Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scripture, we heard how God has sealed us with His grace, which is through baptism that He has claimed us all and renewed us, liberating us all from the hold of original sin and death, and we have all been made and adopted to be children of God. God has called us all to be His disciples, His followers, and made us all to be His children.

God has loved us all so much, from the depth of His heart. His love is poured on us bountifully, and it was because of His infinite, patient and enduring love for each and every one of us that we have been saved. He has been patient in dealing with us, even when we have sinned and disobeyed Him again and again. He has always extended His mercy and the desire to forgive us at all times. Unfortunately, we often ignored and disregarded His love, because we were too busy with many things, and tempted by many distractions.

This is what the Lord also referred to in our Gospel passage today when He spoke of the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’, after a series of the past few days when we heard all the criticism and curses the Lord spoke of the Pharisees. And He plainly mentioned how the great sin of the Pharisees as being their hypocrisy and lack of genuine faith in God. Although outwardly pious, but their hearts were not fully attuned to the Lord.

God knows full well what is in our hearts, as He said in our Gospel today, that nothing hidden that will not be uncovered, nothing that is beyond God’s ability to know. He knows all of our intentions and everything about us, and therefore, if we have been faithful even in little things, we will be assured of the Lord’s favour and providence. Similarly, if we have not been faithful and wayward, then all these will be held against us too.

We must take heed of these reminders from the Lord through these readings, not to be easily tempted by worldly temptations, or by concerns and fears that we may be having. In that same passage we heard of the Lord reassuring us that we are all precious to Him, that we are all beloved by Him and will be provided and taken care of. Most often we find reasons for those who strayed from the Lord is that because they were preoccupied with securing themselves and gaining their worldly satisfactions or achievements.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be genuinely faithful to God, and knowing that God has loved us so much, then we really should spend the same effort and time to love the Lord with equal intensity and commitment. If God has loved us so much, then why is it that we cannot even try to love Him, even in little matter and things. The Lord is always willing to reach out to us, to embrace us, and He is waiting for us to respond to Him and His love. Are we willing to embrace that love, brothers and sisters?

Today, all of us ought to look upon the examples and inspirations of the saints, our holy predecessors. St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are those whose lives and inspirations that we need to follow and be inspired from. St. Hedwig of Silesia was the Duchess consort of Silesia who joined religious life after she was widowed, while St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was the renowned visionary of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Hedwig of Silesia was born into the noble family, and was married to the Duke of Silesia, and she was renowned for her piety and dedication even during those years. She was always remembered for her commitment to God, her charity and love for the poor. But most memorably, after her husband passed away early on, having settled and taken care of her children, St. Hedwig of Silesia joined the religious life and committed herself to God. Her piety was so great that even her own son, the Duke of Silesia also led a pious life.

And as mentioned, St. Hedwig of Silesia also cared for the poor, the sick and widows as well as orphans, showing them care and concern, extending the love of God to them all. And she also definitely loved the Lord very much, as she spent a lot of quality time with Him. This is exactly the same as what the other saint, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who was also very devout and committed in her service to God.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had a rough early life, as misfortune befell her family, but this did not stop her from being pious in her life, even from her youth. After joining the religious life, this continues on, which St. Margaret Mary Alacoque carried on faithfully as she served the Lord through prayer and service. She experienced miraculous visions of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which the now popular devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus stemmed forth.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque shared what she had received in her visions, the words that the Lord, in His Most Sacred Heart spoke to her, calling for the repentance of sinners and to entrust themselves in His Most Sacred Heart. And it is a kind reminder that us of the generous love of God we discussed earlier, in how He loved us with His heart and dedicated everything to us, even to the point of the sacrifice He made on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of the saints, our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to serve the Lord faithfully. May the Lord bless us all in all of our every good endeavours and efforts, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 12 : 1-7

At that time, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to His disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered; or hidden, that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops.”

“I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you Whom to fear : Fear the One Who, after killing you, is able to throw you into hell. This One you must fear. Do you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Do not be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?”

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Psalm)

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

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 12-13

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. YHVH looks down from heaven and sees the whole race of mortals.

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (First Reading)

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

Ephesians 1 : 11-14

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

You, on hearing the word of truth, the Gospel that saves you, have believed in Him. And, as promised, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, the first pledge of what we shall receive, on the way to our deliverance, as a people of God, for the praise of His glory.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, 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 Scriptures, we heard from our first reading the beginning of the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful and the Church in Ephesus, in which the Apostle spoke of the great love of God and the salvation which He has lavished on all of those who believed and embraced Christ as their Saviour. Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard the continuation of yesterday’s discourse on the Lord’s criticism and the curses He levelled on the Pharisees.

