Friday, 29 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scriptures, we are all presented with the calling for us all as Christians in proclaiming the Risen Lord as the Saviour of the whole world, He Who has given His own life for our sake, in breaking His own Precious Body and shedding His own Precious Blood for our sake. Our Lord and Saviour has extended His love and compassion in coming down into our midst, to gather us all and to provide for us the path towards salvation and eternal life. He, the Bread of Life and the Lamb of God, is the sure and only path towards eternal life.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the account from the Gospel of St. John on the Lord Jesus Who miraculously fed the great multitude of five thousand men and many more women and children with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. The Lord showed pity and love for all the people who were gathered there for days, following Him and listening to His teachings, and had become hungry because there was no place nearby for them to buy any food. But the Lord told His disciples for the need of the people, and with just five loaves of bread and two fishes which He blessed and prayed over, He multiplied them all miraculously and fed everyone with enough food and even with plenty of spare.

As the Lord fed the people with all the food, some among them wanted to make Him as their King, and would have had their way if the Lord did not quietly slip away amidst all the multitudes of people and everything that happened. But through that feeding of the people, the Lord reminded all of us that He came into this world to nourish us, and to restore us to new life, not just physically, but also spiritually as well, wholesomely transforming us from those who hunger for the truth and justice, for the light and hope in our life, to those who have been strengthened and empowered by the light and hope of Christ.

This is why, as compared to the false idols and all other distractions in life, there is nothing comparable to the Lord in fulfilling our needs and in revealing to us our true path in life. And as the Scriptures pointed out to us, that unless we anchor ourselves in the Lord’s truth and grace, in His light and hope, then we will likely end up falling into the wrong path, falling into the path of sin and evil, and from which we may find it difficult or even impossible to get out from. And that is why the Lord constantly reminds us that in Him and through Him alone there is hope and sure path out of the darkness and the despair surrounding us, and if we put our trust in Him, we shall surely not be disappointed.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles of the time when the disciples of the Lord were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, with many of its members wanting to persecute and oppress the followers of Jesus, banning His teachings and truths. The Lord has always been seen as a great rival and threat by many among the members of the Sanhedrin back then, and many of them refused to believe in Him despite all the miraculous deeds that the Lord had done before all of them and before the people. They hardened their hearts and minds against Him.

However, as we heard in that same reading, a wise member of the High Council named Gamaliel spoke to the whole Sanhedrin regarding leaving everything to God and His providence, giving the evidence based on the past several false prophets and Messiahs who had claimed to be the Messiah and yet, failed in their efforts and attempts, as they proved to be no more than just mere men who were misguided, selfish and even wicked, in their desire for worldly power and glory, and their works and followers quickly dissipated and disappeared after their failure. Hence, Gamaliel stated that if the Lord Jesus was truly genuine and His works true, and His truth and teachings authentic, then the Sanhedrin would soon find themselves going against God Himself.

With this, the Sanhedrin as represented by Gamaliel himself acknowledged that the truth came from God alone, and indeed, as history had proven that until this very day, this very moment now we are breathing and living in, the Church is still very much alive and vibrant, and even flourished beyond what the Apostles might have been able to imagine, and therefore, is the proof that our Christian faith, the Church and the truth, and everything that the Lord had done, is the truth and the one and only truth of God. And it is this faith that each and every one of us ought to hold very closely onto, as we live our lives in this world today.

We must also remember that we are given the task and mission to spread the truth of God, His Good News and the words of His love and salvation to all the peoples, and we should do our best in life, and become great inspiration for many others to follow, that our way of life may inspire them to come to believe in God as well. Today we can find inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Catherine of Siena, the well-known saint and patron of Italy and one of the Church’s great Doctors of the Church. St. Catherine of Siena was truly a dedicated servant of God, whose commitment to God and her holiness in life should be source of inspiration for each one of us as Christians in how we should lead our own lives with faith.

