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.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Him, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 9 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

But YHVH reigns forever, having set up His throne for judgment. He will judge the nations with justice and govern the peoples in righteousness.

YHVH is a rampart for the oppressed, a refuge in times of distress. Those who cherish Your Name, o YHVH, can rely on You, for You have never forsaken those who look to You.

Sing praises to YHVH, enthroned in Zion; proclaim His deeds among the nations. For He Who avenges blood remembers, He does not ignore the cry of the lowly.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Habakkuk 1 : 12 – Habakkuk 2 : 4

But You, are You not YHVH from past ages? You, my holy God, You cannot die. You have set these people to serve Your justice and You have made them firm as a rock, to fulfil Your punishment. YHVH, Your eyes are too pure to tolerate wickedness and You cannot look on oppression. Why, then, do You look on treacherous people and watch in silence while the evildoer swallows up one better than himself?

You treat human beings like the fish in the sea, like reptiles who are nobody’s concern. This nation catches all on its hook, pulls them out with its net and piles them up in its dragnet. Pleased and delighted at their catch, they offer sacrifices to their net and burn incense to their dragnets, since these supplied them with fish in plenty and provided them with food in abundance. Will they continue, then, to constantly empty their nets, slaughtering nations without mercy?

I will stand in my watchtower and take up position on my battlements; I will see what He replies, if there is an answer to my question. Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deferred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard just how the Lord had loved us mankind so dearly and yet, He had to face rejection and stubbornness from His people, from those to whom He had tirelessly and constantly sent messengers one after another, servants and prophets to proclaim to them the love of God and His faithfulness.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah the words of the Lord’s sadness and anger at His people for their ingratitude and lack of faith, their constant disobedience and sinfulness, as they proved again and again to be rebellious and unwilling to embrace God’s love and His path, right up to the end of the kingdom in Judah, as how it was in the time of the prophet Jeremiah, who ministered to the people at the end of the southern kingdom just before its downfall.

God has ever shown His patience and kindness, His mercy and compassion through the generations, but the people abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him for the comfort and the false allures and pleasures of worldliness, putting their trust instead in the pagan idols and foreign gods like Baal, Ashtaroth among others. They had forgotten the wonders and the love that God had showed their ancestors, and allowed the devil to tempt them and sway them to the false paths.

Thus then it was also how the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel today stated that even till then, the people were still stubborn in refusing to believe in God, and held on to their flawed and sinful ways. This was when the Lord’s disciples asked Him on why He was often teaching them in parables and speaking in metaphorical terms especially when describing and explaining many of the concepts of the truth He had revealed.

And the Lord told them essentially how the people’s stubbornness and closed hearts and minds truly prevented them from being able to listen, appreciate and understand the love and the truth of God, blinding them to that truth and reason and made them to harden their stance against the Lord and His followers, as showed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the Sadducees, many of whom often confronted and opposed the Lord in His works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today through all of these each and every one of us are reminded of just how pride, ego, stubbornness, hubris and greed, all of these can be very great stumbling blocks and obstacles in our journey of faith towards God, His love and salvation. As all these prevented our ancestors from seeing reason and listening to the truth, and instead, leading many of them further down the path towards damnation.

Today, all of us are therefore reminded to turn away from this same path, and instead, embrace the path of renewal and forgiveness, the path of being loved by God and accept wholeheartedly the Lord’s compassionate mercy, and to grow ever more faithful in Him with each and every moments of our lives. And we should therefore look upon the good examples of our good and holy predecessors to help and guide us in our journey.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, a great and renowned holy woman and servant of God, known as one of the Patron Saints of Europe remembered for her great piety and commitment to the Lord. And although she was born into one of the richest noble families and could count kings and nobles among her relatives, but she remained humble and committed to the Lord.

Throughout her life, St. Bridget of Sweden worked tirelessly to care for the poor and the sick, and also championed life of prayer and purity, establishing religious orders and congregations that inspired many people to follow her example and faith. By her dedication and commitment, St. Bridget inspired many to turn once again to God and abandon their past, sinful way of life, and this is something that all of us can also aspire towards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able and willing to follow the good examples of St. Bridget of Sweden in our own lives? Are we willing to seek not for the pleasures of the world and for the glory of this human existence, but rather to grow ever stronger in faith, charity and hope, in our devotion towards God and in our virtues in life? Let us all discern these and think carefully of how we should proceed forward in life, especially in how we are going to act towards one another.

