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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 18-19

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 1-9a

Cry out aloud for all you are worth; raise your voice like a trumpet blast; tell My people of their offences, Jacob’s family of their sins. Is it true that they seek Me day after day, longing to know My ways, as a people that does what is right and has not forsaken the word of its God?

They want to know the just laws and not to drift away from their God. “Why are we fasting?,” they complain, “and You do not even see it? We are doing penance and You never notice it.” Look, on your fast days you push your trade and you oppress your labourers. Yes, you fast but end up quarrelling, striking each other with wicked blows. Fasting as you do will not make your voice heard on high.

Is that the kind of fast that pleases Me, just a day to humble oneself? Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head, and making use of sackcloth and ashes? Would you call that fasting, a day acceptable to YHVH? See the fast that pleases Me : breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke.

Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin. Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the glory of YHVH your rearguard. Then you will call and YHVH will answer, you will cry and He will say, I am here.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to believe in the Lord wholeheartedly and to entrust ourselves to His cause and works, to follow Him without doubt and hesitation, and to give ourselves in every opportunities and chances to be the dedicated followers of Our Lord. We have to listen to Him and not to allow the devil, Satan, to tempt us with his lies and falsehoods that can lead us down the wrong path in life.

In our first reading today, we heard the continuation of the discourse from the Epistle of St. James, in which the Apostle spoke of the importance for Christians to heed the Lord’s words and commandments, His desire that all of them love one another and treat each other equally without prejudice and discrimination, unlike what had always frequently happened at that time, in a world filled with a lot of inequality and injustice, greed and worldly desires, ambition and ego, all of which had led to plenty of suffering and misery in our communities.

As Christians, all of us have been taught to love one another with sincere and genuine love, without prejudice and without discrimination. All of us have been taught to see each other as fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in Whom we have shared in His suffering and death, and have received the sure promise of eternal life and salvation. All of us have to follow the examples of Christ in how He loved all of us without exception, and in how He loved even the most marginalised and the poorest among us, reaching out to us and even to all those who have persecuted Him.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard of the time when the Lord asked His disciples regarding Himself, considering the many speculations that must have arisen back then from all that He had done, all the miracles He had performed and all the great wisdom and truth of God which He had spoken to the people themselves, and which the disciples themselves had witnessed, heard and experienced directly. And they gave various answers, including that of a prophet, a holy man of God, and with St. Peter saying that He is the Messiah, or the Saviour that God had promised to His people.

Then the Lord revealed that yes, while He is truly the Messiah, but He would have to suffer rejection and to be persecuted, by the same people that He has been sent to. This must have been taken with a lot of surprise and consternation by the disciples and followers of Jesus who must not have taken nicely to the idea, as many among them if not most would have expected to have Jesus to be the liberator of the people of Israel, to be their King and Saviour, free from the tyranny of the Romans and any other powers. And thus St. Peter pulled him aside and protested strongly against the Lord for saying such things.

That was when the Lord then rebuked Satan who was likely trying to persuade the Lord to stop His efforts and trying to convince Him not to do as what He was supposed to do, in trying to tempt Him with power and worldly glory. The Lord would have none of it and He told the devil to get away from Him, not allowing Himself to be tempted by the common temptations of this world. He had been tempted and tested by Satan before, and He had prevailed, and that time was not to be any different from the previous occasions in which He was tempted.

Through this, the Lord wants us to know that in following Him we have to discard the old attitudes of our past, sinful lives, and instead, we should embrace the truth and love that God has shown us, dedicating ourselves to follow Him wholeheartedly, doing whatever we can to serve Him in every opportunities available to us so that we may inspire all those who have witnessed us and our actions, knowing that through those, we may become faithful witnesses of Our Lord’s love and all that He had done for us, to suffer the Cross for us and to endure the worst of sufferings just so that we may persevere and gain assurance of an eternity with Him. And Satan tried hard in vain to prevent this from happening.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us should follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors as we celebrate their feast day today, namely the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. These seven holy men of God, known by their names of Bonfilius, Alexis, Manettus, Amideus, Hugh, Sostene and Buonagiunta of Florence. All of them found each other in a bond of spiritual friendship which then grew on and having received a vision from the Blessed Mother of God, they were resolved to leave behind everything and followed God, marking the foundation of the Servite Order.

The seven holy founders worked hard and dedicatedly through the Order of the Servites, caring for the poor and the needy, those who were abandoned and without any proper attention and care. They all were dedicated with the care for the physical and material needs of those people, of whom the Lord Himself had said to us, that we have to show love and care for the least of our brethren, to the poor and those who had no one to love them and care for them. The seven holy founders of the Servites did their best within their capacity to care for these people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow the examples of our holy predecessors, the great saints especially the Seven Holy Founders of the Servites Order? Let us all be inspired by them and strive to do whatever we can to glorify God through our lives. May the Lord continue to watch over us and help us to persevere through the many challenges in life so that each and every one of us can always remain faithful to Him and be dedicated to the path that God has shown us, and easily tempted and swayed by the evil one. Seven Holy Founders of the Servites, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Mark 8 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus set out with His disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told Him, “Some say You are John the Baptist; others say You are Elijah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And He ordered them not to tell anyone about Him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again.

Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took Him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

James 2 : 1-9

My brothers and sisters, if you truly believe in our glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, you will not discriminate between persons. Suppose a person enters the synagogue where you are assembled, dressed magnificently and wearing a gold ring; at the same time, a poor person enters dressed in rags. If you focus your attention on the well-dressed and say, “Come and sit in the best seat,” while, to the poor one you say, “Stay standing, or else sit down at my feet,” have you not, in fact, made a distinction between the two? Have you not judged, using a double standard?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith, and to inherit the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him? Yet, you despise them! Is it not the rich who are against you, and drag you to court? Do they not insult the Holy Name of Christ by which you are called?

If you keep the Law of the kingdom, according to Scripture : Love your neighbour as yourself, you do well; but if you make distinctions between persons, you break the Law, and are condemned by the same Law.

Friday, 12 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the reality of ourselves who are the servants of God, those who are under the power and authority of God, Our Lord and Master, Whose power and glory far surpasses anything else in this Universe, and Who is the One that created the entire Universe and existence as we know it. We have been called to follow Him and to believe in Him, and not to be distracted by all other things in this world.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we heard the author of the Book of Wisdom speaking about the folly of mankind in following and worshipping created things of this world, which were merely created things and objects. These words were directed against all those who worshipped idols and the pagans, who refused to believe in God and those who were still ignorant of His truth. At that time, most of the people except for the people of God believed in myriads of deities based on elements and things of the world.

They were amazed by the wonders and beauty, by the power and greatness of those objects and things, and as a result, they chose to worship what they thought to be their master, deity and creator, but failing to realise that no matter how great those things might have been, they were ultimately in the end, created things and were not the Creator. This is what the Lord wanted His people, all of us to know that He is the one true Lord and Master of all.

Then, we heard the passage from our Gospel today in which we listened to the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people regarding the past occasions when the people of God faced judgment and destruction because of their lack of faith, and then, He also spoke of the Judgment that is to come, which will happen at the end of time. This is one of the occasions in which the Lord mentioned what is to happen in the future, of the coming of the Lord and His salvation.

As He referred to the history of Noah and Lot, the Lord wanted all of us to know that all of us who have held true to our faith in Him and entrust ourselves in Him will not be forgotten, abandoned and will not be disappointed, for even though we may face persecution and difficulties for having believed in God, but the Lord will remember our faith and dedication, and our rewards shall be rich in Heaven and in the world that is to come. On the contrary, those who refused to believe in Him, and those who preferred to follow their own path, shall not have part in Him and His inheritance.

He reminded us all of what happened at the time of Noah, when the Great Flood or the Great Deluge happen all over the whole world, wiping out all the wicked children of mankind, all except that of Noah and his immediate family, who remained faithful to God. Then, on the matter of Lot, the unfaithfulness and wickedness of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who indulged in their vices and in their idolatrous behaviours also led to their destruction, together with the whole cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Lot and his family were saved.

All these serve as reminders for us not to be easily swayed and distracted by worldly temptations and idols, which can mislead us and cause us to fall into the path of sin. We may be wondering if we can fall into the sin of idolatry if we do not worship the pagan idols unlike those people in the past era during the time of the Book of Wisdom and the Old Testament, but in fact, in our lives, whenever we treat something in our lives to be greater than God, more treasured for us than God, then we have already made idols out of them.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have made idols out of money, our wealth and possessions, our addictions and even our desire for glory and fame. All these things are the ones that we often craved after, and worked so hard to gain that we have ignored and forgotten about God. Is it not the same then as those who have preferred to worship the idols than to worship God? Let us not be believers only in name and formality, and yet in our hearts and minds, God is not present at all.

Today, all of us ought to look upon the great examples set by our holy predecessor, namely St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, one of the great saints of God whose feast we are celebrating this day. He is a courageous and holy servant of God, a bishop committed to the well-being of his flock and for the salvation of souls. He was remembered for his great piety and dedication to God, his commitment to Church unity, and finally his martyrdom in defending that unity against those who refused to believe in him and the Lord’s truth.

At that time, the Church in what is today Belarus and Ukraine had been divided between those who were united to the Pope in Rome and those who refused to acknowledge the Pope and his authority, in the Eastern Orthodox communion. St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was one of the bishops and leaders of the Church there who supported and worked hard for the reunification of the churches and the faithful, which eventually led to the Union of Lublin, in which many of those who belonged to the Eastern Orthodox churches, returned to communion with the Pope while retaining their unique traditions and expression of faith.

But there were also many who were opposed to such a union, and this led to further divisions among the flock of God’s people, which St. Josaphat Kuntsevych worked hard to overcome. He laboured to bridge the divisions and heal the disunity in the faithful community of God’s people. He was martyred as his enemies and opponents roused up a rabble to strike at him and killed him, as he remained firmly faithful to the very end in defending the true faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be inspired by the faith and dedication of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych and his commitment to the Lord, Who is first and foremost in all things. Let us all strive to love the Lord all the more and commit ourselves to Him, while distancing ourselves from all those distractions and temptations that can lead us astray. May God be with us and may He strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.

Friday, 12 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.”

“So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose himself, but whoever gives his life will be born again.”

“I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding corn together, one might be taken and the other left.” Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”