Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the obligation each and every one of us have in living our lives with faith, in proclaiming the truth of God and becoming the beacons of His light in our world today. These are the responsibilities that we have been entrusted with, to be the examples of faith and inspiration for many others whom we encounter in our own lives.

In our first reading today, we heard from the second Book of the prophet Samuel regarding the prayer that King David of Israel made to the Lord after the Lord had made him secure in his rule and place as the leader over all the people of Israel. David thanked God for all that He had done for His people Israel and also what He had done to David himself and to his family, in honouring him and all his relatives for having chosen him as the King of Israel and through all the promises that God had made in assuring him of the kingship which will remain in his house forever.

David humbled himself and asked the Lord to bless him and his family, and hoping that his family and descendants will remain faithful to the Lord forever. He prayed to the Lord asking for His strength and guidance, and went on to become a great King over all Israel, whose reign was always remembered by the later generations as the golden age and time, and as a paragon and ideal for all the future rulers and kings. He ruled justly and devoted himself to the Lord wholeheartedly, and except for a few occasions when he faltered and made mistakes, he kept true to the faith.

In our Gospel reading today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using the parable of the lamp and the lampstand in order to deliver His intentions clearly, to remind all of those who listened to His words including all of us that all of us who have been called to follow Him, have to be those beacons of God’s light that our lives brilliantly reflect the light of God. Through all of us, God’s truth and love may be revealed to all men, and all shall come to know God because they have seen us and witnessed all that we have done.

Unfortunately, many of us have not done what we ought to be doing as faithful Christians, called and chosen from the world to be the witnesses of His truth and salvation. We have preferred to remain hidden in the darkness, to hide behind the veil of sin and evil. We have preferred to lay idle and not do what we have been called to do as Christ’s disciples. We have received the light of truth, and yet the light of Christ does not shine brightly in us, hidden by our ignorance, lukewarmness in faith and refusal to commit ourselves wholeheartedly.

Today, as we listened to the words of the Lord, each and every one of us are reminded of this duty and calling for us to be the bearers of Christ’s light, His truth and love in our respective communities and at every possible opportunities given to us. Through the examples set by King David of Israel and the many other virtuous paragons of faith, our holy predecessors, we have been called to be holy ourselves, to be worthy of God and His love. We are all called to be true and genuine disciples not just in name, but also in all actions, words and deeds.

We can follow the good examples of St. Angela Merici, one of the great saints of God, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Angela Merici was the famous founder of the religious order of the Ursulines, also known as the Company of St. Ursula that led to the later foundation of the Order of the Ursulines. St. Angela Merici was inspired since her early youth to commit herself with some others to work for the cause of the training and education of young Christian girls, which is still the inspiration for the educational institutes established by the Ursulines.

St. Angela Merici dedicated herself and inspired many others together in the ministry that she had committed herself as part of the Company of St. Ursula, establishing schools and orphanages, caring especially for the needs of young Christians, especially that of young, underprivileged Christian girls, who were often exploited and in disadvantageous positions. St. Angela Merici dedicated her life to this ministry, and many more people would come to follow her examples in working for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern our path in life through what we have heard from the lives of our holy and dedicated predecessors, King David, St. Angela Merici and many others. They have lived their lives with virtue, becoming truly shining beacons of truth and love, of God’s light and compassion, and from them, many came to believe in God and be saved as well. Are we able to do the same as well in our lives? Are we able to inspire others to follow the Lord, or have we instead kept the people away from God by our lack of genuine faith?

Let us all therefore seek the Lord our God with a renewed spirit and conviction, and let us commit ourselves to follow the Lord ever more faithfully and do whatever we can with our actions, words and deeds, even the smallest and seemingly least significant of them all, that we may indeed glorify the Lord through our lives and may become His ever worthy disciples, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 21-25

At that time, Jesus also said to His disciples, “When the light comes, is it put under a basket or a bed? Surely it is put on a lamp stand. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, and whatever is kept secret will be brought to light. Listen then, if you have ears!”

And He also said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive, and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given; and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 131 : 1-2, 3-5, 11, 12, 13-14

Remember David, o YHVH, and all his readiness; how he swore an oath to YHVH, to the Mighty One of Jacob.

