Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, 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, each one of us are reminded that as Christians we must not have the elitist attitude thinking that we alone are righteous and that others are less deserving of God’s salvation than us. We must not think that we are more worthy than others just because we follow His Law and commandments, and then ridicule and ostracise, being prejudiced or biased against others, or worse still, blaming others just because we think that they have not been faithful to God the way that we have been faithful. Instead, first and foremost we must remember that it is our Christian calling and obligation in fact to not only love the Lord with all of our hearts and might, but also to love our fellow brothers and sisters, without prejudice, in the same way.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, we heard the Apostle speaking to the people regarding the matter of circumcision and the faithful. In order to understand the significance of this discourse, we have to understand that back then there were significant friction between the members of the Christian communities including that in Philippi, between the new converts from among the Jewish diaspora as well as the new converts from among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people like the Romans, the Greek and many others. The Christian faith and truths attracted both the Jewish people and the Gentiles alike, and the differences in their thoughts and practices bring about this discord between the faithful.

That is because according to the practices of the old Law as revealed through Moses and as shown in the Old Testament, the Jewish people had to undergo circumcision or the removal of the skin from the genital of their males, in order for them to be part of the Jewish community. This Law had been preserved from the days of Moses onwards to this day. However, the crux of the matter as highlighted by St. Paul, was the overemphasis on these external and outward practices and which also became sort of badge of pride and honour by the adherents of its practices which resulted in the people of God being elitist and exclusivist in their way of life and in how they interacted with others who do not belong to their group, or those whom they deemed as inferior and less worthy than they were.

The Pharisees, to which St. Paul himself belonged to, and which the Apostle highlighted in that very occasion, was in particular the most to blame for this attitude. For back then, many among the Pharisees were very proud of their observance of the Law of God, their piety and dedication. They looked down on others and made great show of their faith practices and piety. They imposed the very strict interpretation and excesses of the additions to the Law of God over the centuries to the whole people. Their prejudice against people who were sick and diseased, possessed, and others like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, were carried on to some among the early Christian converts originating from among the Jewish people, some of them like St. Paul himself, were Pharisees.

Therefore, there were disagreements and even attempts by those who supported the Pharisees and wanted the whole Church to adopt the very strict interpretation of the Law and all of its immense number of rules and regulations, imposing them even to the Gentiles who converted to the Christian faith. That would have made it very difficult then for the Gentiles to adopt the Christian faith, as back then, some of the Jewish practices and customs were viewed with disdain and even with outright disgust by the Romans, the Greeks and the other Gentiles. In particular, this involved the practice of male circumcision, which the Gentiles found abhorrent. That is why, people like St. Paul, a former Pharisee, wanted this practice to be made completely optional for the whole Church.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord Jesus as He confronted the Pharisees and the elders who were very critical at the Lord’s warm treatment of those whom the they considered as sinners and unclean like the tax collectors, as He went even to their place to have a meal with them. Such an action would have been unthinkable for the Pharisees and the elders who wanted to have nothing to do at all with those pagans and all those whom they deemed to be inferior, less worthy and wicked. This was exactly why St. Paul warned the faithful against these attitudes that are actually incompatible with all of us being Christians. A Christian should not be prejudiced, exclusivist and self-righteous in their attitudes.

On the contrary, we have to remember what the Lord told all those assembled, using the parable of the lost sheep and the lost silver coin. When He mentioned how the shepherd would go out forth to look for the one lost sheep despite the ninety-nine other sheep that were safe and sound, and how the woman would put all her effort to find her missing silver coin piece despite the other pieces that she had with her, it showed us all the kind of love and the effort with which God had done for our sake, out of His ever enduring and ever great love for us all. Through His generous love, He has reached out to us again and again, all of us sinners who are undeserving of His love, and yet, despite our rebelliousness and stubbornness, God continued to reach out to us nonetheless, with love. And that is what we as Christians are expected to do as well with our lives.