In our first reading today, St. Paul spoke to the people of Ephesus regarding the designs and all that God had willed on His people, how He has created us all out of love, and how He has blessed us all and provided for us. Essentially, the key message of St. Paul is that we are beloved by God and He wants us to be forgiven from our sins and thus be reconciled with Him.

Through sin, all of us have been separated from God, and we have fallen away from the path of grace and eternal life. Had it not been for God’s enduring and pure love for us, we would have been destroyed and annihilated. Our sins would have condemned us into an eternity of suffering, and it was only thanks to the patience and compassionate love showed by the Lord to us that we have received the way out of this certain predicament.

It was by the loving sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that the Lord had redeemed us from our fated destruction, extending forgiveness for our sins, and calling us to repent wholeheartedly and abandon our past lives of sin, our previous wicked and disobedient way of life. The Lord has generously extended His offer of love and mercy, and we shall certainly be completely forgiven if only that we embrace repentance and change our ways.

This is then linked to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord speaking to the people on the vices and wickedness of the Pharisees in the various occasions when they did not obey the Lord as they preferred to live and act in accordance to their own way. The Lord reminded us all that this is not the right path for us to follow, and instead of doing what the Pharisees had done, we must be truly faithful.

First of all, the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord, in His words and teachings even though He has repeatedly showed them and all others how His message and words were genuine, and that the prophets had indeed prophesied about His coming into the world. And despite all the signs and wonders they had witnessed, they still refused to have faith.

This shows just how powerful the allure of human pride and desire can be, and if we allow these to influence us much as how they had influenced the Pharisees and many of the teachers of the Law and elders of the people, then it will likely lead us down the same path towards ruin. Those groups of people I mentioned earlier, they took great pride in their own supposed superior intellect, power, influence and other things that made them to resist the Lord and His revelation of truth.

They were blinded by their desires, by their jealousy within them, and by their fears, as they were afraid to lose all the good things, all the privileges and power they had enjoyed. And in the end, instead of depending and focusing on the Lord, they ended up being self-indulgent, depending on their own power and might, their own wisdom and intellect, refusing to admit that they could have been mistaken and wrong, and thus, hardened their hearts when the Lord came bearing His truth before their own eyes.

Truly, it is sad to see how those who were blessed with many good things had fallen. But this is indeed a kind reminder from the Lord how we cannot be complacent and need to be careful lest we may be tempted by those worldly desires, concerns and all the allures by which the devil has been constantly trying to lure us away from God’s path and grace. It will indeed not be easy, as we live in a world inundated by all these temptations, but unless we make the effort, then indeed we will be easy prey for those temptations.

That is why, today, all of us should be inspired by the good examples set by our saint today, the renowned St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, the renowned mystic and holy woman, declared one of the Doctors of the Church for her immense contribution to the faith and in all of her writings and efforts. Together with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila were very important figures in the renewal and reform of the Carmelite order, establishing what would be known as the Discalced Carmelites.

At that time, after centuries of developments, the Carmelite order began to stray further and further away from the true intentions of the founders of the religious order. Members of the religious began to be corrupted by worldly desires, and found many ways to circumvent or ignore the rules of the religious living and Carmelite tenets altogether. Similar trends were also observed in other religious orders, as both members of the clergy and laity alike became lax in their discipline in life and in their observance of God’s Law and commandments.

Therefore, St. Teresa of Jesus, together with St. John of the Cross and other reformers set out to reform the Carmelites, as well as the larger Church and the faithful community in general, which sought to return the Christian faith and its followers to purer intentions, ridding it off the excesses that had grown to accumulate over those past few centuries, when corrupt influences of the world began to affect the members of the Church and led them astray, much as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had experienced earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Teresa of Jesus and her fellow companions all worked hard and dedicated themselves deeply to the service of the Lord despite the challenges that she had to face throughout those difficult years in attempting to reform the Church and the faithful community, especially the Carmelites. We are all also called to follow the Lord, just as St. Teresa of Jesus and the other saints had done.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with all of our hearts, and let us commit ourselves ever more faithfully, each and every moments of our lives, to be faithful disciples and great inspirations for each other, the beacons of God’s light, His truth, hope and love. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. St. Teresa of Jesus, great reformer and faithful servant of God, pray for us all, always. Amen.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 47-54

At that time, Jesus said to the teachers of the Law, “A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them!”

“For that reason the wisdom of God also said : I will send prophets and Apostles and these people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the Sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all.”

“A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.”

As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to harass Him, asking Him endless questions, setting traps to catch Him in something He might say.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 1-10

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, to you, who share Christian faith : receive grace and peace from God, our Father, and from Jesus, the Lord.