“I will not enter my house nor get into my bed; I will give no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids; until I find a place for YHVH, a dwelling, for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

YHVH swore to David a promise, and He will remain true to it : “I will keep your descendants on your throne.”

“If your sons keep My Covenant and the decrees I have taught them; their sons, too, will sit forever upon your throne.”

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

2 Samuel 7 : 18-19, 24-29

Then king David went in, sat before YHVH and said, “Who am I, o YHVH God, and who is my family that You have brought me so far? Yet this was not enough for You, o YHVH God, for You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a long time to come. Is this the way men act, o YHVH God?”

“You have set apart Your people Israel to become Your people forever; and You, YHVH, have become their God. Now, o YHVH God, keep forever the promise You made and have now revealed to me regarding myself and my family, that Your Name may be honoured forever and people may say, ‘YHVH of Hosts is God over Israel.’”

“The house of Your servant David will be secure before You because You, o YHVH of Hosts, God of Israel, have made it known to Your servant and have said to him : ‘Your family will last forever.’ This is why I have dared to address this prayer to You. So now, o YHVH God, since You are the faithful God, and have promised me this good thing, please bless my descendants, that they may continue forever before You. For You, o YHVH God, have spoken and, with Your blessing, my family shall be blessed forever.”

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded yet again of the coming of the salvation of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. As we heard from our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we heard how the man of God, Balaam the Seer blessed the people of Israel and spoke of a prophecy of what would be come, the coming of the Star that would rise from Jacob, an early proclamation of Christ’s coming into this world. Then we also heard from our Gospel passage today of the Lord Jesus Himself and His debate with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who questioned Him on the authority and legality of His actions and works.

In our first reading that we heard from the Book of Numbers, we heard of the people of Israel who were at that time on their way to the promised land of Canaan, that God had promised to their ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At that time, the Israelites had become a great nation with hundreds of thousands of people, all having journeyed through the desert for a long period of forty years during their Exodus from Egypt. God guided them and protected them during all that time, provided for them, food and drink, as well as crushing their enemies before them, all the while punishing those who refused to believe in Him and disobeyed His Law and commandments.

It was then that the king of Moab, one of the later neighbours of the Israelites, namely king Balak was worried about the Israelites, their great numbers and power, and feared them. As such, he resorted to using methods such as curses that he asked a seer named Balaam, son of Beor as we heard in our reading today. Balaam was tasked by king Balak to curse the people of Israel so that the curses might destroy them and make them to be at a disadvantage. Yet, as we heard in today’s first reading, Balaam instead spoke the truth, of whatever God had told him to proclaim before the king, a blessing instead of a curse for the Israelites.

Balaam praised God and His people, the Israelites, blessed them for all of their wonders and he also proclaimed the vision that he had received from God. He saw a vision of a Figure to come, that he was not yet able to comprehend, and yet, that figure was indeed like a Star that would arise from Jacob, a reference to the people of Israel, to be the One Who leads and guides the whole entire world. Through this we can see how Balaam was blessed by God and given the rare opportunity to glimpse God’s great plan of salvation for all of the nations and all the people, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As we look upon from our current age and time, in which Christ had come into the world and revealed Himself, we know that Balaam spoke the truth, and he had given the people of God back then an insight of God’s plans and all that He had done out of His great love for them. And yet, we should be able to see the irony that it was Balaam, a man who did not even belong to the people of Israel, who proclaimed God’s love and truth, while God’s own people denied Him, rejected Him, doubted Him and questioned His authority as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

In our Gospel today, we heard how the Lord was questioned by the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees as He was teaching in the Temple, who questioned Him for His actions and all that He had taught the people. This was likely because of the jealousy that those people held for the Lord, as they saw Him as a rival and great threat to their own popularity, influence, authority and power. Contextually, we must understand that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made up one of the two groups of very influential leaders of the community back then.

