Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the continuation of the story of the Maccabees rebellion against the Seleucid Empire as part of our first reading, and we also heard another story, from our Gospel passage, when Jesus told His disciples and the people about the parable of the silver pounds or silver talents according to the other Gospels.

In the first reading, we heard a particularly sad and tragic story of a family, specifically a mother with her seven sons who were arrested because they refused to abandon their faith and Jewish traditions, and were brought to the king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ordered that all the Jewish people in his kingdom must abandon their faith and belief in God, and instead, obey the king and follow his religious customs.

The mother and her seven sons persisted in their adherence to the faith, and steadfastly refused to follow and obey the king’s commands for them to do what were against the commandments of God. Even though the king offered the brothers many generous gifts and the lucrative promises of position, prestige and honour as friends of the king, they still refused to listen to him.

As a result, they were martyred one by one, and to the very end, to the last of the seven brothers, and then to the mother herself, they remained true to their faith in God, and they did not abandon Him by sinning and submitting to the temptations of worldly power and pleasures. They had become examples for all the other Jewish people of their time, of how they should live faithfully even in the midst of great persecutions and tribulations, and remain true to their faith.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke about the parable of the talents in which three servants were given different amounts of silver talents depending on their respective abilities as judged by their master. The master left for a long journey, and found that upon his return, two of the three servants had been investing the silver talents, and thanks to their hard work and acumen, they managed to double the silver talents attained in return.

On the other hand, the lazy servant who refused to do anything with the silver talent hid it, and returned it to the master exactly as how it was given to him. As a result, he was severely punished by his master for his laziness and lack of action, while the two servants who had worked hard with the silver given to them were rewarded and entrusted with the master’s great favour and inheritance.

Then, what is the lesson which we can learn from the Scripture passages that we have heard today? First of all, the silver talents that the master granted his servants, are representative of the faith which God, Our Lord and Master has granted to us, His people. And it is our responsibility and duty, that we use that faith, and live according to that faith, or else, like the lazy servant, that faith will do nothing good for us at all.

The mother and her seven sons in the first reading today showed their way of being faithful to God, remaining true to their faith amidst persecution and challenges, refusing to sin rather than earning the wrath of God. They showed all of us the inspiration of how to be true disciples of the Lord, that is by no longer being ambivalent or ignorant about our faith, and doing what the Lord had commanded us to do in our lives, that our faith is really alive and not merely a formality.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Cecilia, a faithful woman and a holy servant of God, who chose to die for her faith rather than to abandon her faith in Him, and she exemplified the true nature of God’s faithful disciples, that is complete and total surrender of oneself to the will of God. She gave herself and dedicated herself to God, and maintained a state of holy virginity despite being forced to marry a pagan nobleman, who she managed to convert to the faith through her zeal and piety.

She was martyred for her faith during one of the great persecutions of the faithful, choosing to remain faithful to God rather than to surrender to the temptation to sin, much like the mother and her seven sons from the time of the Maccabees. All of these have shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we must be truly faithful to God, and this does not mean that we must lay down our lives like theirs, but we must give our all to God.

Let us therefore draw closer to God, and seek to be ever more faithful and dedicated from now on. Let us grow stronger in our faith, and learn from the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints and martyrs, St. Cecilia and many more, how to be ever true to our faith in God, and how to bear rich fruits of God’s grace, and be rewarded as the master rewarded his two diligent and hardworking servants in the Gospel passage today. May God bless us always, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country in order to be crowned king, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants, to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

“The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.’ The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front of me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 16 : 1, 5-6, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Hold firm my steps upon Your path, that my feet may not stumble. I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors. Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them :

“I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world Who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for the love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language : “My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day.”

“I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Thursday, 16 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are warned by the Lord through His words in the Scriptures, against believing in the false ways and wrong guidance of the false messengers and prophets of God. There will be plenty of those who mislead others with signs of nature and whatever it is that our feeble human intellect and understanding try to perceive, not realising that the will of God and His plans cannot be perceived by our senses alone.

That is why, even at this time, there are plenty of people out there who seek to mislead the people for their own selfish interests, for personal ambitions and self-glorifications, as there were those who even claimed that they were the messengers of God, or even the Lord Himself, coming down from heaven, as the Second Coming long promised. But all these are frauds, and we must not believe in them.

We tend to be awed by worldly greatness, grandeur, glory and all the things that stimulate our physical senses. However, all these can be distractions in our path, as there will then be those who lead others down the wrong path, by depending on the false glory of the world, trusting in their human power and talents instead of placing their trust in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of depending on our own human wisdom, intellect, understanding and power, we should put our trust and faith in God, and in His divine Wisdom, which He has imparted to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts. Thus, the Wisdom of God Himself exists within us. However, many of us ignore God’s Wisdom and instead trust more in our own human instincts, intellects and judgments.

The Wisdom of God is often ignored because we are too preoccupied with the world, all its noise and distractions. The Wisdom of God lies deep in our hearts, buried underneath all the distractions of life. And therefore, how do we then find this Wisdom? It is by learning to focus ourselves amidst the busy schedules and distractions of this life, discerning deep in our hearts, that the Wisdom of God will be able to show us the way.

What do we need to do in order to achieve this? We need to deepen our relationship with God through prayer, by quieting our hearts and minds, focusing them towards God. By doing this, we will be able to discern carefully what we need to do in this life, that we will be able to draw closer to God and walk in accordance with His will.

Let us all follow the examples of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, the two saints whose feast we celebrate today. St. Margaret of Scotland was the Queen of Scotland, and was mother to several kings of Scotland. She was well known for her great piety and exemplary lifestyle. She was very charitable in her life, giving generously to the poor and the sick throughout her kingdom.

And by that examples, St. Margaret of Scotland had inspired many others, including her husband the king, her sons and children. She has a great prayer life and personal devotion to the Lord, and therefore, surely she has allowed God’s Wisdom to be her guide, and this is reflected in her lifestyle and efforts as well.

Meanwhile, St. Gertrude, also known as St. Gertrude the Great, was a renowned mystic and Benedictine nun, who was remembered and known for her many works of the faith, her many writings about her visions and mystical experiences, through total surrender to God, and deep spiritual relationship with Him. She devoted herself thoroughly to God, and also was known for her deep devotion to the Most Sacred Heart.

The examples of these two saints should be inspirations for all of us, to put our trust in the Lord’s Wisdom and path, rather than to trust our own limited and error-prone wisdom, intellect and instincts. Let us renew therefore, our commitment to the Lord, and our desire to love Him and serve Him through our every actions in life.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless all of our endeavours in life. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 16 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 17 : 20-25

At that time, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was to come. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not like something you can observe, and say of it, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘See, there it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you.”

And Jesus said to His disciples, “The time is at hand, when you will long to see one of the glorious days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Then people will tell you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go with them, do not follow them. As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man; but first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.”

Thursday, 16 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Psalm)

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

Psalm 118 : 89, 90, 91, 130, 135, 175

O YHVH, Your word stands forever, firmly fixed in the heavens.

Your faithfulness lasts throughout the ages – as long as the earth You created.

Your ordinances last to this day, for all things are made to serve You.

As Your words unfold, light is shed, and the simple-hearted understand.

Favour me with Your smile and teach me Your statutes.

Long may I live, to sing Your praise, may Your ordinances always be my help!