St. Catherine of Siena was a very devout woman who dedicated much of her life for the betterment of the Church and Christian communities of her time. She spent a lot of time and effort in restoring purity and holiness, sanctity to the Church, its various organisations and the religious orders and groups, especially against the creeping corruptions caused by the influences of worldly temptations and vices which caused scandal and disturbances within the Church and the various Christian communities. She was also credited with her effort in helping to broker peace among the various conflicting parties and in the ending of the schisms within the Church. Her great dedication and piety inspired many to follow in her examples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the great examples set by St. Catherine of Siena and many other holy men and women of God, let us all dedicate ourselves anew to God, striving to do our best to glorify Him by our lives. Let us put our faith in Him and do whatever we can to serve the Lord ever more faithfully from now on. May all of us be faithful witnesses of Our Lord’s truth and Resurrection, and bear the Good News of His love, that more and more may come to entrust themselves to the Lord, the Bread of Life, our Hope and Saviour, through us. May God bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 29 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 29 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

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.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 29 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the members of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared.”

“After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered. So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be vigilant in our lives and to keep strongly to the faith that we have in the Lord, entrusting ourselves to Him and believing in His providence. We have to be careful and do not easily allow sin to creep into our hearts and minds, corrupting us and our conscience and thoughts, our actions and efforts. In order to do so, we must have strong faith in the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Kings of the account of the unfortunate downfall of King Solomon of Israel who allowed his many wives to distract and mislead him into sinful ways, as they established pagan worship and placed idols in many parts of the kingdom, which led the people into the worship of those false idols and they ended up falling deeper and deeper into sin as their descendants later did.

King Solomon did not remain faithful to God unlike his father David, who remained faithful throughout his life to the very end. Solomon was very wise and rich, powerful and mighty, and while we do not know exactly what led him to his choice of actions, but it might have to do with him trying to secure his power, reign and rule through worldly means, just as he married many wives from different states and neighbouring countries likely with the aim to gain diplomatic recognition and building relationships with those countries, gaining trade agreements and making arrangements to enrich themselves more.

However, the negative impact of such an arrangement and effort is that likely that would have required accommodation and changes in religious policy, including the toleration and even promotion of the pagan faith and worship as done by King Solomon and his wives. And that led him and the kingdom down the slippery slope towards sin. The Lord certainly did send reminders to Solomon through his prophets and messengers, but it was likely that these reminders fell on based on circumstances and the information we have in the Scriptures, he might have been tempted by the power and glory he had, to lose sight of what truly mattered.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord and His interaction with a Syro-Phoenician woman, a woman who came from the region of Phoenicia north of the traditional lands of the Israelites. As such, according to the Jewish viewpoint and customs at the time, she was considered as part of the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people. The Jews always took great pride of their descent from the people of Israel, the chosen people of God, and the name Jew itself came from the word Judah, representing all those who have descended from the people of Judah, who remained faithful to the House of David and to God, at least for part of their history.

Therefore, as we heard the Lord speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman, we may indeed be surprised to hear the tone and the harshness in the words He had chosen to use against the Syro-Phoenician woman. We may have thought that the Lord had reacted so uncharacteristically in His words and replies against the woman. However, if we try to understand the context of what happened back then and the societal aspects of the interaction, then we will quickly realise that the Lord in fact intended the exact opposite of what He had spoken to the woman.

Through what He had said to the woman, the Lord wanted to highlight to all of us the folly and the ugly nature of the sentiments and the opinions then prevailing among the Jews regarding their superiority and the exclusivity of their status as God’s chosen people, especially as interpreted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, to the exclusion of others, even among the Jews themselves who were deemed to be less than worthy, and even less so the Gentiles, like that of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who as a non-Jew and as a woman must have been viewed very much less favourably.

