Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the love by which God has reached out to us through Christ, His beloved Son, by Whom He has brought salvation to us all and the whole world. Today we are all reminded that by God’s love and grace, He has willingly embraced us and has wanted us to be reconciled to Him, that we can be truly reunited with Him in perfect love.

God has revealed that first and foremost of all, He is a loving God and Father to all of us, and not some angry and wrathful God Who demanded us to be subservient and to kneel in fear. Instead, what He wants us to do is for us all to realise just how much He has loved us since the very beginning and therefore have the same kind of love within each and every one of us as well. We are all called to be loving just as God is loving.

Unfortunately it is by our own actions that we have failed to appreciate God’s love for us, in how we categorise God and make assumptions about Him, just like how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law acted in enforcing the observances of the laws of God, particularly the law of the Sabbath as we heard in our Gospel passage today. They questioned the Lord if it was lawful for someone to be healed on the Sabbath.

This is when those people failed to understand the Law of God properly in its meaning, purpose and intention. They focused on the ‘letter’ of the Law but failed to understand the ‘spirit’ of the Law, and the two should not be separated one from the other. The Lord did not intend for the Law to restrict His people and make themselves difficult by imposing the Sabbath observance to prevent people from doing something that is good, as the Lord Jesus Himself plainly revealed.

Instead, we must all understand the purpose of the Sabbath itself in the first place in the historical context of how the Sabbath came to be. The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest, not from doing good deeds but rather from all the busy schedules, activities and preoccupations of God’s people that had taken them away from God and distracted them from their faith in Him. In their pursuit for more worldly goods and happiness, it was easy for them to be swayed and fall into the temptations to sin.

That is why, the Sabbath was meant to help the people to take a break and stop whatever they were busy and preoccupied with, so that they can reorientate themselves and rethink the purpose and direction of their lives and refocusing their hearts and minds to God’s will. The Sabbath was therefore meant to allow God’s people to grow in their relationship with their loving God, Father and Creator, just as how we ought to honour the Sundays, the days of Our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are therefore reminded to be genuine in our faith and dedication to the Lord, not just knowing the ‘letter’ of the Law but also the ‘spirit’ of the Law so that we do not end up being misguided like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were overly obsessed and focusing on the wrong parts of the Law, as they bickered and argued over the external application and observance of the Law rather than what the Law truly means for the people of God.

Today, all of us ought to observe and follow the example of one saint, whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Peter Claver, a holy and devout priest who was remembered for his dedication to the poor and to the oppressed as a priest serving the faithful and many of the people in the then New World, the Spanish American continent. He ministered to many of the people who have not yet heard of God and baptised many of them into the faith over many decades.

He spent many years working among them all and especially among the slaves, all those who have been exploited for the sake of wealth and glory by those who wanted these things. He championed their rights and ministered among them, touching their hearts and minds as they saw in him the presence of God’s love and mercy in their midst. He reached out to them and many of them turned towards God with great faith as a result.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the good examples of St. Peter Claver, his love for his fellow men, all those whom God had entrusted to his care, and his devotion and love for God throughout his life that he devoted all his time and effort to the care of God’s beloved people. Let us all be ever more faithful to God from now on and let us be true in our live for Him and in our ever stronger devotion to His greater glory. May God bless us all in our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 6 : 6-11

At that time, on another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching. There was a man with a paralysed right hand, and the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees watched Him : Would Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to the man, “Get up, and stand in the middle.” Then He spoke to them, “I want to ask you : what is allowed by the Law on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And Jesus looked around at them all.

Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored, becoming as healthy as the other. But they were furious, and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 61 : 6-7, 9

Find rest in God alone, o my soul; from Him, comes my hope. He alone, is my Rock and my Salvation; with Him as my Stronghold, I shall not be overcome.

Trust in Him at all times, my people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is our refuge.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Colossians 1 : 24 – Colossians 2 : 3

At present, I rejoice when I suffer for you; I complete, in my own flesh, what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the Church. For I am serving the Church since God entrusted to me the ministry to make the word of God fully known.

I mean that mysterious plan that, for centuries and generations, remained secret, and which God has now revealed to His holy ones. God willed to make known to them the riches, and even the glory, that His mysterious plan reserved for the pagan nations : Christ is in you, the hope for glory.

This Christ, we preach. We warn, and teach everyone true wisdom, aiming to make everyone perfect, in Christ. For this cause I labour and struggle, with the energy of Christ working powerfully in me. I want you to know how I strive for you, for those of Laodicea, and for so many who have not met me personally.