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

For, in Christ, we obtain freedom, sealed by His Blood, and have the forgiveness of sins. In this, appears the greatness of His grace, which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and understanding, God has made known to us His mysterious design, in accordance with His loving-kindness, in Christ.

In Him, and under Him, God wanted to unite, when the fullness of time had come, everything in heaven and on earth.

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the promises of God’s salvation which He made to His servant Isaiah, in our first reading passage today, with the comforting words that God will once again cherish and bless His people, which by the time of Isaiah had faced much difficulty and many trials, and how God will bless them all and make them whole again.

And the fulfilment of these prophecies had been made through Christ, the Saviour of the world, of whom Isaiah spoke extensively about. And God has called on all of us to come to Him and to gather in His presence and receive from Him grace and peace forever. But unfortunately, many of us rejected Him, ignored His call and turned a deaf ear to His pleas to seek our reconciliation with Him.

That is why, in our Gospel today, we heard the Lord gathering little children to Himself and told all of His disciples that unless they were to be like those little children in their faith and in their lives, they would have no place in the kingdom of Heaven. And this came right after the disciples were arguing and debating among themselves on who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven and amongst Christ’s disciples and followers.

The Lord therefore reminds them all that to be His followers we must be humble, make ourselves small and insignificant, for it was our hubris and ego that had led us to our downfall. It was our desire for power, influence, worldly glory, fame, wealth that led us to a path of disobedience and wickedness, and thus these made us to commit sin against God.

And it is not easy for us to be faithful as the Lord had called us to be, to be like little children in our faith, whose faith are pure and without strings attached to worldly desires and temptations. Often, we have too much in mind to be able to focus our attention on God, unlike those little children, whose attention can be wholly centred on Him, as they have not yet been affected by all sorts of worldly matters and concerns.

This is where perhaps we should look upon the examples set by our famous saint of the day, whose life and philosophy embody exactly this call for us to be ‘childlike’ in our faith. St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of Child Jesus and as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’, was a Discalced Carmelite nun who has been very popular during her life and especially more so after her passing. She inspired many people by her virtuous life and was renowned for her ‘Little Way’.

St. Therese certainly did not have an easy life or vocation as a religious, as she was often sickly in her youth, although she was indeed brought up in a loving and devout family. Family tragedy struck early as her mother passed away when she was still a very young child. And St. Therese was also bullied and often suffered in school. She endured all these patiently and with faith.

When one of her elder sister joined the Carmelite nuns, St. Therese was devastated but this in itself led her to desire to join the Carmelites as well. She was often told that she was still too young and her poor health also made it difficult. St. Therese also began to experience spiritual visions which would be more frequent later in her life. It was then on the Christmas Eve of the Year of Our Lord 1886 that she experienced a complete conversion of her soul.

From that point onwards, St. Therese began a new journey of faith, overcoming her sensitivities and self desires, a victory over the desires of the flesh and body, and dedicating herself ever more to God. As she eventually entered the Carmelite monastery after several more years of trials and struggles, and throughout her later time as a postulant and novice religious sister, being devoted and dedicated to the Lord.

And the hallmark of her faith and idea is known as the ‘Little Way’ in which St. Therese put forward the view that in order for us to follow God, what we really ought to do is to be faithful to Him in all things, even in the simplest and smallest of actions. We are called to be faithful through simple and little actions in life. This is what we all need to do, in order to be faithful as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have just heard about St. Therese of Lisieux today, and from the reflections of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to be faithful to God at all times, and to do this through our lives, each and every day of them. Often we have ignored these as we are too busy pursuing worldly ambitions and desires, and by temptations we faced, we have been lured away by desire to walk down the wrong path in life.

This is why we are called to be like little children in our faith, to be genuine in our faith and dedication in God, be more humble and reject all the temptations of ego, pride, ambition, greed and desire among others. This is not something easily done as we are often surrounded by all these every moment of our lives, and unless we make a concerted effort to resist those temptations we will falter and fall into sin.

And in addition to that, we often remain passive and inactive in our Christian life because we thought that we cannot do anything significant in the matter of our faith. And this is where we are wrong, as even little actions and commitments are part of that journey of faith, and all of our little actions and contributions combined together, will become a great effort indeed. That is why we really have to embrace God’s call to be witnesses of our faith and as missionaries to spread the Good News of God by our dedication and actions in life.

Let us all therefore strive to be faithful to God at all times, in every little actions we do in our lives, that by following the examples of St. Therese of Child Jesus, the Little Flower of Carmel, we may indeed become truly committed to God and no longer ensnared by the temptations in life. May God help and guide us in this journey, and bless us in our every good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us all! Amen.

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”