As such, they likely saw the Lord and His immense popularity, His radically different teachings and truths as a challenge to their own authority and power, that they opposed Him, refused to listen to Him and stubbornly resisted in believing His message of truth despite all that they themselves had witnessed, seen and heard. All the miracles and the works the Lord had done, all the wisdom He had shown and the words He had spoken all point out to Him being the Messiah or the Saviour that God had promised His people, and those same Pharisees and teachers of the Law, being those who were most knowledgeable about the Law and the prophets should have known this better than anyone else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is important that we should not let our pride and worldly desires from interfering with our faith in the Lord. We should learn to listen to the truth and not to be easily swayed by all of our worldly temptations and concerns. Otherwise, we may end up behaving and responding like the Pharisees and those teachers of the Law who remained stubborn in their opposition of the Lord, and even St. John the Baptist, the Herald and messenger whom God had sent to prepare the way for His coming.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse, the daughter of a Roman noble who died as a martyr during the height of the last great persecution of Christians under the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian. She had consecrated herself to God as a holy virgin, but her mother who did not know about this, arranged for her to be married to the young son of a rich noble pagan family. The mother was then suffering from a disease, and was worried about St. Lucy’s future.

Through the intercession of St. Agatha, another great martyr of Sicily, St. Lucy’s mother was healed, and St. Lucy was able to persuade her mother to give generously much of their wealth and inheritance to the poor and the needy. This was not taken kindly by her betrothed pagan fiancé, who reported her to the local governor. The governor ordered St. Lucy to make offerings to the pagan idols, which she refused courageously. She was arrested and according to some traditions, was put to death by the sword after attempts to force her to a brothel and burning her did not succeed because of God’s miraculous intervention.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope all of us take good lesson from the faith that St. Lucy had in the Lord and strive to do what we can to be faithful to God. We should learn to live our lives with genuine faith and commit ourselves to follow Him the way that St. Lucy and many other saints and martyrs had done. And let us be inspired by the love and hope that Christ Our Lord Himself had brought us, that brought joy even to Balaam so many years ago. It is this same hope and love that we are expecting throughout this season of Advent, of celebrating the coming of Christ in this Christmas.

Let us all live our lives with great faith and dedication to the Lord from now on, committing ourselves in each and every moments to serve Him and to look forward to His wondrous coming in glory, to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly in the manner that St. Lucy and all of our holy predecessors had done. May God bless us all and may His grace be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 21 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus had entered the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the Jewish authorities came to Him, and asked, “What authority have You to act like this? Who gave You authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “I will also ask You a question, only one. And if you give me an answer, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. When John began to baptise, was it a work of God, or was it merely something human?”

They reasoned out among themselves, “If we reply that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ And if we say, ‘The baptism of John is merely something human’, we have got to beware of the people, for all hold John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what right I do these things.”

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Numbers 24 : 2-7, 15-17a

Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping, tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered this song : “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, and beholds the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled.”

“How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your encampments, Israel! Like valleys stretching far, like gardens beside a stream, like aloes planted by YHVH, like cedars beside the waters. His buckets are overflowing and His seeds are always watered. His king becomes stronger than Agag, and His kingdom grows.

Then Balaam pronounced his oracle : “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, who has the knowledge from the Most High, and sees the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled. I see a Figure, but not really. I behold Him but not near. A Star shall come forth from Jacob, He rises with a staff in His hand.”

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that often times as we carry on living our lives as Christians, we have to face oppression and persecution, facing difficult times and trials in living our lives while being faithful to God. It had happened to our ancestors, our predecessors who had kept their faith and it can happen to us as well.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of Daniel, the man of God from Judah who had spent much of his life in Babylon and then in the courts of the Persian kings that succeeded the Babylonians. King Darius the Great of Persia, the figure likely mentioned in that passage had Daniel as one of his courtiers, as a holy and wise man that he trusted. This resulted in jealousy and also hatred from others who despised Daniel and his faith in God.

As a result, those enemies of Daniel tried to leverage the king into enacting a law that outlawed the worship of God and therefore indirectly implicate Daniel and made him to be punishable by the same law. Daniel stood firm in his faith and he would not give in to the provisions of the law enacted on the advice of his enemies, and he remained faithful to God even when he was threatened with certain death.