I pray, that all may be encouraged. May you be established in love, that you may obtain all the riches of a full understanding, and know the mystery of God, Christ Himself. For, in Him, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God speaking to us through the Scriptures first of all through the story of Ruth, one of the ancestors of David, the king of Israel and therefore also the ancestor of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth was actually not counted among the people of Israel, but was a Moabite, one of the people considered as pagans by the Israelite.

At that time, and as it was up to the time of Jesus, the Moabites and many of the Canaanites were often looked down by the Israelites, as the latter took great pride in themselves being the chosen people of God. They considered the other people and races and nations to be unworthy of God and that they were superior to those other races and nations. And yet, we have heard from the Book of Ruth, how Ruth loved God and dedicated herself to Him through her dedication to her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth did all these even though she was not related at all by blood to Naomi, and her husband, the son of Naomi had died without leaving any child behind. Technically and legally at that time, Ruth could have freely left her mother-in-law and return to her homeland, which even Naomi, her mother-in-law insisted her of doing. Yet, Ruth stayed with her and committed herself to God and to the people of Israel.

This is how this wonderful woman came to become the one through whom the great king of Israel would be born eventually, by the grace of God in which Ruth bore her husband, Boaz, a son Obed who was the grandfather of king David, the king of Israel. It was the love, faith and dedication of Ruth which made everything possible. She was faithful and dedicated to her newfound faith, and her examples are exactly what God wants us to emulate in our own lives.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Who was confronted by the Pharisees who wanted to test Him using the Law and the commandments of God, trying to trap Him in His words and responses. They asked what the most important Law in the commandments was, and the Lord spoke it plainly and clearly, summing up the entirety of the Law into two main facets, namely, loving God with all of our strength, might and effort, and also loving our fellow brothers and sisters around us in the same way.

The context of this passage was that at that time, the Pharisees and the Lord has plenty of disagreements with regards to the matter of obeying God and following His laws and commandments. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law believed in a very strict interpretation of the laws and rules of Moses, and they enforced this way on the rest of the people of God, causing a lot of difficulty and also misunderstanding of the true meaning of the Law.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law professed to believe in God and even took great pride in being so observant and particular in their way of following the rules and rigour of the laws of Moses, but for many of them, truly their hearts and minds were not centred on God. They did what they have done out of pride and desire for worldly recognition and power.

But for the example which we have discussed earlier, Ruth, who was a foreigner and an alien in the land of Israel, had more faith and true dedication to God than all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law, because she truly loved God with all of her heart, with all of her mind and with all of her strength, and she also loved her fellow men in the same manner. She was devoted to her aging mother-in-law who would have been left all alone to fend for herself should Ruth had decided to leave her. Instead, she took care of her mother-in-law and dutifully did all that she could to help her.

And during the time of Jesus, although not mentioned in today’s Gospel passage, yet another woman and foreigner put all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law to shame, because she had greater faith than all of them. While the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law doubted the Lord and refused to believe in His truth and message, a Syro-Phoenician woman who came to the Lord with great faith did not even mind being humiliated and had so much faith in Him that she trusted Him so much.

Today, we also celebrate yet another servant of God whose life has been similar to what we have heard about Ruth and the Syro-Phoenician woman. St. Rose of Lima was known as the first of the New World saints, meaning that she was the first saint hailing from the continent now known as the Americas. In what is today modern day Peru, St. Rose of Lima was a lay member of the Dominican Order, who was renowned for her great piety and charity for the poor and the needy in her society.

St. Rose of Lima had led a very virtuous life from her youth and she has always desired to join a religious order, dedicating her life to God, meeting opposition from her family. In the end, she joined as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, but persevered in her commitment to a life of purity and chastity dedicated solely to God. She was known for wearing a heavy silver crown with small spikes inside on her head, emulating the crown of thorns worn by the Lord at His crucifixion.

St. Rose of Lima has shown her great love and dedication for the Lord, devoting herself wholeheartedly towards Him. Are we able to do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to commit ourselves like what all those people we have mentioned today had done? We are all called to follow the Lord with faith, and in order to do so, we must truly put God at the very centre of our lives.

Let us all make God the very reason why we live, and the very focus of our every efforts and works. Let us all turn towards Him with all of our strength and from now on, let us all walk faithfully in His presence. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us all in faith. Amen.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Matthew 22 : 34-40

At that time, when the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned Him to test Him, “Teacher, which commandment of the Law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole Law and prophets are founded on these two commandments.”

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Psalm 145 : 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in YHVH their God, Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all they contain.

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!