And yet, despite all of that, the Syro-Phoenician woman held on to the faith she had in the Lord and kept firm in asking Him to heal her sick daughter, and she remained resolute in believing in Him despite all the harsh words and replies that she had gotten from the Lord. This proved that her faith in God was truly genuine and no amount of hardships and challenges were going to change that. The Lord knew it all already without Him even needing to ask her, as is He not an Almighty and all-knowing God? But yet, He still asked it from her, as He wanted her to proclaim the truth about her faith to all, to the shame of all those who claimed to be more faithful and yet, refused to believe in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our readings today, we are reminded that we need to have that strong and genuine faith in God, and we have to resist the temptations of our personal desire and ambitions, the temptations of wealth and worldly pleasures that can easily mislead and misguide us in our journey of life. We have to heed the example of how King Solomon, the wise and great king of Israel had fallen into sin and disobedience against God because he failed to heed these, and resulted in great trouble and anguish for the people of God later on.

Today, we should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Scholastica, who was renowned for being the fraternal twin of St. Benedict of Nursia, another great and famous saint, and who herself helped to establish a community of religious and monastic sisters much as her brother was one of the pioneers of religious and monastic brothers and monks in Western Christendom at the time. St. Scholastica became one of the pioneers of female religious life in the Church.

And not only just that, as St. Scholastica was also exemplary in her faith as well, in the virtuous life she lived in, and in all that she had done in contributing to the good of her religious community and to the wider Christian community, of all the faithful people of God. She and her fellow religious sisters were also involved in charitable works and education among other things, and their commitment to the service of God should become our great inspirations, as role model for us to follow in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to glorify God by our own lives and let us do whatever we can to serve Him through our actions and deeds, our words and interactions throughout our lives, even in the smallest things we do. Let our lives and faith be like that of St. Scholastica and like the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, distancing ourselves from sin and being vigilant against worldly temptations just as the example of King Solomon and his downfall ought to have taught us. May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen our resolve and commitment to live faithfully in His presence, always and at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 24-30

At that time, when Jesus went to the border of the Tyrian country. There, He entered a house, and did not want anyone to know He was there; but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet.

Now this woman was a pagan, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies.”

But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 3-4, 35-36, 37 and 40

Blessed are they who always do just and right. Remember me, o YHVH, when You show favour to Your people; rescue me when You deliver them.

They mingled with these nations and learnt to do as they did. In serving the idols of the pagans, they were trapped.

Into sacrificing children to demons. The anger of YHVH grew intense and He abhorred His inheritance.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Kings 11 : 4-13

In Solomon’s old age, his wives led him astray to serve other gods and, unlike his father David, his heart was no longer wholly given to YHVH his God. For he served Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites.

He did what displeased YHVH and, unlike his father David, was unfaithful to Him. Solomon even built a high place for Chemosh, the idol of Moab, on the mountain east of Jerusalem and also for Molech, the idol of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives who burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods.

YHVH became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from YHVH, the God of Israel. YHVH appeared to him twice and commanded him not to follow other gods. But he did not obey YHVH’s command. Therefore, YHVH said to Solomon, “Since this has been your choice and you have kept neither My Covenant nor the statutes I commanded you, I will take the kingdom from you and give it to your servant.”

“Nevertheless, I will not do this during your lifetime for the sake of your father David; I will take it from your son. But I will not take it all; I will reserve one tribe for your son for the sake of David My servant, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen.”

Tuesday, 8 February 2022 : 5th 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 Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all called to serve the Lord wholeheartedly and to love Him from the deepest depth of our hearts, to be genuinely faithful and filled with love for Him and not just an empty gesture or paying lip service to Him. We have to dedicate ourselves thoroughly and completely to walk in His path, to obey His will and commandments, and to answer His call with firm resolution in our hearts. That is our calling as Christians, what we need to do in our lives.

In our first reading today, we heard the prayer of King Solomon made on behalf of the people of Israel at the time of the dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, the great Temple and House that Solomon had built and established for the glory of God and to be His dwelling place among His people. King Solomon had completed the House after seven long years of construction and brought the Ark of the Covenant with great fanfare and celebration, placing it in the Holy of Holies within the Temple, and God’s glorious Presence filled up the entirety of the Temple.