Today, we shoud also look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, on his feast day, namely that of St. Martin de Porres, the renowned patron saint of the poor and the needy, and of those who are underprivileged and ostracised. St. Martin de Porres was himself born in the New World, the Americas, as a mixed-race illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed nativewoman. St. Martin de Porres grew up in poverty and endured a lot of prejudices and sufferings because of his background, and although as he grew up he wanted to join the Dominicans as a member of the religious order, the prejudices and the challenges facing St. Martin de Porres as a mixed-race man prevented him from joining the Dominicans as a full member.

Nonetheless, St. Martin de Porres continued to persevere in his faith and faithful actions, devoting a lot of time and effort to care for his fellow brethren, especially to those who were sick and dying, those who were underprivileged and suffering. He performed many works, even menial works and labours for the sake of his community of Dominican brothers, as well as others. Soon after, many miracles and wonderful works occurred all around St. Martin de Porres, and many came to him for healing and advice. He continued to live humbly and faithfully in God’s path, and devoted his works to the good and the well-being of his brethren, obeying his superiors and listening to God’s will. He lived virtuously and humbly, to the very end of his life, a great example and role model for all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of St. Martin de Porres, his life and good examples, let us all therefore reflect upon all these and see in what way we as Christians can do and act in our own lives to be more like St. Martin de Porres and the innumerable other saints whose holy lives, whose love for the needy, the poor and the underprivileged can become our source of inspiration and examples, in how we ought to lead our own lives. Shall we not follow the path of the Pharisees and the elders, and the path of those who thought themselves as being worthy and righteous, but instead, walk ever humbly and faithfully in the path that God had set before us?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen and empower each and every one of us to be able to live courageously with faith and devote ourselves and our attention to Him. May God bless us all and all of our good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 15 : 1-10

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the Angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Philippians 3 : 3-8a

We are the true circumcised people since we serve according to the Spirit of God, and our confidence is in Christ Jesus rather than in our merits. I myself do not lack those human qualities in which people have confidence. If some of them seem to be accredited with such qualities, how much more am I!

I was circumcised when eight days old. I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin : I am a Hebrew, born of Hebrews. With regard to the Law, I am a Pharisee, and such was my zeal for the Law that I persecuted the Church. As for being righteous according to the Law, I was blameless.

But once I found Christ, all those things that I might have considered as profit, I reckoned as loss. Still more, everything seems to me as nothing compared with the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.

Monday, 4 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall the words of the Lord, we are reminded to turn wholeheartedly towards God and to remember just how much He has loved us, so graciously and wonderfully, and how through Him we shall receive the assurance of eternal life and true joy in His presence. The Lord has always been kind and loving towards us, and He has always reached out to us with love and patience, embracing us whenever we return to Him and wanting to be reconciled to Him. That is just how much God cares for us, when many of us simply often ignored Him and disregarded His love.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, we heard the Lord speaking to His people in the northern kingdom of Israel, who during the ministry of Hosea was on the last days of its existence, threatened from all sides by its neighbours, especially by the mighty Assyrians, who conquered many of the nations including Israel itself. Eventually the state of Israel itself was subjugated, crushed and utterly destroyed by the Assyrians, who destroyed their capital of Samaria and their other cities, carrying off their people into exile far away from their homeland. All these because they trusted more in themselves and in their pagan gods rather than in God.

In the past week, if we have been following the daily readings, we heard the readings from the prophet Amos, another prophet God sent to the land of Israel somewhat earlier than Hosea, telling them of this impending and unavoidable fate of destruction, because of their continued stubbornness and wickedness, and their refusal to repent their sinful ways. The Lord told them all that they would experience because of their pride, their lack of faith and evils, but at the same time, He also wanted to tell them that the path to His forgiveness, mercy and grace still remained open. He did not despise them but rather, He despised their sins and wicked way of life.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the two great miracles that the Lord performed for those who sought His help, in which one of them was a woman who had long suffered from a bleeding problem, while the other was the daughter of a synagogue official who had become sick and eventually died while the Lord was still on His way to her house. In both cases, the woman with the bleeding issue and the synagogue official himself were seeking for the Lord, wanting for healing to come from God, because they truly believed in Him. They had their own respective faith in the Lord and turned towards Him in their hour of need.