May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Bridget of Sweden and innumerable other holy saints, martyrs and holy servants of God, constantly bless us all and strengthen us, that each and every one of us may grow ever stronger in faith and in our commitment to follow Him and to serve Him with all of our strength. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 35 : 6-7ab, 8-9, 10-11

Your love, o God, reaches the heavens; Your faithfulness, to the clouds. Your justice is like the mighty mountains; Your judgement, like the unfathomable deep.

How precious, o God, is Your constant love! Mortals take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. In Your house they find rich food and they drink from Your spring of delight.

For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Bestow on Your faithful, Your love; and give salvation to the upright of heart.

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Jeremiah 2 : 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

A word of YHVH came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is YHVH’s word : I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to YHVH, the first fruits of His harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them – it is YHVH Who speaks.”

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat of the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled My land and dishonoured My heritage! The priests did not ask, ‘Where is YHVH?’ The masters of My teaching did not know Me; the pastors of My people betrayed Me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal.”

“Be aghast at that, o heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled – it is YHVH Who speaks – for My people have done two evils : they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!”

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to be faithful to God and to follow His teachings and ways, rejecting the falsehoods of the world and to resist the temptations to sin against God. And we are also reminded to put our trust and to have faith in God, and not to be afraid, for God is and will always be by our side.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard of the words of the Lord through Amos chastising His people for their lack of faith and sinfulness. At that time, the Israelites and their descendants had veered away from the path that God had shown them, persecuted the prophets sent into their midst to remind them and to guide them back to the path of righteousness.

As the people continued to sin and disobey God, that was why the Lord reminded His people to listen to Him and to His prophets, that they ought to turn away from sin and embrace once again the path of the Lord, for those who have sinned against God, they all know what the terrible consequences of their choices were. Their sins were by their own conscious choice and by their deliberate actions in following the temptations of their desires, ego and pride that led them to their downfall.

Then, in the Gospel today, all of us heard of the narrative of the moment when the Lord and His disciples were travelling in a boat in the middle of the lake of Galilee when a great storm raged over the waters, with terrible winds and waves that were so great that the disciples all feared for their lives. They panicked and begged the Lord to save them all, and the Lord rebuked them for their little faith in Him. They had not yet placed their complete trust in Him and that was why then the Lord showed them, they had truly nothing to fear.

By taming and calming down the storm, the Lord showed all of His disciples that it is folly for them to trust in any worldly powers or matters, and not to trust in the Lord. If we trust in the Lord, then in the end, everything will be fine for us even though in the journey we may encounter challenges, trials and difficulties. We need to remain faithful and endure the difficulties and obstacles in our path if we are to follow the path of the Lord as good and devout Christians.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, celebrating the memories of the martyrs of the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, during the time of the Great Fire of Rome and the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. These Christians were the victims of slander and false accusation, as scapegoats by the Emperor who was allegedly the one responsible for the Great Fire of Rome, and yet, put the blame squarely on the Christians living in Rome.

And thus, many of the Christians there faced persecution, arrests, imprisonment, and many suffered martyrdom for their faith. And some among them were the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we celebrated just yesterday. This feast today marks the memory of all the other martyrs of the faith, who had also suffered in this first wave of great persecution of Christians, those who trusted in the Lord and remained faithful despite the sufferings they had to endure.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, when we are facing the great storm of uncertainty in our lives, are we able to trust in the Lord to lead us through the difficult moments and persevere through the challenges without losing our faith in Him? Let us all trust in the Lord more, and be inspired by the faith of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, whose memory we glorify and remember today. Let us all follow the Lord with ever greater commitment and faith, and let us all be righteous and just in all of our words, deeds and actions from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen us all in faith, and may He empower us all to be His faithful and good disciples. And may the First Holy Martyrs of the Roman Church intercede for us as well, praying for us sinners still living in this world and enduring the temptations and sufferings of life. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 8 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a fierce storm burst upon the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep.

The disciples woke Him up and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then He stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm.

The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of Man is He? Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”