The Lord preserved Daniel and protected him when he was thrown into the lion’s den, and even when the lions had purposely been made hungry but starving them, they did not harm or even touch Daniel at all. The Lord guarded him and kept him until the time that the king, who was very sympathetic to Daniel, released him from the lion’s den. It was thus that the king ordered the enemies of Daniel and all those who had accused and slandered him to be thrown into the lion’s den instead, and they were all crushed by the lions.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord Jesus revealed to His disciples of the coming of trials and challenging times for all of them as they all would face persecution and difficulties, and everything would not be the same as before. Their old world would be destroyed and ended, and even Jerusalem itself would not be spared. The city of Jerusalem itself would be surrounded and destroyed, and it would be one of the signs of what was to come.

When the Lord spoke of what would happen to Jerusalem, some of them might be thinking that what were to happen to Jerusalem would be the omen of the Second Coming of Christ, which the Lord Himself also proclaimed at that same occasion. Some early Christians believed that the Lord would very soon come again and free them from their sufferings and persecutions, under both the Jewish authorities and from the Romans. But it was not the case.

The Lord did not actually specify that He would come again right after Jerusalem was surrounded and destroyed, which actually happened just four decades after the Lord’s crucifixion. The Romans did surround and besiege Jerusalem after the major uprising by the Jewish people, which eventually resulted in the destruction of the city and the Temple of God, which was completely destroyed and torn down just as the Lord had predicted.

But the Lord again did not say that He would immediately come after that. Rather, as He revealed through St. John the Apostle in his vision received at the island of Patmos, which he wrote in the Book of Revelations, sufferings and trials will come again for all those who are faithful to God, much as how Daniel had suffered, and how many saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors had endured, and how many more will suffer because they remain faithful to God, even to this very day, and to the future to come.

What is important is that we must remember that the Lord is always ever by our side, and He will never abandon us. Even as we suffer, He is always guiding us and protecting us in various ways. We cannot and we should not lose hope in Him, and we should instead remain steadfast in His grace and providence, entrusting ourselves to His care and protection. All of us must have faith in the Lord and do our best to help one another as well, even as we struggle to endure the trials and challenges we are facing or are going to face in the future.

Today we also commemorate the feast of a great saint and martyr who should inspire us to live our lives worthily for the Lord, namely that of St. Catherine of Alexandria, also known as St. Catherine the Great. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a renowned Roman martyr, a holy woman and virgin who according to tradition was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria in Roman Egypt. At that time, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Christians throughout the Empire faced one last, particularly brutal period of intense persecutions, where churches were destroyed, their properties looted and confiscated, the Scriptures burnt, and many of the members of the faithful, both the leaders and the laity alike were oppressed.

St. Catherine was persuaded through a vision of the Blessed Mother of God and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour to become a Christian, and as the persecutions intensified, she chose to go to the Emperor, then Emperor Maxentius, and rebuke him for his misdeeds. Amused by her courage and beauty, it was told that the Emperor called forth fifty renowned pagan philosophers to debate with her, and they all could not argue with her. God gave her the wisdom and the courage, the strength and endurance to stand up faithfully for her Christian faith.

When she was persecuted and tortured, which she endured with great faith, it was told that her courage and faith touched so many, that even the wife of the Emperor and others were themselves convinced to become Christians, and thus were martyred along with her as well. The Emperor desperately tried to make St. Catherine to abandon her faith, even to the point of proposing marriage to her, which she rejected courageously and firmly, stating that her Spouse was none other than Jesus, her Lord and Saviour, to Whom alone she dedicated herself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard and discussed regarding the life examples showed by St. Catherine of Alexandria, all of us can see that trials and persecutions may come at any time for those who follow Christ. The question is then, are we willing to endure those sufferings and trials for Christ? Or are we easily tempted and swayed to abandon Him for temporary gains and benefits of this world? Are we easily made to give up our faith because we are afraid of the consequences of following Him?

Let us ponder these things in our mind and let us consider what we can do to be good and faithful disciples of Our Lord in each and every moments of our lives. Let us pray to the Lord, asking Him to guide us and to strengthen us in our journey of faith so that we will always have the courage and strength to remain faithful to Him regardless of the trials, obstacles and challenges that we may have to face for the Lord’s sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”