating His daily blessings, it is unlikely that our faith in God will be strong and enduring.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why this day as we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints in the Church, namely St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic the Guzman, the Founder of the Order of Preachers, also famously known after their founder as the Dominicans, we ought to look upon St. Dominic as our great example and inspiration in faith. St. Dominic was remembered for his tremendous zeal and commitment in serving the Lord, his great piety and dedication he showed in serving the Lord and His Church.

St. Dominic had been renowned for his piety even from a very young age, when he was still very young and famine ravaged the lands. It was told that St. Dominic donated part of his possessions to help the poor and feed those who had been terribly afflicted by the great hunger. St. Dominic then dedicated himself to be a holy and devout priest, and dedicated his time to preach to the people, especially in his efforts to convert the Cathar heretics who have abandoned the true faith in the region now part of southern France.

As St. Dominic began his efforts in trying to convert the heretics, he began gathering the effort to establish a religious order of like-minded men who would reach out to those who have erred and fell away from the right path, as what the charism of the Order of Preachers is all about. St. Dominic led the efforts of the Dominicans as they were all came to be known for, in preaching the words of truth to the people and calling them to embrace once again the truth and love of God.

St. Dominic also helped the faithful to renew their faith and commitment in God through the deepening of their spiritual lives, most well-known being through the popularisation of the use of the rosary as a prayer, which eventually would become one of the most popular of devotions in the Church, helping to connect countless souls throughout the ages to the Lord, with the assistance of His blessed mother, Mary.

Through his many great contributions and his establishment of the Dominicans, St. Dominic showed us all that God can do so many great deeds before us, if only that we allow Him to act through each and every one of us just as He had done with St. Dominic. And this is only possible if we lead a life of virtue, faith and love as St. Dominic had done, and all of us are called to follow in his footsteps, in putting our trust and faith in God, and in obeying His will at all times, in our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.