The woman had suffered from the bleeding which according to the Law would have made her unclean and unworthy of God, and as per the Jewish customs and laws, she could not have taken part in the worship and prayers at the Temple because of her unclean nature. She tried to approach the Lord discreetly because her condition understandably most likely had caused her to be somewhat a pariah or outcast within the community, and she did not want to draw attention to herself, or to the Lord. And it was by her faith that she was healed, because she sought the Lord and entrusted herself to Him, and the Lord made known her faith to everyone, and how her faith in Him saved her. This reminds us that no sinner is beyond redemption, and we should not be ashamed to seek for the Lord.

Meanwhile, what we heard from the account of the healing and resurrection of the dead daughter of the synagogue official reminded us all that there is nothing that the Lord cannot do for us, for He is the Master of all, even over live and death. Through Him and His will alone we exist, and through His love and grace we receive the gift of eternal life and the assurance of salvation and true joy, which the Lord gave to all those who are faithful to Him. The Lord has shown His compassion and kindness to those who entrust themselves to Him, and not even death could stop Him. And through His raising of the dead daughter of the synagogue official, He showed us all that there is nothing for us to worry or be afraid about, as His followers and as we embark on His path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called and reminded of the love and mercy of God, which He showed generously to us even though we are sinners. Each one of us are reminded of this and therefore are called to be filled with the same love that He has for us, that we may love Him with the same fervour and devotion. Today we should hence be inspired by the examples set by St. Elizabeth of Portugal whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was the Queen of Portugal who although a member of the royal family, was renowned for her great piety and exemplary actions throughout her life in loving the poor and the needy all around her.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal often spent a lot of effort in caring for the need of her people, and in providing for the works of the Church, reaching out to many parties throughout her realm, renowned for her great charity and kindness. And after her husband’s death, she retired to a monastery, committing the rest of her life to a life of prayer and sanctity. St. Elizabeth of Portugal, her righteous and faithful life, her dedication to God and her obedience to Him should be inspirations and examples for all of us faithful people of God ought to follow and emulate in our own lives, in each and every moments of our present existence.

Let us all hence renew our commitment and devotion to God, so that we may draw ever closer to Him. Let us glorify Him from now on through our actions and deeds, our every words and works, and that through us more and more may come to believe in God as well and be saved. May all of us grow ever more in our faith and trust more in the Lord with each and every passing days. Amen.

Monday, 4 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Monday, 4 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

People will proclaim Your mighty deeds; and I will declare Your greatness. They will celebrate Your abundant kindness, and rejoice in singing of Your justice.

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

Monday, 4 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Hosea 2 : 16, 17b-18, 21-22

So I am going to allure her, lead her once more into the desert, where I can speak to her tenderly. There, she will answer Me, as in her youth, as when she came out of the land of Egypt.

On that day, YHVH says, “You will call Me my Husband, and never again : my Baal. You will be My spouse forever, betrothed in justice and integrity; we will be united in love and tenderness. I will espouse you in faithfulness; and you will come to know YHVH.”

Friday, 4 March 2022 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, 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 Scriptures and as we embark on this journey of the Lenten season, all of us are called to remember why we observe this season of Lent, with plenty of fasting, abstinence and almsgiving. We are reminded that all that we have done, we did them not for ourselves or for our own satisfaction and convenience. All of these we have done because we desire to seek the Lord and to be forgiven from our many sins and faults, to be reconciled fully with our most loving and compassionate God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah, the words of the Lord chastising His people in the kingdom of Judah, where Isaiah was ministering in. The Lord chastised His people because they had not truly been faithful to Him, and those who professed to be faithful, did not truly follow Him in the way that they should have, as they merely paid lip service through their actions. It was mentioned how they fasted and yet at the same time, they oppressed the weak and the poor, bringing sorrow and hardships to others, all for their own personal benefits and glory.