King Solomon prayed on behalf of the people giving thanks to God for His constant love and care for them, and for all that He had done, and for willingly coming to dwell with His people. He humbled himself for the unworthy House that he has built, no matter how grand it might have been, as no House could ever contain the great glory of the Almighty and Infinite God. He asked the Lord for His protection and continued guidance for himself and for the people so that they might remain faithful and dedicated to Him in their lives.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard of the confrontation between the Pharisees and the Lord as they scrutinised Him and how some of His disciples did not wash their hands in the manner that the Law of Moses had prescribed. They criticised the Lord and His disciples at the apparent failure to obey the commandments which were prescribed for all the people to follow, and which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced with great emphasis and even bordering on obsession.

The Lord then reminded them how foolish their preoccupation and obsession with their way of obeying the Law. This must be understood in the context of how the Law of God had grown very cumbersome with plenty of rituals and rules over the centuries as the Law was passed down from generations to generations, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law being those who expanded on the rules and requirements of the Law, making them extra stringent on the people of God. They placed a lot of emphasis on the details of the rules and regulations, and with regards to the matter of the washing of hands, they had a certain prescribed manner and steps to wash their hands before they were to eat or to do other activities.

It was not wrong for one to wash their hands prior to a meal, as we all know that hygiene in fact required us to do so. However, the issue was not about the washing of hands, but rather with the obsession and preoccupations which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had on the extensive details and rituals required in each activities and in each of the requirements regarding that washing. All of these distract us from truly understanding why the Law is present in our lives. The people ended up doing the Law for the sake of fulfilling the requirements rather than because they love the Lord.

Today we also have two saints, our holy predecessors whose lives and works can become great source of inspiration for us to follow in how we ourselves should live our faith as Christians. They are St. Jerome Emiliani, a renowned holy man of God who was prominent for his works among the people of God particularly among the sick and the orphans, and then also St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who became a Christian and who upon her escape and freedom became a member of the Canossian religious order, and was exemplary in her conduct in faith and life.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a very renowned humanitarian, dedicating a lot of time and efforts to reach out to the poor and the orphans. He spent a lot of effort helping orphans and the needy, even taking out from his own expense to help them. St. Jerome Emiliani rented houses for taking care of these people in need, helping them as much as he could, and he inspired many others to join in his efforts, and eventually this came to be the foundation of the Congregation of the Regular Clerics, also known as the Somaschi Fathers who are dedicated for the same work initiated by St. Jerome Emiliani.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was a freed slave, who was abducted from her birth family in what is today Sudan, during her early youth in one of the many slave raids. She suffered throughout her period of enslavement, but by God’s grace, she ended up in the possession of a former Christian who was touched by her life, work and virtuous character, and in the end, both her and her master went back to Europe and St. Josephine Bakhita gained her freedom. St. Josephine Bakhita went to join the Canossians and worked hard for many years in serving the community of the Canossians as well as the local community.

Through the examples showed by St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita we can learn how we should follow the Lord wholeheartedly through our love for our fellow brothers and sisters, through our genuine care for those who are needy, and not to focus only on our own needs and wants, or only on our own personal piety and righteousness, just as how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often spent a lot of their time and effort on. We are all called to be genuine followers of Christ, to be full of love for Him and to have that dedication and commitment to Him.

Let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed zeal and faith, and let us all do our best to follow Him by modelling ourselves on the virtues of our predecessors, and remind ourselves that we are called to be holy. Let us devote our time and effort to serve the Lord and to be exemplary in our actions. May the Lord be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to walk ever more devotedly in His path, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Mark 7 : 1-13

At that time, one day, the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of His disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.

Now the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands, for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when they come from the market, without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe; for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?” Jesus answered, “You shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote : ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. The worship they offer Me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules.’ You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition.”

And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregarding the commandments of God in order to enforce your own traditions! For example, Moses said : Do your duty to your father and your mother, and : Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death. But according to you, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I already declared Corban (which means “offered to God”) what you could have expected from me.’”

“In this case, you no longer require him to do anything for his father or mother; and so you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that.”