Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to St. Paul, who wrote to his contemporary and student, St. Timothy, one of the first bishops appointed to lead the dioceses of the Church in its earliest days. In that passage excerpt taken from the Epistle, St. Paul told St. Timothy about the bishops and deacons of the Church, and the criteria under which they should be selected for the good sake of the Church and the faithful.

Bishops were also known as overseers, as those appointed to take care over a portion of the people of God gathered in a certain area, cities and provinces. To them it has been granted the authority to oversee and manage the faithful, both the priests and the laity, as shepherds appointed over the flock of the Lord. As such, their roles were very important, as they led the people of God, and they were entrusted with the safeguarding of the fullness of the truth and the teachings of our faith.

Therefore, bishops must have been good and dedicated servants of God, exemplary in their actions, words and deeds. That was why St. Paul emphasised to St. Timothy the criteria in how a bishop should be selected. The idea was that, a bishop should be, as much as possible, be free from serious impediments and impropriety, as his actions and words will be closely followed as examples by the flock entrusted to his care.

There had been many occasions when bishops had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the traditions handed down from the Apostles and therefore from the Lord Himself. Those bishops had instead chosen to walk down the path of heresy, where they misled those entrusted to their care and ending up leading many people down the path to damnation because of their lack of faith. Not only that their sins were severe, but the impact on the Church and the faithful were also often enormous.

Meanwhile, deacons as mentioned by St. Paul were also required to be of men of proper standing and of good behaviour and faith. Why is this so? That is because deacons, just as priests and bishops played a very important role in the Church and among the faithful, for just as the bishops led the faithful, and the priests ministered to them spiritually, the deacons were the ones entrusted with many of the charitable works of the Church, caring for the needs of the people of God.

Deacons must also be upright in their actions, for if they were not, they could scandalise the faith and the Church, as they were often entrusted with many of the Church’s possessions and properties in conducting their missions. And they were also frequently needed at the frontline of action, take for example, St. Stephen and his fellow deacons, in which St. Stephen had to even lay down his life defending his faith, as the first martyr of the Church.

As we can see, it is not easy to be devoted servants of God, because of the many challenges that will inevitably come to be obstacles and hurdles in their path. And temptation will always be present, trying to lure away the faithful, even those who have faithfully serve the Lord, to abandon their holy mission, and to save themselves. They will need our support, prayers and help.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, as there are many of us whom God had called and chosen to be the successors of the many good and holy bishops, priests and deacons that we have had, and yet, many of the people called had not responded to God’s call, and then, some others still failed in their calling, as they lapsed and some abandoned their vocation. These are truly very regrettable occurrences, which should not have happened. Yet, this is where all of us as Christians must truly help one another, and support God’s faithful servants.

Those of us who have received the calling from God may want to heed the examples of St. Januarius, or San Gennaro of Naples in Italy, a Roman saint and bishop of Naples, who lived during the difficult years of the Early Church, which was greatly suffering under persecution from the Roman state and its Emperor Diocletian, who carried out one of the most vicious and terrible persecution of the Church and Christians. He led the faithful people entrusted to his care, and he helped to hide the people that were chased by the Roman officials, that they would not be arrested.

He did all these while risking himself, and still faithfully discharging his duties in teaching and guiding the people to God. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his flock, and when he was eventually arrested by the authorities, he remained strong and resolute despite torture and suffering, and he faced martyrdom with great courage, knowing that he had done all that the Lord had asked him to do and even more. And his examples have inspired many others to continue to persevere in their faith even unto this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray, and fervently ask God what is it that He wants from each one of us. If He has called us and chosen us to be His servants, then let us pray for discernment, that we will be able to make the right decisions, and commit ourselves to God’s cause, in the manner St. Januarius had done. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may we draw ever closer to Him with each passing day. And let us also pray for all the good servants of God, our deacons, priests and bishops, and all others who dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us. God has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 100 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6

I will sing of Your love and justice; to You, o YHVH, I will sing praise. I will walk the way of integrity – o YHVH, when will You come to me?

With a blameless heart, I will walk within my house. I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the deeds of faithless people.

He who deals with others treacherously, I will silence. He who talks and acts arrogantly, I will not endure.

I will choose from the faithful of the land, those who may dwell with Me; only the upright shall be My servant.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Timothy 3 : 1-13

If someone aspires to the overseer’s ministry, he is, without a doubt, looking for a noble task. It is necessary, that the overseer (or bishop) be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, responsible, judicious, of good manners, hospitable and skilful in teaching.

He must not be addicted to wine, or quarrelsome, but be gentle and peaceful, and not a lover of money, but a man whose household is well-managed, with obedient and well-mannered children. If he cannot govern his own house, how can he lead the assembly of God? He must not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited, and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must enjoy a good reputation among the outsiders, lest people speak evil about him, and he fall into the snare of the devil.