This was what the Lord chastised His people for, which was their attitude that did not reflect true faith and commitment in the Lord and His path. He told them that they could not profess to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways contrary to what they have believed in. Otherwise, they would be hypocrites and lacking in true faith. They have to be truly faithful and not just doing things and obeying the rules and laws just for the sake of obeying them. If they fasted and yet, they bickered and oppressed others who were less fortunate, then whatever virtues and good things they have gained would have been nulled by the wickedness they committed.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to the disciples of St. John the Baptist who came to Him asking why His disciples did not fast the same way that they and the Pharisees had fasted. Contextually, we have to understand that the disciples of St. John and especially the Pharisees had followed a very strict interpretation of the Jewish laws and customs, and which particularly for the Pharisees, they took great emphasis and care in enforcing that fast and how the fast were to be done, and criticised all others who did not fast the way that they had done it.

This was where the Pharisees had ended up losing sight on the true intention and meaning of fasting, of why fasting was done in the first place. For as the Lord Himself had said in our first reading today, if we fasted and then yet, we oppressed, persecuted and made others’ life difficult, through how the Pharisees had criticised and persecuted the Lord, His disciples and the other people, then what they had done were not in accordance with God, His teachings and truth. They did not fast as how the Lord wanted them to fast.

For their fasting ended up serving their own desires, in wanting to be recognised and praised for their own piety, in their faith and virtues. They sought that glory and worldly fame, attention, influence and other things, that they ended up forgetting why they ought to have fasted, which was in fact contrary to what they had done. Fasting was meant to curb all those desires instead of embracing them, and fasting was meant to bring one closer to God and help one to focus on God rather than to end up focusing more on oneself and their own’s selfish desires.

That is why, today as we remember these words from the Scriptures, all of us are yet again reminded that in our Lenten practices and observances, we must not do them blindly and without understanding their true significance and importance. It means that we should not just fasted and abstained from meat like for example on this day, being a Friday, on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and any other Fridays, but we have to have an interior conversion and change of heart and mind. For fasting and abstinence must not just be an end on themselves, but they must lead to a genuine conversion and change of heart.

It means that we have to grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, and be sincere in our desire to follow the Lord. We must not merely pay lip service in our faith, and this Lent should be a great opportunity for us to embrace the Lord and His mercy and love. This Lenten season should be a time for us to grow more in humility and in our relationship with God rather than for us to show off our faith with pride or worse still, for us to compare with one another who is being more worthy and holier in our ways before the Lord.

Today we should be inspired instead by the good examples set by our predecessors, especially that of St. Casimir, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Casimir was a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania in the late Middle Ages, the second son of the King of Poland-Lithuania. Even in his youth, he was renowned for his great piety and faith in God, in his many charitable and generous actions for the poor and the sick, as he dedicated himself to the care of the less privileged. He also dedicated himself to a life of virtue and holiness, not indulging in the excesses of worldly living as what many of the royalty and nobles at that time often enjoyed.

Through his faith, life and dedication, St. Casimir, faithful servant of God has shown us all how we can also be faithful to the Lord in our own actions. Are we then willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we be more humble in life, recognising our sinfulness and our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and at the same time also growing ever more generous in loving and giving to others, in the manner that St. Casimir and many others of our holy predecessors had done?

Let us all make great use of this blessed time of Lent for us to reorientate our lives back towards the Lord, to return to Him and to embrace Him with genuine love once again. Let us all turn towards Him with faith, and commit ourselves to a new life of virtue and faith, renewed with zeal and courage, to take up our crosses in life and following the Lord, walking in the path that He has shown us all. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to be able to serve Him at all times, through our lives and examples. Amen.

Friday, 4 March 2022 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 9 : 14-15

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”