Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God reminding us to remain virtuous and faithful in life, especially with the emphasis on faith and fidelity in our love for one another, in the married life between a man and a woman, the foundation of all Christian families. Through the Scripture passages that we heard today, we are reminded to put our faith and trust, especially in our marriage and family life, in God, and not in any other things.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the king Herod Antipas got himself into a very serious sin of murder because of his lack of faith in God, which caused him to fall into the temptations of lust and human desire, as well as ego and pride, that made him to commit even more and more heinous acts and sins against God. He committed adultery by taking the legal Herodias, the wife of his own brother Philip, and made her to be his queen, while his brother was still alive and legally married to Herodias.

St. John the Baptist spoke up against this heinous act and immoral behaviour, which went up against the Law of God and the moral conduct of the society. For his outspokenness and his stand against the king, St. John the Baptist was arrested and put into prison. Herodias held grudge against the saint for what he had blatantly and fearlessly mentioned before all, the sin of adultery that she and Herod had committed.

That was why in today’s Gospel passage we heard of how Herodias tried to achieve this by manipulating Herod, through her daughter, who was very beautiful and seductive, as she danced during a party that Herod had thrown for his nobles and guests. Herod was mesmerised by her performance and probably swayed under influence of the party and even alcohol, began making unrealistic promises and oaths before her, overcome by his desire and lust.

And this was when Satan struck, by making use of the opportunity through Herodias and her daughter, to force Herod’s hand into committing a great sin. Herod had not wanted to deal harm to St. John the Baptist even though he had arrested him and put him into prison, but as he made all those promises and oaths to the daughter of Herodias, when the mother instigated her to ask for the head of St. John the Baptist, Herod was trapped and could not refuse the request before his guests and nobles.

In all of these, we saw how when God is not at the centre of our family and married life, then we will end up having a lot of troubles, temptations of the desires of the flesh and the greed within our hearts, lust for things that are immoral and improper in the sight of God and men alike. That was how Herod and Herodias sinned, and that was also how countless others among us mankind also had sinned. Marriages and families have been destroyed by those corrupt desires and sin.

Today all of us are called to return to the true faith in God, and anchor ourselves, our marriage and family lives for all those who have families and been married, in God. Unless we do this, we will end up bringing harm and destruction to us and to our loved ones. Satan is always busy at work trying to strike at us, and even when we are faithful, we saw how St. John the Baptist was treated. He suffered many rejections, people who doubted and accused him, and was martyred for his courage in faith.

But all of these should not discourage us from living our lives with faith. Instead, they should become inspiration for us to be even more courageous and dedicated in living our lives with sincere love and genuine faith for God. Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints whose exemplary life and commitment to God should become inspiration to each and every one of us in how we ought to be living our individual and respective lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a soldier who turned into a priest and loving servant of God and His people, after conversion experience and intercession by the Blessed Virgin Mary during his time of troubles. He became well-known for his care of many orphans whom he encountered, all those who experienced sorrow and sadness, suffering and pain for the loss of their loved ones. They had no one to take care of them, but St. Jerome Emiliani took care of them, fed them and showed them much love.

He founded a religious order, gathering those who were like-minded and having the same desire to serve the poor and all those children of God who were suffering and had no one to take care of them. And he continued to minister to the people, particularly the poor, the orphans as mentioned earlier, the sick and those who were dying. St. Jerome Emiliani did not let up on his work, and ministered to all, dying in his duty as he contracted illness as he cared for the sick.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was once a slave, who was enslaved by slavers and made to suffer many terrible experiences as a slave, as someone who had virtually no rights at all, and she had to endure many insults to her dignity as a human being. Eventually, she became the servant to an Italian family, who was the Vice Consul of Italy in the region where she was in, today’s Sudan. And that was how she gained her freedom, as she left her old life of slavery behind and became a free woman.

She became a Catholic after being inspired through the experience of her freedom, and after baptism, she decided to dedicate her life to God for the rest of her life, and join the religious order of the Canossian sisters, and she was a very dedicated servant of God and of her fellow sisters, and praying at all times for all those who shared the painful experiences of her slavery and for all others in Africa, who were suffering from abject poverty and abuse of human rights.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of these faithful and loving servants of the Lord? In their own ways, St. John the Baptist, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita have shown us how we can truly be faithful in our daily lives, and also filled with love for one another and for God, by loving those who are in our midst, and putting aside all the temptations and the desires of our body and flesh. We are called to be faithful, and to resist all the efforts that Satan had put in place, to cause us to fall into sin.

Let us all pray and work together, that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church may come together united and strong in our faith, beginning from our families, where each and every one of our families are the important foundations of the Church and our faith life. Let us all strive to do our best to emulate the good examples showed by our holy predecessors and do our best to love one another and to love the Lord, putting Him at the centre of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Psalm 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Hebrews 13 : 1-8

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to offer hospitality; you know that some people have entertained Angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners as if you were with them in chains, and the same for those who are suffering. Remember that you also have a body.

Marriage must be respected by all and husband and wife faithful to each other. God will punish the immoral and the adulterous. Do not depend on money. Be content with having enough for today for God has said : I will never forsake you or abandon you, and we shall confidently answer : The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Consider their end and imitate their faith. Christ Jesus is the same today as yesterday and forever.

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages reminding us about the wonderful things that the Lord has done for our sake, in how He has brought us out from the predicament and our fated destruction because of our sins. He has come into this world to be the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind as mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He is the High Priest Who is also the Mediator of the New Covenant.

In order to understand this better, we must understand the context and historical importance of the role of the priest, and especially the High Priest in the community of Israel, the people of God. The priest is the one who has been chosen by God from among the tribe of Levi, to be the servant at His Temple, and earlier on also at the Tent of Meeting built by Moses, whose role is to offer sacrifices presented by the people to God.

Therefore, the priest had a very important role as the mediator of the Covenant between God and man, for the relationship between God and man had been damaged and man has been sundered away from God’s grace because of their sins. Sin is born out of disobedience, our refusal to follow and obey the way of the Lord, all of the wicked words we have uttered and the wicked deeds and actions we have taken in life. All these have separated us from God.

But God still loves each and every one of us despite of our rebelliousness and waywardness. He created us because of His love for us, and He will not abandon that love just because of our sins and our disobedience. That is why God established His Covenant with us, and renewed it again and again, as we mankind continuously failed to uphold our end of the Covenant, breaking them through our sinful disobedience. God still tried to save us, and through His priests, He brought a temporary solution, by their sacrificial offerings.

God promised that the time would come for His Saviour to come into the world and resolve this matter once and for all, a promise that is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, Who came into this world, performed His works obeying the will of His Father, and by becoming Man and assuming our human existence like us, became for us our Eternal and True High Priest, offering for us, just for one time, once and for all, the perfect offering through which all of us have been saved.

Christ has become the source of our salvation because He obediently and willingly followed the will of God His Father, in laying down His life on the cross, which became His Altar, the Altar on which He laid down the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, the Divine Lamb of sacrifice that far and infinitely surpassed the offering of lambs and other animals as prescribed by the Law.

Unfortunately as shown in the Gospel passage today, there were still those who refused to believe in the Lord and in fact, even made nasty and wicked accusations against Him. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused the Lord of using the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebul to cast out other demons when they saw Him exorcising evil spirits from people, and they thought that as He often did it on the Sabbath day in violation of the strict Sabbath law, then He could not have done it with God’s grace.

But this is where the pride and the stubbornness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law worked against them, as these prevented them to see reason, which the Lord wisely and justly presented before them, showing them the foolishness of their argument. Had the evil spirits and demons were divided against each other as they stipulated, there would have been endless conflicts between the fallen angels, and Satan would have been too busy to be able to strike at us mankind.

Instead, they did not realise that Satan himself was planting these seeds of discord and stubbornness in their hearts and minds to prevent them from being able to understand and appreciate the works of God unfolding and happening before their own eyes. Satan did not want the success of the works of God, and that was why, all the more his entire forces were united in the effort to divide the people of God, and to block them from attaining salvation through the Lord Jesus’ efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us all reflect on our own lives. Have we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the temptations of Satan, that we hardened our hearts and minds against the love of God? We have to realise just how great God’s love for us is, to the point that He was willing to endure all the sufferings and pains in order for us to be saved. He willingly took up the cross and bore it up to Calvary for us.

If God has not loved us, we would have perished long ago, and our existence would have been meaningless. But God did not let all these happen, and He brought us out of the depth of our sins and from the darkness into the light, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Our Saviour. And for the love that He has shown us all, it is only then right that we also love Him in the same manner, as what is only right and just after all that He has done for us.

If we are not sure how we ought to do so, then perhaps it is good for us to take note of the examples shown by St. Thomas Aquinas, the saint whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Thomas Aquinas is a truly famous saint and also Doctor of the Church, renowned for his extensive theological and philosophical writings, his brilliant mind and wisdom, and his love and commitment for God. St. Thomas Aquinas inspired many generations of people who also dedicated their lives to God.

But St. Thomas Aquinas did not have it easy, as oppositions and challenges were aplenty, even from his youth. His family opposed his desire to join religious life and priesthood, using whatever means to try to dissuade him from his conviction, but St. Thomas Aquinas persevered through prayer and steadfast dedication, and he managed to overcome those challenges eventually. He became a devout and committed Dominican, and went about many places teaching and completing his now famous writings and works including the Summa Theologiae, Summa Contra Gentiles among many others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas Aquinas has shown us that it is possible for us to love God and to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, directing ourselves to Him so completely that we become attuned to Him much as St. Thomas Aquinas had been, growing deeper in faith and in our dedication to Him each and every single days of our life. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew and renew the faith we have in our God from now on, turning ourselves to Him and loving Him with all of our hearts and strength. Amen.

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of histories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.”

“In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand, he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house.”

“Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven : he carries the guilt of his sin forever.” This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5, 6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!