Deacons, likewise, must be serious and sincere, and moderate in drinking wine, not greedy for money; they must keep the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Let them be first tried and, if found blameless, be accepted as deacons. In the same way, the women must be conscientious, not given to gossip, but reserved and trustworthy.

A deacon must be husband of one wife, and must know how to guide his children and manage his household. Those who serve well as deacons will win honourable rank, with authority to speak of Christian faith.

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message from the Scriptures telling us all as Christians to be true disciples of the Lord, that in all things we do, we must be truly faithful to the Lord, and not just having superficial faith. That is the essence of what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people His parables.

He began with the parable of the good tree producing good fruits, and vice versa, the bad trees producing bad fruits. What the Lord said was that if the trees were healthy and in good condition, they would not have produced poor quality or rotten fruits. Similarly, if the trees are bad and rotten, it is unlikely for them to produce good quality fruits. And all these trees in fact represent all of us mankind, God’s people.

Jesus our Lord then also elaborated on another parable, the parable of the foundations, where He mentioned two types of foundation, firstly the strong and solid rock foundation where a house would remain sturdy and strong even when battered by strong winds, rains or waves. And then, He mentioned about the house built on the weak foundation of sand, were although it was quickly and easily built, but when strong winds and rains batter it, it quickly fell down and collapse.

In these two narratives that Jesus had taught His people, He wanted to show them, and therefore to all of us that as Christians we cannot resolve to cut corners and take it the easy way out, or to make compromises if we are to truly become good disciples of the Lord. Much effort and hard work will be required from each one of us, and from time to time, there will be challenges and difficulties that will come to assail us, just like the winds and waves that assailed the houses in the parable.

It also takes a long time and a lot of effort to grow a healthy and productive plant such as a fruit tree. It requires a lot of hard work to produce a good tree, which we can know that it is good because it produces good fruits. If the tree is not properly taken care of, then it is highly likely that it will end up bad and rotten, and the fruits it produces will be of bad quality and rotten too.

In the same manner, therefore if our faith is not strong, and if we do not put the necessary effort required for us to remain faithful to the Lord, then we may end up losing our faith when the troubles and challenges of life come upon our path. We may end up like the house built upon the foundation of sand, shaky and weak, because we have chosen not to strengthen the foundation of our faith, and when challenges come our way, everything end up collapsing.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must be strong and courageous in our faith, that we may remain true to our faith despite all the difficult times and moments we may encounter, and despite the opposition and troubles that may come from even those who are dearest and closest to us. Remember that Satan and his allies have many things in their power and ability in order to try to bring about our downfall, and we must be ever vigilant.

Let us all look up to the examples of the holy saints whose memory we remember today, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, holy martyrs who have stood faithfully by their faith despite the difficult and challenging times of the early days of the Church, when being Christians was considered as equivalent to having a death wish upon oneself. Christians and the Church were persecuted and many were arrested and put to death for remaining true to their faith and refusing to abandon the Lord.

Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Church throughout the years of difficult persecution under the Roman Emperors, while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage, the contemporary of the Pope, who was one of the leaders of the Church. There were great divisions within the Church at the time, as there were those who under the famous Novatian, who refused to allow the re-baptism of those who have lapsed from their faith, disagreeing with Pope St. Cornelius, St. Cyprian and many other of those who remained to the true faith.

As such, it was truly a difficult time for the Church and for the faithful, and yet Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian remained strong in their faith and commitment to God. They showed their faith and commitment through their never ending dedication that inspired many others to remain strong in their faith to God, despite all the challenges and persecutions. And to the very end, unto their martyrdom, they did not give up their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the examples of these holy saints and devoted servants of God. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord following their footsteps. Let us walk faithfully through the journey of our lives, and let us all draw ever closer to God’s love and mercy. May He bless us and guide us all as we continue to struggle daily in our respective lives, trying our best to remain true to our faith in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 6 : 43-49

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No healthy tree bears bad fruit, no poor tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears : you do not gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly, the good person draws good things from the good stored in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in his heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart.”

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what the one is like, who comes to Me, and listens to My words, and acts accordingly. That person is like the builder who dug deep, and laid the foundations of his house on rock. The river overflowed, and the stream dashed against the house, but could not carry it off because the house had been well built.”

“But the one who listens and does not act, is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. The flood burst against it, and the house fell at once : and what a terrible disaster that was!”

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5a and 6-7

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of YHVH, praise the Name of YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of YHVH be praised! YHVH is exalted over the nations; His glory above the heavens.

Who is like YHVH our God, Who also bends down to see on earth as in heaven? He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap.