Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are brought to pay attention and place our focus on God’s loving mercy, His generous forgiveness and the compassion with which He has taken great care over each and every one of us. And we are reminded that each and every one of us are truly blessed to have the opportunity to embrace God’s loving grace and rich mercy. But have we been appreciative of His love for us all these while?

In our first reading today all of us heard from the words of the prophet Hosea, the proclamation of God’s love and upcoming salvation for His people, a very significant promise made at that time when the people of God were already on the verge of destruction and defeat, as the prophet Hosea performed his ministry among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel just within twenty years or so from the downfall of Samaria and the kingdom under the conquest of the Assyrians.

For a people and kingdom who had deviated from the Lord’s path for so long, many decades and centuries, it might have sounded so amazing that even after everything that they had done, the Lord was still so patient with them that He was willing to welcome them back, to love them and to show them His care despite every kind of sorrow and sadness that they had given to Him by their persistent disobedience and sins, their betrayal of the Lord for the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Hosea brought forth the prophecy that God would once again restore His people, gather them once again and allow them to live in peace and harmony together with Him, and they would no longer worship the pagan idols and Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, but instead, they would only worship the Lord, the one and only true God. The Lord desired for the reconciliation with His people and He was willing to forgive them their sins, but provided that they were willing to turn away from their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard yet another amazing story, of the healing of a woman who was suffering from haemorrhage or bleeding for twelve long years. The woman was hesitant and afraid to come to the Lord, as bleeding such as what she had suffered from was something considered unclean according to the Law, and she must have tried her best to hide her condition for all those years. There was certainly a mixture of shame and uncertainty in her mind that day.

But she gathered her courage and whatever strength she had to come towards the Lord, with faith that if she could even just touch the fringe of the Lord’s cloak, then she would be healed from her bleeding troubles. And sure enough, the very moment she touched the Lord’s cloak, her troubles were ended, and her body was made whole again. In all of these, and linking to what we have heard earlier on in our first reading, we heard the amazing story of God’s mercy, love and compassion for each and every one of us.

For the woman was actually a representative of us sinners, also much like the people of Israel of old, those who have disobeyed God and committed sins against Him. Her bleeding was just like how the people had sinned and disobeyed God therefore became defiled and unworthy of God. And by God’s power and grace, He will heal all of us just as He has healed the woman from all of her troubles. But all these, as we have heard, required faith, and strong, genuine faith.

Are we able to seek God with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow the examples of the woman, who although fearful and uncertain, but her faith helped her to overcome those fears and she stepped forward, seeking the Lord with that faith? And that is what we need, brothers and sisters in Christ, that faith with the genuine desire to seek the Lord, to love Him and to turn away from all of our evil and sins, and embrace God’s ever great and bountiful forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we also celebrate the memory of the renowned saint, St. Maria Goretti, whose faith and devotion to God, her commitment and love for God, her love and patience, her forgiveness even for someone who had caused her so much hurt can be a great inspiration for ourselves, in how we ought to live our lives with faith. St. Maria Goretti was still a young girl and in her early teenage years, from a poor but loving family, as her parent worked and lived with another family.

The son of that family with whom St. Maria Goretti stayed with, named Alessandro, desired her and wanted to commit what was sinful in the eyes of God. St. Maria Goretti resisted his advances when he made it during one opportune moment as she did not want to do what was against God’s will and Law, and her, being a pious and God-fearing person, also did not want Alessandro to fall into evil. In his moment of anger of being rejected by St. Maria Goretti, Alessandro stabbed the girl many times.

On her deathbed, St. Maria Goretti forgave her assailant and murderer, and prayed for him, and asked for clemency for Alessandro. And with that, this young girl who chose death rather than to blemish herself with the taint of sin, entered into heavenly glory through martyrdom. And through the testimony of Alessandro himself, when he was in prison, he saw St. Maria Goretti coming to him and told him how she had forgiven him and that she prayed for his conversion of heart.

That was how Alessandro was converted and turned away from his earlier, sinful in his youthful years. When he was released from prison, he begged for forgiveness from the mother of St. Maria Goretti, who promptly forgave him, saying that how she ought to have forgiven him if her own daughter herself had forgiven him and prayed for him so much from heaven. Alessandro spent his remaining years doing his best in penance and also living righteously in prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we can see just how wonderful and amazing God’s healing and reconciliation can be for us. Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord and seek His forgiveness just as Alessandro had? And are we willing to commit ourselves to God and reject sin and the temptation to sin just as St. Maria Goretti had done? Let us all be righteous and good, and embrace God’s love and forgiveness from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He show us all His mercy, lovingly embracing us and taking good care of us, and help us in our journey towards righteousness, guiding us in repentance and giving us the necessary strength and patience to overcome all the temptations and sins present in our lives, that we may be healed from all these sickness of sin, and be purified by God’s ever wonderful mercy and love. Amen.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

People will proclaim Your mighty deeds; and I will declare Your greatness. They will celebrate Your abundant kindness, and rejoice in singing of Your justice.

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hosea 2 : 16, 17b-18, 21-22

So I am going to allure her, lead her once more into the desert, where I can speak to her tenderly. There, she will answer Me, as in her youth, as when she came out of the land of Egypt.

On that day, YHVH says, “You will call Me my Husband, and never again : my Baal. You will be My spouse forever, betrothed in justice and integrity; we will be united in love and tenderness. I will espouse you in faithfulness; and you will come to know YHVH.”

Monday, 25 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture through which we are told of the revelations of God’s love and truth to us all, to remind us during this season of Easter how we are always blessed to have God Who dearly loves each and every one of us without exception. God has blessed us with such a great love for each and every moments of our lives, and even more importantly, He has saved us and gave us the reassurance of eternal life and glory through Him.

In our first reading today, we heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was given by St. Paul to some of the people who have believed in the Lord and yet they had not yet received the baptism into the faith according to the teachings of the Church. In that occasion, the people who have believed in God and accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour received the Holy Spirit by the laying of the hands by the Apostle, completing their journey of initiation into the faith.

This was a time at the very early days and beginnings of the Church, when there had not been much of an established framework and structure of the Church and Christian hierarchy yet. That was a time when the faith rapidly spread all across the Mediterranean world and beyond, brought by the Apostles and their fellow missionaries, those who have been sent out and empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the truth of God to the many people of many nations.

But there were those like Apollos, although courageous and very charismatic, yet he had not had full and proper understanding of the Christian faith. It was likely Apollos who had revealed his then partial understanding of the Christian faith to the people in Ephesus earlier on. Apollos would later on receive help from some among the faithful who taught him more about the Christian faith, and Apollos went on with ever greater commitment to his ministry than before.

Thanks to the combined efforts of all these faithful servants of God, many became believers and came to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and God. They trusted in the Lord and despite the trials and challenges they had to encounter, they placed their hope with God, as per what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, entrusting themselves to the One Who had overcome the world and has shown them the path to eternal life and glory through Him.

All of us have therefore received our faith through them, passed down to us through countless generations of brave and courageous predecessors, missionaries and all those who have heard and known of the Lord’s love, and show that same love in their own actions, words and deeds, convincing one another to remain faithful in this loving and compassionate God. And today, we have even more of these good examples and inspirations of our faith to follow.

St. Bede the Venerable, a renowned early English saint, was one of the most famous saints of the Middle Ages, and he was known for his extensive works and dedication to Christian learning, history and knowledge. He wrote many great works and wonderful tomes that were revolutionary for his time and were widely read many years afterwards. His piety and devotion to God was also well-known, and his works inspired many generations of Christian intellectuals and saints in the years after his life.

Meanwhile, Pope St. Gregory VII was one of the great Popes of the Middle Ages, who was a great reformer of the Church and the faith, well-known especially for his crucial role in the Investiture Controversy or the conflict between the Church and the secular authority of the Holy Roman Empire and its Emperor. At that time, the tension and conflict between the Pope and the supreme secular authority in Christendom, that is the Holy Roman Emperor was peaking, and the Emperor claimed the rights to appoint the bishops and leaders of the Church in his realm.

But Pope St. Gregory VII stood up against the Emperor and his many supporters, and he opposed the efforts of those who wanted to put the Church under their authority and power. He also was instrumental in reforming the Church and the corrupt and immoral practices of the Church at the time, purifying the institution of priesthood and restoring the discipline of the clergy among many other reforms he made. He encountered various opposition and difficulties, but that did not stop him from doing his best and dedicating himself to serve God.

And lastly, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a Carmelite nun and mystic, who had devoted herself to God from a very young age, and was renowned for her great faith and commitment, joining the religious life and received from God visions that what made her well-known as a pious and devoted servant of God. She dedicated herself to God to the very last moments of her life, and her dedication inspired many others to be faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard from the wonderful story and testimonies of these faithful saints, now, are we all more convinced to lead a life more attuned to God? Are we more willing to commit ourselves to God from now on? God has given us all these wonderful people throughout the ages who dedicated themselves to Him and therefore brought so many people including we ourselves to Him and to salvation in Him. It is now our turn to commit ourselves for the good of the Church and all people.

May the Lord help us and give us the strength and courage to live faithfully, with ever more devotion, with each and every passing moments, that we may dedicate ourselves much as the Apostles had, and as St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, and innumerable other saints had done with theirs. May the Lord bless us all, now and always in our every good works. Amen.

Monday, 25 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 29-33

At that time, the disciples said to Jesus, “Now You are speaking plainly and not in veiled language! Now we see that You know all things, even before we question You. Because of this we believe that You came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “You say that you believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me. I have told you all this, so that in Me you may have peace. You will have trouble in the world; but courage! I have overcome the world.”

Monday, 25 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 67 : 2-3, 4-5ac, 6-7ab

Arise, o God, scatter Your enemies; let Your foes flee before You. As smoke is blown by the wind, so blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before You.

But let the righteous be glad and exult before God; let them sing to God and shout for joy. Sing to God, sing praises to His Name; the Lord is His Name. Rejoice in His presence.

Father of orphans and Protector of widows – such is our God is His holy dwelling. He gives shelter to the homeless, sets the prisoners free.

Monday, 25 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 19 : 1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul travelled through the interior of the country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples whom he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered, “We have not even heard that anyone may receive the Holy Spirit.” Paul then asked, “What kind of baptism have you received?” And they answered, “The baptism of John.”

Paul then explained, “John’s baptism was for conversion, but he himself said they should believe in the One Who was to come, and that One is Jesus.” Upon hearing this, they were baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came down upon them; and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of them in all.

Paul went into the synagogue and for three months he preached and discussed there boldly, trying to convince them about the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd 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, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded that there will be difficulties, persecutions and challenges in our way as we seek to be faithful Christians and to obey the Lord in all things. We are not going to have it easy if we choose to follow the Lord’s commandments and walk faithfully in His path. Just as mentioned in our first reading today, even from the earliest days of the Church there had been persecutions against the faithful, and martyrdom as shown by St. Stephen and his martyrdom.

We heard of how Saul, the zealous and misguided young Pharisee, attempted to destroy the then still very young and fledging Church, using force and even violence to strike at the followers of Christ and all who were suspected to be Christians, not sparing even the women and children. There had been many sufferings and trials those early Christians had to suffer, and many had to endure prison and even martyrdom because of their steadfast faith in God.

But despite all of these, we must not lose heart just as those Christians remained strong in their faith, as they still committed themselves to the cause of the Lord and His Church even amidst the persecutions, like what St. Philip the Apostle had done, in preaching the Good News of God and performing his ministry even at the height of the persecution from the Jewish authorities and the vengeful but misguided crusade of people like Saul, the future St. Paul in those days when he was still a great enemy of the Church.

Saul has been a great persecutor of the faithful, but later on, God would call him and in turn he repented and became instead a great champion of the Church and the faith. And this is just how we must truly have faith and put our trust in God, for God will surely be with us, and we do not need to worry, for God has His plans for us. If someone who had been so vicious and so dangerous to the Church as Saul could be converted and had such a total change in his life to be a follower of God, then everything is indeed possible for God, although we may have thought that such a thing is impossible.

All the Apostles, the disciples and all those Christians, our very own predecessors have been able to persevere through those difficult moments, through those persecutions and trials because they truly put their trust in the Lord, their Risen and glorious Saviour. In our Gospel passage today, we continue to hear from what yesterday’s Gospel had told us on the discourse of the Bread of Life. Christ referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, to the disgust of some of His own followers who failed to understand what He had meant properly.

Through His gift of the Eucharist to us, the Lord has strengthened us and make us all to share in His Body and Blood, that all of us who partake in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, are united in this Communion with Him, the whole entire Church together, both all of us who are living in the present in this world, and also all those who have gone before us triumphantly, the same Apostles and disciples and all those who had endured martyrdom for their faith, namely the saints and martyrs, as well as all the holy souls in purgatory waiting for their time to enter the glory of Heaven.

All of us share in this same Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ through Whom we have received the assurance of eternal life if we trust Him and have complete faith in Him. He has called us all from the nations and brought us to Him, that through Him we may find our way to the eternal glory with Him in heaven. That is why we must look forward to this and focus our attention on the Lord, our Hope and our Light, even when we may encounter difficulties and challenges in our lives as Christians.

Today, let us also look upon the good examples of our predecessor, St. Catherine of Siena, a great and renowned saint and Doctor of the Church whose life and contributions to the Church are still felt and experienced even to this very day. She was renowned for her many visions and experiences of the faith with the Lord that she had received from when she was as young as five or six years old, and which she would continue to receive through life.

She devoted herself and her whole life to the Lord, and she wrote extensively about her experiences and her visions, as well as treatises about the faith and the Church. She was deeply respected and honoured for her faith and piety, for her great visions and writings, and she was involved even in the resolutions of conflicts that were common at her time, in what is now Italy, over six hundred years ago. Even Popes and Cardinals at that time sought her advice and help for the issues of the Church.

St. Catherine of Siena truly placed her complete faith in the Lord, the Bread of Life, as she committed herself to an almost daily reception of the Holy Eucharist, living with great simplicity and practiced fasting so often that she had to be reminded to take care of herself. Nonetheless, her faith sustained her throughout her life and missions, her contributions and efforts in rejuvenation of the faith and the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to imitate the good examples of St. Catherine of Siena in her faith and dedication to the Lord? Let us all put more of our trust in the Lord, and be more committed in our faith from now on, and appreciate this most wonderful gift He has given us in the Eucharist? By sharing in the Bread of Life, all of us will be strengthened in faith and in our lives, especially important in these days when things seem so bleak and hopeless all around us.

Let us all share our hope in the Lord, and share this joy of having the Bread of Life, the Christ with us, with one another. May the Lord be with us always and may He guide us through our journey, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 35-40

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me shall never be thirsty. Nevertheless, as I said, you refuse to believe, even when you have seen. Yet all those whom the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I shall not turn away. For I have come from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of the One Who sent Me.”

“And the will of Him Who sent Me is that I lose nothing of what He has given Me, but instead that I raise it up on the last day. This is the will of the Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in Him shall live eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.”